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Tour of the Alps: Geoffrey Bouchard holds off peloton to win stage 1

Breakaway takes the honors on opening stage as peloton gets it wrong.

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Geoffroy Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën) kept the peloton at bay to take his first professional victory in a tense finale of the Tour of the Alps stage 1.

Bouchard was the last member of a six-man breakaway that went clear early in the stage and held off the peloton by just five seconds. He attacked his breakaway companions on the second of two climbs, with just under 30 kilometers to go, and held on as the peloton loomed large behind him.

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) won the sprint from the bunch for second with Romain Bardet (Team DSM) claiming third. Bouchard’s win makes him the first leader of the race, he also tops the standings in the mountains classification.

“I did the Tour of the Alps last year and I really liked this race. I had a lot of fun but I targeted the GC last year and this year we have a good team with good riders,” Bouchard said. “This wasn’t really the plan but I tried on the flat with a headwind to go with five guys. On the last circuit, I had a lot of headwind, and it was very hard. I was full gas on the small climb and I had a little gap just before the finish line and it was perfect.

“About 300 meters from the finish line, I thought a lot about the Giro d’Italia last year where I was caught by the leaders with about 400 meters to go and today I won.”

How it happened

The Tour of the Alps kicked off in earnest with a 160-kilometer medium mountain stage from Cles to Primiero, taking in nearly 3,000 meters of ascending. Under clear blue skies, the peloton rolled out for a fast start.

A break soon formed with Bouchard, Ben Zwiehoff (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vinicius Rangel (Movistar), Mattia Bais (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Asier Etxeberria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Emanuel Zangerle (Tirol KTM) going up the road.

After 50 kilometers of racing, the six men had built up a gap of close to eight minutes on the peloton behind. As the leaders passed over the first climb of the day, the Passo Brocon, the group split up with Brochard and Zwiehoff moving clear of the others. However, the descent saw it all come back together ahead of the second ascent of the day.

Lining up for the Passo Gobbera, the breakaway was all together and the gap to the peloton behind had fallen below three minutes. Clearly the two strongest on the opening climb, it was Bouchard and Zwiehoff that would attack again on the Gobbera.

Zwiehoff struck out first inside the final 30 kilometers, but Bouchard had the power to catch and pass him, quickly pushing out a substantial gap on his chasers by the time he reached the top. A crash by Zwiehoff on the descent meant Bouchard took a 50-second gap onto the 17-kilometer run from the bottom of the second climb.

Behind, Ineos Grenadiers was doing most of the work on the front of the peloton with a little bit of help from the Eolo-Kometa squad, and later Bahrain-Victorious. The effort was bringing the gap to Bouchard down but with 2:30 to make up over 21 kilometers, it was going to be a tough ask for the peloton to contest for the win.

As the bunch passed through the finish line with just over 11 kilometers to go, attacks began to fly. Though they were brought back, it sparked a huge push from the peloton. The gap to Bouchard was still quite big but it wasn’t impossible, and the other members of the breakaway were quickly reeled in under the more urgent pace.

Bouchard, who had looked almost certain of the win, could see his advantage dwindling quickly. With five kilometers to go, his advantage was down to 49 seconds, but he was not relenting. The tension was almost palpable.

With just over a kilometer to go, and on an uphill drag, the gap had fallen to just 14 seconds. Attacks began to come from the peloton once again, with Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) making several moves. The peloton could almost see Bouchard up ahead, but he had just enough to sit up and celebrate as he came into the finish.

Tour of the Alps stage 1 results

  1. Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), 4:12:22
  2. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), at :05
  3. Romain Bardet (Team DMS), at s.t
  4. Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), at s.t.
  5. Felix Gall (Ag2r-Citroën), at s.t.
  6. Natnael Tesfazion (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), at s.t.
  7. Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers), at s.t.
  8. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), at s.t.
  9. Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ), at s.t.
  10. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), at s.t.

General Classification

  1. Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), 4:12:22
  2. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), at :09
  3. Romain Bardet (Team DMS), at :11
  4. Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), at :15
  5. Felix Gall (Ag2r-Citroën), at s.t.
  6. Natnael Tesfazion (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), at s.t.
  7. Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers), at s.t.
  8. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), at s.t.
  9. Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ), at s.t.
  10. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), at s.t.