As expected, the first stage in the Tour of Slovenia ended in a bunch sprint. A perfectly timed lead-out brought Sam Bennett it the right position to win the opener in Kocevje confidently. The BORA – hansgrohe sprinter also takes the first leaders’ jersey of the race.
Three flat stages and one mountain top finish are the steps to take for glory in the Tour of Slovenia. Today’s opener was one of the flat stages, over 159.4 kilometers between Koper and Kocevje, with an expected bunch sprint.
It took several attacks in the beginning of the stage, before a group of 9 riders went away from the peloton on the first climb of the day. With sprinters in the bunch like Cavendish, Colbrelli and also Sam Bennett from BORA – hansgrohe, it was clear, that the bunch would react early enough to control todays’ breakaway.
After the gap increased to about 4 minutes, the sprinter teams started to wind up the pace and gradually cut the advantage of the leading group. Alex Saramotins was one of the guys pulling at the head of the peloton, together with Dimension Datan and Bahrain Merida.
Going into the last 20k, the gap of the leaders was already under one minute, and all was set for a bunch sprint. The last breakaway rider was caught with 7k to go, as the lead-out trains started to organize the final. Also taking his turn, BORA – hansgrohe leader Rafal Majka was seen at the front. The polish National Champion just came back from a three-week altitude camp and made immediately a strong impression on his first race day.
With a perfectly timed effort, BORA – hansgrohe hit the front with one kilometer to go. Pöstlberger and Selig opened the sprint for Sam Bennett, who finished off a strong lead-out with a superb win in Kocevje, which also means the overall lead in the race after day one.
“We controlled the race the whole day with Alex pulling together with the other sprinter teams. Because the day was easy in the bunch, the final on the last two laps was especially fast. We lost each other a little with 4k to go, but Rafa brought as back up. When we hit the front on the last k, Pösti and Rudi delivered me so fast, I just had to hold the speed to the line. It was a great win after a strong team work. I still feel a little tired after the Giro, but the speed is also still in my legs.” – Sam Bennett
“After the Giro we took some time to think about how we can adapt our lead-out to Sam’s needs. I think today’s win is a great example of team work, not just on the road, but also from all guys working really hard in the background.” – Christian Pömer, sports director