Smith & Bewley return as Sagan wins sprint thriller

Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe has won stage 1 of the BinckBank Tour; formerly known as the Eneco Tour.  The World Champion continued to put to bed memories of his Tour de France disqualification with his second win in two weeks, taking stage 1 ahead of Phil Bauhaus of Team Sunweb and Magnus Cort Nielsen of Orica_SCOTT.

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Peter Sagan wins the sprint in stage 1 of the BinckBank Tour by a hair's breadth, photo Sirotti

Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe has won stage 1 of the BinckBank Tour; formerly known as the Eneco Tour.  The World Champion continued to put to bed memories of his Tour de France disqualification with his second win in two weeks, taking stage 1 ahead of Phil Bauhaus of Team Sunweb and Magnus Cort Nielsen of Orica_SCOTT.

The 180km opener of the BinckBank Tour took the field 170km from Breda to Venray.  On a course that was just about completely flat all expectations were towards a sprint finish.  A breakaway, predictably, did try and build a reasonable advantage and contend for bonus seconds en route to the finish.  In the move were Mark McNally of Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Piet Allegaert of Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Elmar Reinders of Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij and Laurens De Vreese of Astana.  

Together the break worked well, but with a number of different teams working on the front of the peloton, the advantage of the break was limited to around the 2 minute mark.  Sam Bewley of Orica-SCOTT was a strong presence on the front for teammate Magnus Cort Nielsen.  It is the Kiwi’s second stage race since returning to racing at the end of July, following a break from competition after the Tour de Suisse.

Also playing a strong role on the front of the peloton were LottoNL-Jumbo, Quick-Step Floors and Bora-Hansgrohe.  LottoNL-Jumbo would be interesting to watch with Dylan Groenewegen – winner of the Tour de France’s final stage on the Champs-Elysees – in attendance.  With 50km of racing remaining the gap had been reduced to 1.30mins and the bunch sprint was inevitable.  

Distinctive to the BinckBank Tour is what they have named the ‘Golden Kilometre’ which in stage 1 featured at the 24km to go point.  In the space of 1km three intermediate sprints took place, with Laurens De Vreese taking maximum points and 9 seconds in time bonuses in the process.  The peloton had nothing to contend for then at the Golden Kilometre and simply set about reeling the breakaway in further down the road, which they did successfully shortly after the 10km to go mark.

The final kilometre saw Lotto Soudal in control on the run in to the finish, but they were challenged as they navigated the road furniture.  Quick-Step Floors’ Marcel Kittel found himself out of position, so too did Arnaud Demare, while Cannondale-Drapac suddenly made a surge forward.  But Peter Sagan put in a big turn of pace to accelerate forward, while being pursued by Phil Bauhaus.  With Cort Nielsen and Groenewegen out of contention behind them, it was a straight sprint between the two of them.  In what was a sensationally close finish, reminiscent to the photo finish in the Tour de France between Kittel and Boasson-Hagen, Bauhaus and Sagan lunged for the line but couldn’t be separated by the naked eye.

A nervous wait followed before it was confirmed that Sagan had won by barely hair’s breadth.  Behind Bauhaus, Magnus Cort Nielsen took third ahead of Dylan Groenewegen and Boy Van Poppel of Trek-Segafredo.

Both Dion Smith and Sam Bewley arrived home in the peloton, losing no time to the main field and all major contenders. 

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