Ligthart wins Ruta del Sol opener in Spain

The split stage picks up later Wednesday with an 8.2km time trial

MADRID (AFP) — Dutchman Pim Ligthart claimed victory in the crash-marred stage 1a of the Ruta del Sol in a sprint finish ahead of Portugal’s Fabio Silvestre (Trek Factory Racing) and Slovenian Grega Bole (CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice) on Wednesday.

Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal) won the 118.3-kilometer stage from La Rabida to Hinojos in Andalusia by two seconds after a crash three kilometers from the finish line split the peloton in two.

“Of course I’m happy! The season couldn’t have started better,” said Ligthart. “After winning the GP La Marseillaise, it’s my second victory of the season. With the big crash at four kilometers from the end, there were only 20 riders left in front. I looked around and saw that the sprinters were isolated. I jumped at the right moment, took 20 meters and didn’t look behind me until the finish line.”

Former Tour de France winners Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) weren’t affected by the crash, as they finished among the leading group.

“It’s bad news that I’m the only one who escaped the big crash,” Ligthart said. “The other six riders of our team crashed or had to stop. We can forget about any GC ambitions. We’ll see what the damage is, and then we have to change our tactics. Tomorrow and Sunday there might be more sprint opportunities.”

Early in the day, a four-rider breakaway went clear but never saw more than a three-minute advantage over the peloton. They were caught with less than 40 kilometers to go. A few attacks went in the closing kilometers, but none were able to stay away.

The second part of an opening split stage will see the riders tackle an 8.2km individual time trial through Coria del Rio later on Wednesday.