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Dutchman beats Greipel, Cavendish and Kittel in highly anticipated first sprint in Ster ZLM Toer after a stage hugely affected by strong crosswinds

Photo: Cor Vos










13.06.2013 @ 16:17 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Theo Bos continued the huge run of success for his Blanco team in their home Ster ZLM Toer in today's first stage as the Dutchman was a surprise winner of the hugely anticipated clash of the Titans between Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel. Only 26 riders finished in the first group after a stage heavily affected by crosswinds, and the Dutchman emerged as the fastest by beating Greipel and Cavendish while his teammate Robert Wagner finished safely in the bunch to defend his yellow jersey.


Usually a flat stage in a minor Dutch stage race does not draw an awful lot of attention but today's first stage of the Ster ZLM Toer has been a clear exception. With Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel in the line-up - all supported by their complete lead-out trains - the stage was seen as a major dress rehearsal for this year's Tour de France and was dubbed a "Clash of the Titans".


It was, however, none of the three giants who emerged as the fastest after the sprint as home rider Theo Bos made it two in a row for his Blanco team less than 24 hours after Robert Wagner's win in the prologue. The Dutchman held off Greipel and Cavendish in the final dash to the line in a small 26-rider front peloton.


The stage has started off in its usual fashion with an early break consisting of 5 local riders going off the front. Steven Lammertink (Cycling Team Jo Piels) and Baart Van Haaren (Koga) initiated the escape and were later joined by Rens to Stroet (Cycling Team Jo Piels), Dries Hollanders (Metec) and Peters Boster (Metec).


After 36km they had built up a gap of 3.30 but they were never allowed much leeway, the peloton taking no risks at all. Lammertink won both intermediate sprints while his teammate to Stroet won the sole mountain sprint to move into the mountains jersey.


After the second intermediate sprint with 101,2km still to ride, the peloton hit a section of strong crosswinds. As a consequence, it broke into three larger groups and the first of those quickly caught the early break.


The lead group consisted of 34 riders and Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel had all made the selection. The Manxman had 5 riders to support him while Kittel was surrounded by 5 of his teammates. The top 2 from yesterday's prologue, Lars Boom and Wagner, were also part of the group as was their fast teammate Bos, the trio forming part of a Blanco quintet in the front.


The rest of the stage evolved into a pursuit between the main groups. The gap between the first two of those quickly grew to 45 seconds but the second group - which was the biggest - brought it back to 30 seconds at some point. The gap went back up to a little more than a minute where it stabilized for a long time.


A few riders fell off the front group - one of them was Dries Devenyns who makes a comeback in this race after a bad crash in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco - and left just 26 riders in the front group. With 20km to go the gap was 1.30 but suddenly the second group gave up and the advantaged came up quickly. With 10km remaining, it was 3 minutes and it was now clear that the winner would be one from the lead group.


Inside the final 5km, a number of attacks went off the front and the most dangerous of those consisted of Jurgen Roelandts and Boom. They built up a gap of around 75m but Argos-Shimano was in no mood to let this opportunity slip away and so they closed down the duo.


It all came down to a sprint from the 26-rider group and while all eyes were on Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel, it was Bos who took the honours. Meanwhile, his teammate Wagner finished safely in the bunch to defend his leader's jersey.


The race continues with a 188,3km stage starting and finishing in Buchten. Held in the Limburg province, the stage takes in some of the famous climbs from the Amstel Gold Race but the final part is mostly flat. We should see another bunch sprint ahead of Saturday's queen stage in the Belgian Ardennes.



1. Theo Bos

2. Andre Greipel

3. Mark Cavendish


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