Geoghegan Hart seals maiden win in exciting Tour of the Alps opener

Vincenzo Nibali sparkled up the race in the finale, with also Rafal Majka to the fore, but eventually it was the lanky brit who took a prestigious first career victory in Kufstein

There’s no waiting game at the Tour of the Alps. If anybody thought that the most expected riders would play the hiding game until the major ascent to the Jaufenpass, such convinction was eloquently overturned by the sparkling finale of stage 1, 144 km with start and finish in Kufstein. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) took a clear and deserved first career victory out of a reduced sprint, even more impressive as it came on the heels of a previous attack on the second time up the day’s harshest climb, Hinterthiersee. Also worth remarking, it was Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) who initiated that action with a sharp attack, speaking volumes on the Sicilian’s condition as he builds up towards the Giro.

Sunny Kufstein (Tirol) has welcomed an entertaining day of cycling, welcomed by the enthusiasm of local fans, whose cycling love definitely exploded in recent year after the very first stage start of the Tour of the Alps (famously won by the late Michele Scarponi, whose tragic passing happened exactly two years ago), and the start of last year’s Elite Men World Championships won by Alejandro Valverde.

It didn’t take long for the Tour of the Alps to see the first breakaway of the race. After just three kilometers from the official start in Kufstein, a 4-man group got clear, including Kufstein-born Maximilian Kuen (Vorarlberg-Santic), Patrick Gamper (Tirol Cycling Team), Matthias Krizek (Felbermayr-Simplon) and Emil Dima (Giotti Victoria-Palomar). The escapees managed to earn up to 5.40 on the first loop of the day, while Astana, Sky and Bahrain were sharing the burden behind them.

The peloton wisely controlled the gap, reducing the distance to less than 3 minutes as the race passed on the second circuit of the day, featuring the Hinterthiersee climb – 2 km with gradients up to 15%. Mathias Krizek remained solo at the front inside the last 20 km, whilst behind him Andreas Schillinger (Bora-hansgrohe) and Georg Zimmermann (Tirol Cycling Team) also got back on his chasers.

The second time up the Hinterthiersee climb brought everything back, and that’s where Vincenzo Nibali broke the stalemate and performed a swift attack. Only three riders managed to keep up with him: Team Sky’s Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov and Bora-Hansgrohe’ Rafal Majka.

Nibali himself was the most determined in pushing the pace of the escapees, that held 10” on a group of about 20 riders with 10 km to go. It didn’t prove enough, as the Astana Team’s work. For Pello Bilbao favored the regrouping of the leaders and the eventual sprint finish. There came the unexpected, as in spite of the previous efforts, Geoghean Hart managed to take a clear sprint win over Aranburu and Thalmann.

Indeed, many of the races I won as an amateur came out of restricted group finishes, so I guess it’s fitting that my first pro win came in this fashion,” the 24-year-old Londoner said. “Team Sky was really strong today, with Leo Basso controlling the race from early on, and it showed as we had five riders in the top group. Nevertheless, today it really could have gone in any of our ways – could have been Pavel, or Froomey. It was good to claim one with the Team Sky jersey, as that’s my last opportunity to do that.”

Concerning what’s next, I am already looking forward to tomorrow: I am in the leader’s jersey and I would be more than happy to keep it, but you know how this race is: it’s open, punchy and unpredictable, as we saw today,” concluded Geoghegan Hart.

Reward for the day’s breakaway riders came on the finishing stage, as Emil Dima wore the best climber’s jersey and Matthias Krizek put the intermediate sprints’ red jersey on his shoulders.

Tomorrow, the longest stage of the Tour of the Alps is in store: 178,7 km from Reith im Alpbachtal to Scena/Schenna, featuring the feared ascent of the Jaufenpass, peaking with 44 km to go, and then the final drag on Scena/Schenna’s Schlossweg.

TV DISTRIBUTION

Tour of the Alps stage 2 will be live on TV from 14.00 to 15.30 CET, thanks to the PMG Sport production.

TV: Eurosport 1 (Europe, Asia), RaiSport (Italy), TV2 (Denmark), Equipe TV (France), Eurosport Italia (Italy), Bike Channel (Italy), Eleven (North America), EBU/Eurovisione, SkySport (New Zealand).

LIVE STREAMING: Eurosport Player (Europe, Asia, Australia), pmgsport.it, repubblica.it, tuttobiciweb.it, inbici.net, cicloweb.it, cyclingpro.net/spaziociclismo, lapresse.it, flobikes.com, (USA, Canada, South America, Asia, Australia, UK), globalcyclingnetwork.com (USA, Canada, South America), Facebook @PMGliveSport.