Volta a Catalunya: Nacer Bouhanni beats Ben Swift on stage 1

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Volta a Catalunya 2016: Nacer Bouhanni outsprints Ben Swift on stage one

Frenchman avenges Milan-San Remo mechanical to claim leader's jersey

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) outsprinted Ben Swift to win stage one of the Volta a Catalunya and claim the first leader’s jersey.

Bouhanni, who suffered a mechanical at the denouement of Milan-San Remo, where Swift took second, had no such trouble this time out with a powerful sprint.

Swift kicked first, but once the Frenchman opened up his sprint there was only going to be one winner.

Nacer Bouhanni sprinted to victory on stage one at the Volta a Catalunya (pic: Sirotti)

The race, which is likely to burst into life in the later stages with a star-studded cast set to go wheel-to-wheel in the mountains, started at a more sedate pace.

Three riders got into the day’s break – Lluis Guillermo Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros), Boris Dron (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Cameron Meyer (Team Dimension Data) – but they had rejoined the bunch with almost 50km still to race.

Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal) then tried his luck, and held a 30-second lead with 27km still to race, which prompted a four-strong counter-attack to set off in pursuit.

Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep), Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Axel Domont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) made for a dangerous group.

Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Bouet’s team-mate Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep) also made it across, but the move was closed down and Team Sky set about setting the pace on the day’s final climb, Alt de Collsacreu.

With a sprint finish expected, the British WorldTour team’s move served to keep Chris Froome out of trouble at the front of the bunch.

Bjorn Thurau (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) attempted a long-range attack – earning a gap with six kilometres to go, which encouraged Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) to put a big dig in from behind and earn a gap.

Several riders tried to chase on from behind, but Roche – on his training roads – hit the coast with a small lead.

The peloton bore down on him from behind, but Roche continued to hold a gap on the undulating, coastal road and led the way under the 2km-to-go kite.

The pace from behind proved too much, however, as Cofidis, Tinkoff and Etixx-QuickStep set a fierce pace near the front of the bunch.

Katusha and Cofidis hit the front under the flamme rouge, and the Orica-GreenEDGE train came forward too with Team Sky’s Milan-San Remo runner-up Swift on their wheel.

Bouhanni also went across, abandoning lead-out man Geoffrey Soupe, but it was Swift who opened up the sprint first.

The Frenchman could not be stopped though, sailing past to win by a length and force Swift to settle for second place again.

Volta a Catalunya 2016: stage one – result

1) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis – 4.28.51hrs
2) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
3) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5) Alexey Tsatevich (RUS) – Katusha
6) Carlos Barbero (ESP) – Caja Rural-Seguros
7) Jordi Simon (ESP) – VERVA ActiveJet
8) Kevin Reza (FRA) – FDJ
9) Eduard Prades (ESP) – Caja Rural-Seguros
10) Georg Preidler (AUT) – Giant-Alpecin

General classification

1) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis – 4.28.41hrs
2) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky +4”
3) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE +6”
4) Cameron Meyer (AUS) – Team Dimension Data +9”
5) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Wanty-Groupe Gobert +10”
6) Alexey Tsatevich (RUS) – Katusha – ST
7) Carlos Barbero (ESP) – Caja Rural-Seguros
8) Jordi Simon (ESP) – VERVA ActiveJet
9) Kevin Reza (FRA) – FDJ
10) Eduard Prades (ESP) – Caja Rural-Seguros

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