With a final lunge to the finish line, Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) swooped in to win stage 1 of Ruta del Sol while Sacha Modolo celebrated too soon Wednesday.
Clément Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale) was third behind Modolo.
“Today I feel sorry for the team only,” said Modolo. “They were perfect. The loss bothers me so much because of them. It was a hard race in the end with more than 3,000 meters [of climbing], and today shows the condition was there.”
A breakaway of four dominated the opening 197.6km stage. With six categorized climbs on the run to Granada, Spain, Luis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) made the most of his time off the front, taking the lead in the king of the mountains classification.
However, with the remaining sprinters hoping for a stage win and GC riders wanting to stay in touch on overall time, the breakaway was brought back with about 12 kilometers remaining.
“It was a very tough stage, we rode very fast,” said Mas. “In fact, the peloton was broken when they caught us.”
Modolo was set up to win the sprint. His new EF Education First-Drapac team put several men on the front to control the lead-out.
The Italian emerged with a perfectly timed acceleration, but he didn’t seal the deal. As Modolo lifted his arms to celebrate, a fast-closing Boudat threw his bike to the line on the left side and took his first win of 2018.
While Boudat holds the overall lead after Wednesday, the GC should get sorted out in Thursday’s stage 2, which finishes atop Alto de las Allandas. The 140-kilometer stage finishes at 1,000 meters near La Guardia de Jaén and has three other categorized climbs along the way.