The UCI World Champion Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) secured his 98th professional victory at the BinckBank Tour, winning the opening stage from Breda to Venray which ended in a sprint finish. After his third stage victory in this race, the Slovak rider will begin today’s stage in the green jersey of race leader.
While much of the 169.8km opening stage took place on wide open roads, there were some excursions onto narrower paths as the day went on, while towards the finale in Venray, there would be some roundabouts and street furniture to negotiate, making racing dangerous as speeds increased in the final kilometres.
Setting the tone for what would undoubtedly be a fast, combative stage, the break went away as soon as the commissaire started the day, a group of four – Piet Allegaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Elmar Reinders (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) – quickly building an advantage of two minutes on the peloton.
While the sprinters wouldn’t want to be denied a fast finale, there was plenty of time to reel this escape group in towards the end of the day, and so the break was left to their own devices. The pace was fast, with both the escape and the peloton riding at high speeds with the gap never exceeding two minutes as a result.
The gap dropping ever lower, there was a risk of making the catch too early, allowing another, more dangerous breakaway to go ahead. With this in mind, as the gap hit almost thirty seconds, the peloton reduced its speed and allowed the escapees an extra minute, confident they would be able to bring this back quickly in the final kilometres.
In the space of just 10km, the group managed to reduce the gap from 1:40 to just fifteen seconds, and with the break looking over their shoulders and seeing the mass of the peloton looming large, they knew that after more than 160km on the front, it would be all back together for the final sprint.
In the final kilometres, a succession of roundabouts and street furniture made the going hectic, splitting the bunch as the sprint trains massed to bring their riders to the line.
In a chaotic finish, Sagan timed his effort well but had to contend with a fast-finishing Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) who he just managed to edge out for his 98th victory. Magnus Cort (Orica-Scott) finished third ahead of Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Boy van Poppel (Trek-Segafredo).
While Peter’s win edged him closer to his hundredth, the Slovak rider had to wait to have it confirmed. “I was very lucky in the finish, because I was certain that I’d been passed on the line, but I took the win purely because I threw my bike at the last second. I didn’t even know I’d won until five minutes later. I didn’t want to go too early in the sprint – I wanted someone in front of me – so I waited until a little later before I went. The line was just too far away then, so I let Rüdi and Groenewegen keep the gap, and after that I started my sprint behind them so I had a better line, taking advantage of having two guys in front of me, but still Bauhaus did a great sprint. I’m going to keep going and fighting at the race. Tomorrow is a big day for everyone with a 9km time trial – it’ll be tough and we want to make the most of it for BORA-hansgrohe. It’s a good day for Maciej Bodnar, and I’ll try not to lose time myself.”
Today the riders will face a 9-kilometre individual time-trial in Voorburg.