Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers) won his first race of the season in a dramatic sprint on stage one of the Tour de la Provence.
The Italian made it back-to-back wins for Ineos Grenadiers, outsprinting Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) in a fast finish into Les Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer.
The stage, which was torn apart by crosswinds early on, was commanded by the ever-present Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), whose team took control for their sprinter.
Having won Thursday’s prologue time trial, Ganna maintained the lead of the race with four seconds over Julian Alaphilippe.
How it happened
Stage one’s 151.8km route would see the peloton roll north out of Istres, before turning west through the historic city of Arles and down to the Mediterannan coast. With a total of just 424m to be climbed, it seemed a certainty the race would finish in a bunch sprint in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
The fight for the breakaway started almost immediately after the flag drop. Having initially missed the move, St-Michel-Auber 93’s Stéphane Rosetto joined the group composed of Pierre Rolland (B&B Hôtels-KTM), Tom Mainguenaud (Go Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Viktor Verschaeve (Lotto Soudal), Tristan Delacroix and Jean Goubert (Nice Métropole Côte d'Azur).
Most of the day’s vertical metres came early in the stage on the Col de la Vayède, a category three climb pitched at a steady 3.7 per cent average gradient. The six-man breakaway hit the bottom of the climb with an advantage of over four minutes on the peloton.
Mainguenaud claimed maximum points at the top to take the lead in the mountains classification and secure the polka dot jersey for stage two.
As the peloton hurtled south towards the coast, the region’s infamous wind gusts threatened to split the pack into echelons.
With 83km to go, Mother Nature took control. Fierce crosswinds laid waste to the peloton, scattering the riders across the wide, open roads. Movistar’s Gorka Izagirre, winner of the 2019 edition of the race, was forced to abandon after coming down in the chaos.
Julian Alaphilippe, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) all made the front group, marshalled by the race leader Filippo Ganna. The Italian set an infernal pace and reeled in the early escapees with 75km remaining.
Three passes over the finish line in Les-Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer gave the sprinters who made the split a chance to scout out the course. Alaphilippe, in his first outing in the rainbow bands this year, took both intermediate sprints, earning himself six seconds in time bonuses and the lead of the points classification.
Inside 8km of the finish, Maciej Bodnar (Total Energies) took off. The seven-time Polish time trial champion established a seven-second gap on the bunch but soon saw his attack quashed by Ganna.
The group then swung left onto the finishing straight where, with 100m to go, Viviani unleashed an explosive sprint. The speed of the former European champion couldn’t be matched by Vanmarcke and Alaphilippe who rounded off the podium.
Ganna will continue to wear the leader's jersey on stage two (the third of this four-day race) which finishes in Manosque on Saturday.
Tour de la Provence 2022, stage one: Istres to Les Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer (151.8km)
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, 4-02-23
2. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech, s.t.
3. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, s.t.
4. Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team DSM, s.t.
5. Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan, s.t.
6. Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, s.t.
7. Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, s.t.
8. Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Energies, s.t.
9. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar, s.t.
10. Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, s.t.
General classification after stage one
1. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, 3-26-06
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 4s
3. Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Energies, at 10s
4. Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan, at 12s
5. Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 17s
6. Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 21s
7. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar, at 21s
8. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 21s
9. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech, at 22s
10. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 23s
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