Riley Pickrell of B.C. riding for Team Canada sprinted to victory on the opening stage of the 50th edition of the Tour de l’Abitibi. The 115-km stage into Val-d’Or saw the peloton roll in after a very quick day of racing thanks to cross and tail winds with the winner averaging 47 km/h. Eduardo Cruz de la Mora of the U.S. finished second with Taisei Hino of Japan in third.

With the victory, Pickrell moves into the race leader’s brown jersey in addition to picking up the points and best young riders jersey at North America’s only Junior Nation’s Cup event.

“It’s an amazing start for the team,” said Pickrell whose teammates did a good job controlling the peloton throughout the day. “Our team rode fantastically; we had a strategy where two riders worked early in the race, two worked later in the race and one was a sweeper on my wheel in the sprint, and it was executed beautifully.”

The finale of the race was made trickier with the wind. Pickrell, who earned six medals at Canada’s junior track championships in April, was the teams designated sprinter thanks to his proven speed on the track.
“The wind was a big factor in the last quarter of the race and we had to do a lot of communicating to make our way through the field and protect ourselves from the crosswinds,” Pickrell said.

The final half of the race was also quite hectic with a number of crashes and the peloton missing one section of the course when the lead police escort went straight when a turn should have been made.

Wednesday features a 137-km stage in Val d’Or.

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