Mezgec tops Howard in stage 1 sprint at Volta a Catalunya

Giant sprinter takes victory, overall lead in opener of Catalan stage race

Luka Mezgec won stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya Monday in Calella, Spain. Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) was fastest in the bunch sprint to close the 169-kilometer opening leg, which started and finished in the coastal town northeast of Barcelona.

Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) was second. Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was third.

Mezgec earned the race’s first leader’s jersey on the strength of the victory.

Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) attacked late and survived the dissolution of the day’s long breakaway, but the Dutchman was solo for the final approach to Calella. The peloton drew him in inside 5km to go, with Orica and Cannondale leading out the sprint.

Howard appeared to be set for the stage win when Mezgec surged along the left-hand barriers to nip him at the line.

The Volta a Catalunya continues Tuesday with the 168km second stage, from MatarĂ³ to Girona.