Flat stage today and no Demare to contest the sprint. Could this be the day for a Groenewegen win?
Both the final Monument of the year, Il Lombardia, held on Saturday, and Sunday’s Tour de l’Eurometropole finished with an air of controversy surrounding the podium places of each race’s top two riders.
Saturday’s Il Lombardia, won by Orica-BikeExchange’s Esteban Chaves, saw Astana’s Diego Rosa attack twice in the final kilometres, although both surges proved fruitless as his closest rivals, the Columbian pairing of eventual winner Chaves and Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran, were too strong for Rosa to break. After the race, which saw the Astana rider take second place, Rosa’s Directeur Sportif told the press that he felt ‘truly sick’ at the outcome, claiming that his rider ignored orders. “If Rosa had listened to me, he would have won”, explained Giuseppe Martinelli, DS for the Astana team. “I’ve only been this upset a few times in my life…you can’t throw away an occasion in that way. You can’t lose like that”.
Martinelli told reporters that Rosa should not have expended energy in his two fruitless attacks, and should instead have sat in the wheels on the last two climbs, and made sure he was second wheel in the finishing straight. “It was clear the other two would help each other, it happened at the Giro d’Italia…instead, he went through first”.
For his part, Rosa admitted that his attack “at 1600 metres was useless”, but claimed that, as Chaves would outsprint him, he had to “play my hand, a surprise. I believed. I knew that curve at 250 metres. Uran obviously closed the gap to me, but I don’t want to cause polemics…if I had made it through with two metres on them then it would have worked”.
Sunday’s Tour de l’Eurometropole also finished with the second placed rider at the heart of a controversy. IAMCycling’s Oliver Naesen claims that LottoNL-Jumbo rider Dylan Groenewegen deviated from his line in the final sprint, causing Naesen to be pushed towards the barriers and therefore become boxed in. He even had to hop over an obstacle on the road surface before crossing the line in second place behind Groenewegen. Similar circumstances have seen riders disqualified for their blocking actions, however on this occasion the race jury deemed Groenewegen to be the winner regardless. Naesen was clearly unhappy with the decision, claiming to be the ‘rightful winner’.
Under the UCI rules, riders are ‘strictly forbidden to deviate from the line they selected when launching a sprint’. The regulations have seen Boudhanni disqualified for cutting into Caleb Ewan’s race line at Cyclassics Hamburg, and Andre Greipel famously fell foul of the rule at the 2015 Tour of Britain.
Naesen, clearly outraged by Groenewegen’s actions, attempted to confront the LottoNL-Jumbo rider in the finishing area, but was blanked by the Dutchman. Groenewegen told the press “that was chaotic as the leading group was caught in the final metres…I certainly went to the left but I left enough room to pass”.
Naesen’s team later posted a video on their Twitter feed from CyclingHub, showing Boudhanni’s disqualification from Cyclassics Hamburg, adjacent to the Tour de l’Eurometropole finish, highlighting the similarities between the two incidents. No official statement was made on the social media page, however the CyclingHub retweet made the team’s feelings clear. Naesen is certain that he is the ‘rightful winner’, but the official results still show Groenewegen’s name.
Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen won a nail-bitingly scrappy sprint in Bolsward to claim Stage 1 of the 2016 Eneco Tour in his home country. Freewheeling had predicted a strong finish for Cofidis rider Nacer Bouhanni, who came in second, ahead of European Champion Peter Sagan. With a flat stage to start the seven day race a bunch sprint was widely anticipated, although a five man break including riders from three Belgian teams (Bert Van Lerberghe of Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Brian Van Goethem of Roompot Oranje Peloton and Frederik Backaert of Wanty-Groupe Gobert) joined by Laurens De Vreese of Astana and Matteo Bono of Lampre-Merida looked set to upset expectations before the sprinters’ teams began reeling them in during the final few laps of the course. By virtue of the breakaway, the combativity points were shared amongst the five leaders, with Bert Van Lerberghe leading the competition 28 points to 22 from fellow Belgian Laurens De Vreese.
Groenewegen, leading both the General Classification and the sprint competition, was delighted to outsprint the field to take the win, stating “it’s great to pull it off in the first stage…the sprint was long and hectic on a wide road. It was hard to judge your marks”. As the sprinters’ teams wound up for the final laps, there was a crash in the peloton with 15km to go, flooring several riders including Team Sky’s Danny van Poppel. The nervy bunch meant that no team took overall control of the sprint. “In the final kilometre I came through with the Oreca lead-out train and then followed Nizzolo. I turned out to have the best jump” said Groenewegen.
Tomorrow the riders will take part in an individual time trial of almost 10km, which could see another Dutchman on the stage winner’s podium as Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin also looks for a win on home soil. Check out the Freewheeling prediction in the Preview section!