On a day that looked like it favoured the breakaway or a late raid, Davide Cimolai, FDJ’s Italian sprinter, took his fifth career win and second at the Volta a Catalunya. Cimolai powered past fading French fastman Nacer Bouhanni in Calella to seize the first lead Monday.

The organizers weren’t playing when they designed this 97th edition. Stage 1 had six categorized climbs including a double Cat. 1: the Alt El Muntanya (4.3-km of 6.9%) leading to the Col Formic (7.8-km of 4.9%). A Cat. 3 peaked 18.5-km from the line in Calella.

After a few failed breakaway attempts, Pierre Rolland (France/Cannondale), perhaps mindful of the next day’s rolling 41-km team time trial that will scupper several GC men’s chances of winning this race, stole away with three others. Brazilian Murilo Affonso (Funvic/Brasil) nabbed the maximum KOM points on the first climb, Cat. 3 Alt de Parpers, while Rolland claimed the race’s first intermediate sprint.

Affonso was also first over the Cat. 2 Alt dels Pinars and Cat. 3 Alto de la Pullosa; atop the latter the quartet held a 2:00 lead. He also nicked the next intermediate sprint. Next up was the formidable double Cat. 1.

Affonsa prevailed at the peak of Alt El Muntanya, but the peloton was close on the fugitives’ heels. Even with a trio that bridged over from the field the breakaway looked tenuous. Finally, Vincenzo Nibali’s brother Antonio nabbed the maximum KOM points on Col Formic to keep 11-points behind Affonsa in the red-jersey competition.

On the long descent, two of the reinforcements, Portuguese squad Manzana Postobon’s Jetse Bol and Axel Domont (France/AG2R), recently in the thick of the Paris-Nice KOM competition, flashed away and were the last of the breakaways to be sopped up at the foot of the final Cat. 3 climb. The pace when the road tilted up wasn’t enough to dislodge any of the sprinters’ teams.

A couple of more attacks from Domont’s teammate Cyril Gautier and Sky’s Peter Kennaugh in the final 5-km came to naught. It was time for a proper bunch sprint–153-riders came in together.

Cofidis led Bouhanni out with precision, but he was launched perhaps a little too soon. Cimolai roared up on the left and won with a bike throw by a couple of inches. Bouhanni came runner-up in two sprints back in February’s Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana but won last Wednesday’s Nokere Koerse.

Michael Woods (Canada/Cannondal-Drapac) finished safely in the pack in 95th.

Tuesday’s team chrono will bury a lot of GC men.

2017 Volta a Catalunya Stage 1

1) Davide Cimolai (Italy/FDJ) 4:28:21
2) Nacer Bouhanni (France/Cofidis) s.t.
3) Kristian Sbaragli (Italy/Dimension Data) s.t.
95) Michael Woods (Canada/Cannondal-Drapac) s.t.
172) Svein Tuft (Canada/Orica-Scott) +3:30


Leave a Reply