Geoffrey Bouchard takes breakaway victory to lead the Tour of the Alps

A tense stage one success sees the Frenchman take his first win since turning pro aged 26

Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2R-Citröen) wins the opening stage of the 2022 Tour of the Alps
Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2R-Citröen) wins the opening stage of the 2022 Tour of the Alps
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty)

Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard took a gritty and tense victory in the opening stage of at the Tour of the Alps on Monday. 

The sole survivor of the day’s breakaway, the 30 year-old crossed the line just five seconds ahead of Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) in second, with Romain Bardet (DSM) third.  

After a spring of wonderfully attacking one day racing, the pre-Giro stage races began in similarly entertaining style. Part of the early break, Bouchard went solo on the second of two classified climbs, some 23km from the line, victory soon seeming certain. However, with the peloton rampant behind, he entered the final 15km only 50 seconds ahead.

Still success seemed likely, but when a rider from EF Education-EasyPost attacked on a long drag with over two kilometres to go the Frenchman finally seemed doomed. 

While Bouchard gritted his teeth the attacking behind continued, the GC hopefuls each trying to take chunks out of each other, and with each move Bouchard’s advantage became ever smaller, just 12 seconds as he passed under the flamme rouge.

He was understandably emotional after taking the win, and will tae a general classification lead  of nine seconds into tomorrow’s even more mountainous second stage.

Bouchard’s only other victory came at the 2018 Tour Alsace when he was an amateur, and it was that which attracted the attention of professional teams, signing that year as a stagiaire for what was then Ag2R La Mondiale. 

A proven climber he was King of the Mountains at both the 2019 Vuelta España and last year’s Giro d’Italia, but after Monday’s exertions may struggle to maintain his overall lead.

How it happened 

Rebranded from the Giro del Trentino in 2017, the the Tour of the Alps has been around for many years, with some big names gracing its palmarès. From Enzo and Francesco Moser and Giuseppi Sarroni, though Claudio Chiapucci and Damiano Cunego to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Quazaqstan) the race was very much an Italian affair, though the latter was the most recent home rider to win back in 2013. 

Since then the race has been dominated by Sky and now Ineos Grenadiers, with victories from Pavel Sivakov, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa and Richie Porte.

Other than Thomas all of those rolled out for stage one, with Landa now riding for Bahrain Victorious. Last year’s winner though, Simon Yates was absent, his BikeExchange-Jayco squad not present for the 160.9km race between Cles and San Martino di Castrozza. 

Not for the Tour of the Alps a flat, still sprinter’s stage to ease into the five stage race, instead the route wound south into Trento before heading east and tackling the 20km, second category climb to Passo Brocon. The third cat Passo Gobbera the followed ahead of an undulating 24km run to the line.

With much of the opening 40km downhill, the early pace was high, and it took a while for a break to establish itself. However, as the road began to tip upwards Bouchard, Ben Zwiehoff (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vinicius Rangel Costa (Movistar), Matt Bais (Drone Hopper-Androni Giacattoli), Asier Etxeberria (Euskatel-Euskadi) and Emanuel Zangerle (Tirol KTM) led by nearly eight minutes.

Zangerle was dropped after winning the intermediate sprint 56km in, and the break’s lead went the same way. Rangel Costa then fell out of the front group before Bouchard attacked, taking Zweihoff with him, the pair cresting Passo Brocon with a lead of 3-50 on the Ineos Grenadiers led peloton.

By the time they reached the bottom of the Passo Gobbera with 30km remaining, the leading group was once again up to four. But on the climb some jabs and parries from Bouchard and Zweihoff finally despatched Etxeberria and Bais. Eventually the Frenchman headed over the top of the climb alone. 

Meanwhile, behind, the peloton were still unsure of catching the leaders, and Bahrain Victorious came to help the British squad at the front.

As he reached the final 15km Bouchard led three pursuers by 50 seconds and the peloton by 1-55 and a first victory since turning professional, aged 26 seemed a real possibility.

But it was far from passive in the peloton. Inside the final 10km small group, including Porte and Landa, headed up the road, the peloton reacting, the pace lifting and the three dropped breakaway riders were caught, Bouchard’s lead ever more precarious.

The Frenchman took a lead of only 50 seconds into the last five kilometres and a tense final was in store. 

Result Tour of the Alps, stage one: Cles - San Martini di Castrozza (160.9km)

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) Ag2R Citröen in 4-12-22
2. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious at .05 sec
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM
4. Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) EOLO-Kometa
5. Felix Gall (Aut) Ag2R Citröen
6. Natal Tesfazion (Eri) Drone Hopper Androni Giacattoli
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
8. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Michael Storer (Aus) Groupama FDJ
10. Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-EasyPost all at same time 

General classification after stage one

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) Ag2R Citröen in 4-12-12
2.  Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious at .09 sec
3.  Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM at 11 sec
4. Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) EOLO-Kometa at 15 sec
5. Felix Gall (Aut) Ag2R Citröen
6. Natal Tesfazion (Eri) Drone Hopper Androni Giacattoli
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
8. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Michael Storer (Aus) Groupama FDJ
10. Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-EasyPost all at same time

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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.