Despite the five climbs in the menu and nearly 3,000 metres of altitude gain, Team Arkea-Samsun went for a bold option on the first stage of the Tour of Catalunya, looking to set up a sprint finish for Andre Greipel. One man, Belgian Thomas De Gendt, held off the peloton despite our team’s efforts on the first day of this World Tour stage race. Boxed in during the sprint for third place, Andre Greipel finished sixth as Warren Barguil had a good day on his comeback race.
Andre Greipel : “Today we were hoping for a sprint and we worked towards that goal. I was t good in the first km but I saw that the team were taking the matter in their own hands and that they trusted me. When I heard who was in the breakaway I figured it would be hard to catch them. The guys worked really hard for me and I managed to stay in the bunch. I was full gas. In the last climb, I got dropped for a moment but Brice, Amael and Anthony brought me back. In the end the best man won. I saw he was wearing a skinsuit this morning so I figured he would be trying something. I’m disappointed that I did not win the sprint but I was boxed in with 150 metres left. I would have preferred to finish third but it is what it is. la fin, le meilleur coureur a gagné. When I look at the stage profile I think ending up sixth of not that bad, most of the sprinters had been eliminated. We have a solid team, we did not get the sprint we wanted but we showed that we were willing to give ourselves the means of our ambitions.”
Warren Barguil : “The team rose well today, Anthony and Amael did a super job. Anthony worked most of the day. We took the reins on a World Tour race, it’s good. De Gendt went all the way but there were other riders with them and it was tough to go after them. Andre managed to stay in the pack and got us an encouraging sixth place. I didn’t have super sensations but I was very happy to be back in the peloton and to be racing again. It was not an easy first day as the pace was high. I hope I will improve during the course of the week and use this race as a springboard for the rest of the season.”
Yvon Ledanois : “During the morning briefing we said that breakaways could be dangerous so we had to try to get on board. The stage got off to a fast start, 60 kph, and De Gendt and five other riders went. Florian Vachon came close to joining them but he came short and we asked him to sit up. When the gap reached three minutes we asked Anthony Delaplace to start the chase. Nobody helped us but everyone is racing their own race. Arkea-Samaoc did the job until the end. We were 2:10 behind at the foot of the last climb and De Gendt dropped everyone. He was untouchable. Five riders were chasing behind and he was gaining time ! We did what he had to do, I have no regrets because we took our responsibilities On a World Tour race full of Tour de France riders. In the sprint for third place Andre Greipel was pushed 150 metres from the line. Otherwise he would have been third and that would have more reflected his team mates’ work. Warren Barguil spent the day in the pack, he was not in a great day but it was also one of the first warm days of the Spring and several riders suffered from it. There was also 3,000 metres of altitude gain, it’s good for him that he had this day under his belt. It won’t be as hard tomorrow but the finale is on a 5 per cent climb so I don’t think it will be one for Andre.”