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Tour of the Alps, stage 1: Astana goes 1-2; Froome fifth

Team Astana opened up its week at Tour of the Alps with a strong showing Monday as Pello Bilbao won stage 1 ahead of his teammate Luis Leon Sanchez. Ivan Sosa (Androni-Sidermec) was third in Folgaria, Italy.

Just before the peak of the day’s last categorized climb, Chris Froome (Sky) instigated the final selection with about seven kilometers remaining in the 134.6km race.

A small group went into the short descent to the finish. Bilbao escaped alone and held off the chasers to take the race’s first leader’s jersey. Sanchez out-sprinted Sosa for second place, only six seconds behind.

“On the descent, I saw my chance and I made an attack, immediately getting a small gap,” said Bilbao. “Yeah, I was not sure at all I could do it until the end, knowing about the final uphill of 500 meters. Anyway, I was able to recover a bit on the final short descent and did my best inside the last kilometer.”

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) won the sprint for fourth out of a group of six, ahead of Froome.

“It was a short stage with very explosive racing. That’s what we knew it would be coming into this race,” Froome said. “Astana definitely had the numbers heading into the final and they used that to their advantage.”

The Spanish stage-winner will face a tough challenge Tuesday to defend his overall lead. The 145.5km race finishes with a summit finish on Alpe di Pampeago, with two other categorized climbs earlier in the route. The five-day race finishes Friday in Innsbruck.

I’m just looking at the GC and I’m already 20 seconds back. Time bonuses could certainly be important in this race,” Froome added.

Top 10, stage 1

1. Pello Bilbao (Astana), in 3:26:41
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), at :06
3. Ivan Sosa (Androni-Sidermec), s.t.
4. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), at :10
5. Chris Froome (Team Sky), s.t.
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), s.t.
7. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), s.t.
8. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), s.t.
9. Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), s.t.
10. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), in :14

Top-10 overall

1. Pello Bilbao (Astana), in 3h:26:31
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), at :10
3. Ivan Sosa (Androni-Sidermec), at :12
4. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) 20
5. Chris Froome (Team Sky), s.t.
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), s.t.
7. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), s.t.
8. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), s.t.
9. Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), s.t.
10. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), at :24

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