Ben King opens Criterium International with victory

Cannondale-Garmin's Ben King, U.S. road champ in 2010, takes his first international victory in the kickoff to the Criterium International

PORTO-VECCHIO (AFP) — Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin) won the first stage of the Critérium International on Saturday in Corsica.

Stage 1 was a 92.5km circuit around Porto-Vecchio that featured a 2km, 5.3 percent climb, the Côte de Conca, at its midpoint.

King beat breakaway companion Saint-Clément Martin (Marseille 13) and donned the leader’s yellow jersey for the second stage of the day, a 7km individual time trial in the afternoon.

The American followed Martin’s attack in the first kilometer, and the two built a lead that stretched to four and a half minutes at its maximum before Europcar and Bretagne-Seche Environnement took up the chase.

In the end, King got away in the final 200 meters to take the win by five seconds over his companion.

Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) led the bunch home for third at 39 seconds.

“We rode like it was a time trial,” said King, who won the U.S. road championship in 2010. “Saint-Martin was really strong. It’s a great feeling to win here.”

King added that the victory provided some consolation to his Cannondale team after Sebastian Langeveld crashed out of the E3 Harelbeke.

“All I could think about in the final 20 kilometers were my teammates,” he said. “Especially Langevelde, who was in great condition and had a bad crash yesterday.

“I also crashed last weekend in MSR. We’ve had some bad luck, but we haven’t lost our fighting spirit. So I desperately wanted to get the win for my teammates. That was my motivation. I’m happy I was able to deliver.”

Saint-Martin, who turned pro in 2014, said simply: “Ben King was stronger than me.”

The Critérium International concludes Sunday with a 189.5km stage featuring the Col de l’Ospedale.