It’s call for a celebration! First win for Italian in years.

Michele Scarponi (Astana Team) ended the win drought for his team, taking the first stage of the Tour of the Alps, ahead of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). The Italian rider was part of an elite group that formed on the final climb of the Hungerburg with less than 4km to go.

Despite several accelerations from Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Domencio Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale), Scarponi hung on and outsprinted the rest of the breakaway to win the stage and pull on the first leader’s jersey of this year’s race. Thomas crossed the line in second place with another GC rival, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) in third.

Scarponi was nominated as Astana’s leader for the Giro d’Italia last week after it was confirmed that Fabio Aru would miss the race through injury.

The first stage of the race was littered with uncategorised climbs and it was Team Sky who set the pace for much of the day, first reeling in the early breaks before setting the pace for Thomas all the way up the final climb of the day. The British rider was a leading presence in the finale, as he, Rohan Dennis, Pinot, Pozzovivo and Scarponi moved into the driving seat, but the short length of the ascent meant that gaps were hard to create. Scarponi followed wheels for most of the climb before breaking through in the final 75m to take the stage.

The early stages of the day were marked by a group containing Nicola Bagioli (Nippo – Vini Fantini), Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli), Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina), Davide Orrico (Sangemini – Mg. K VIS) and Luca Raggio (Italy), who moved clear inside the first 25km. They established a lead close to two minutes but on the first categorised of the Aschau Team Sky brought them back. Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-RusVelo) was the next rider to go clear but he was soon passed by a dangerous move consisting of Iuri Filosi (Nippo Fantini), Francesco Gavazzi (Androni) and Matthias Krizek of the Tirol Cycling team.

The three leaders opened up a reasonable gap during the second half of the stage, but Team Sky and the rest of the squads with GC aspirations were unwilling to allow any move a chance of deciding the stage.

With 17km to go and just a long descent before the final climb, only Filosi remained clear, with the bunch hot on his heels. BMC Racing and Astana both joined Team Sky at the front, but it was AG2R La Mondiale who attacked first. Dennis was alert to the first set of attacks but began to drift backwards when Thomas and Pozzovivo upped the pace with only 2,000m to go. There was a brief injection of pace from Bora’s Jose Mendes but when Thomas pushed on the pedals once more only a select group could follow. There as a re-grouping just before the line, with Davide Formolo and Dario Cataldo latching onto the leaders but Scarponi showed a clean pair of wheels to take his first win since 2013.

Source: Cycling News

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