Just like he did in 2009, Belarussian Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJeux) won the opening stage of the Tour Méditerranéen in France on Wednesday.
Pushed along by frigid winds, the 26-year-old won ahead of William Bonnet (Bbox Telecom) and Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) in the 92.4km stage in Sauvian.
When the stage rolled out of the start in Carcassonne, the peloton was blasted by strong winds and quickly split; only 16 riders made it in with the front group. Several pre-race favorites lost more than one minute and never regained contact.
Caisse d’Epargne put its pre-race favorite, Alejandro Valverde, safely in the front group. Also there were Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana). Among the riders losing time were Cyril Dessel (Ag2r), Michael Rasmussen (Miche) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank).
“I had very good legs and I believe I was able to make the sprint but my teammates had been working so hard and with a front wind it was rather difficult,” Valverde said. “The most important thing today is that there is now a difference of two minutes with the majority of our adversaries. I feel really motivated to try and win the race.”