Guardini wins Eneco stage in hectic sprint finish

Movistar's Alex Dowsett gained crucial bonus seconds as he signals his intent for the races GC

Italian Andrea Guardini won the first stage of the Eneco Tour in a bunch sprint, claiming ten seconds in the process to become the overall leader.

Guardini got the better of Yohann Gene (Europcar) in the finale, after using the Frenchman’s slipstream and coming round him to reach the line first.

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The sprinters’ chances had been put under threat by Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), who had launched an attack with around a kilometre to go. The time-trial specialist managed to open up a gap of a few seconds and looked as though he may pull off the win, but was caught just a few metres from the line and ultimately finished seventh.

The peloton was also disrupted by a series of crashes in the finale, with narrow roundabouts and what appeared to be slippery roads causing lots of problems. Matt Goss (Orica GreenEdge), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Danny Van Poppel (Trek) were among those to go down, all of whom may have fancied their chances for a win today in the sprint.

Pre-race favourite Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) had his teammate at the front of the peloton for some of the run-in, and made it to the final 500 metres unscathed, but found himself unable to find room to open up his sprint, and looked frustrated as he crossed the line.

Britain’s Alex Dowsett seemed to signal his intent for a good ride in the overall classification, as he took second (behind Belkin’s Lars Boom and in front of BMC’s Philippe Gilbert) in an intermediate sprint 6.5km from the line to claim a two second time bonus. As a result, he lies sixth in the GC, eight seconds behind Guardini.

Third overall is Laurense De Vreese (Wanty), who hovered up five seconds worth of time bonuses when riding in the day’s break alongside Van Bilsen (Topsport), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha). The latter was another victim of the day’s crashes, and the other two were caught shortly after his fall with plenty of time to spare by the bunch.

Prior to the hectic finally it had been a relatively calm day’s racing, although crosswinds did force a split with around 40km to go. No major names seemed to be caught out, however, and no-one seemed interested in pressing home the advantage once the direction changed, and everything soon came back together.

Eneco Tour stage one: Terneuzen – Terneuzen 183.1km
1. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana in 4:14:47
2. Yohann Gene (Fra) Europcar
3. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre
4. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
5. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek
6. Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Shimano
8. Matteo Trentin (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
9. Sep Vanmarke (Ned) Belkin
10. Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise all st

Overall Classification after stage one
1. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana in 4:14:47
2. Yohann Gene (Fra) Europcar +0:04
3. Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert +0:05
4. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre +0:06
5. Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin +0:07
6. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar +0:08
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC +0:09
8. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Belisol +0:10
9. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek +0:10
10. Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha +0:10

Eneco Tour Stage 1Orica’s Damien Howsen gets patched up after getting caught up in one of the many crashes