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by Neal Rogers
March 20, 2018
In today’s Daily News Digest: Colombian sprinter Alvaro Hodeg takes opening stage at Volta Catalunya; Italian sprinters sweep Stage 2 podium at Langkawi as Astana’s Minali takes race lead; Greipel shares disappointment over lost opportunities after collarbone plated with 10 screws; Cape Epic: Cannondale men win Stage 1; Specialized women in control; Schurter loses bid for Cape Epic repeat after Stirnemann is forced to abandon; Tire problems see Hincapie, Vande Velde lose Masters category lead at Cape Epic; Austin bomber injures cyclists with tripwire; Video: Why isn’t cycling normal in London?
Colombian Alvaro Hodeg (Quick-Step Floors), winner of the Handzame Classic in Belgium on Friday, took the Stage 1 sprint at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, ahead of Sam Bennett and Jay McCarthy, both of Bora-Hansgrohe. The 21-year-old sprinter became the first neo-pro to take a WorldTour win this season.
The first stage of the mountainous weeklong stage race in Northern Spain was a day for the fast men in the peloton. The race began with the usual sprint stage in Calella, but with a shorter stage than in the previous years. The first stage covered nearly 155km with two intermediate sprints and one categorised climb, shortly before the finish. After the six-man breakaway was caught, the sprint teams began to form their lead-out trains. In the finale, McCarthy was the last lead-out man for Bennett, while Michael Morkov led out Hodeg. In the closing metres it wasn’t close, however, as Hodeg won by several bike lengths.
“The entire team stayed with me and protected me today,” Hodeg said in a team press release. “On the descent, I was somewhere in the middle of the bunch, but Michael [Morkov] gave me a lot of confidence by telling me to stay calm and pacing me back to the front, where Bob [Jungels] showed an insane power in the last kilometers. Many teams wanted to be there, but thanks to these fantastic guys we were all the time in control, they made the difference today and I thank them for that.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hodeg continued. “Last week I was celebrating my first pro victory, and now I won a World Tour race against many big and more experienced riders. It is really crazy when you think of it. I was strong today and wanted to get the win for this amazing team who had faith in me. The leader’s jersey is a bonus, one which makes me very proud. It’s just the beginning of the week and hopefully other good results will soon come.”