PORTO-VECCHIO, France (VN) — Theo Bos (Blanco) sprinted to victory in stage 1 of the Criterium International on Saturday.
The 29-year-old former track star beat French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo-Tinkoff) to win the 89km opener.
It was the fourth victory of the season for Bos, who earlier won two stages of the Tour de Langkawi and one at the Volta ao Algarve.
“I knew that I could achieve something on this stage but it proved to be really difficult,” said Bos. “There was only one climb today but as soon as we hit the hill, I started feeling bad and I was dropped behind. I really had to fight myself back to the pack.
“We only managed to catch up in the last 15 kilometers and everything went really quickly. I just had the time to get my breath back and have a drink and I had to start focusing on the sprint.”
Bos credited his teammates for a solid leadout.
“On the final straight, I was just behind Graeme Brown and then managed to power away and capture the win. I have the yellow jersey but I really don’t think that I’ll be able to keep it after the time trial.”
Bouhanni, meanwhile, was unhappy with his second-place finish, saying he “had the legs to win.”
“I had to stop twice in the last 300 meters,” he added. “I found the opening just 100 meters from the line but it was too late. Bos was tough.”
The stage was marked by a five-man break including Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Arnaud Gérard (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) and Antoine Lavieu (La Pomme Marseille). The group took a maximum lead of 3:30 before Argos-Shimano and Garmin-Sharp marshaled a pursuit, keeping the escapees within reach.
The break had just 90 seconds as it reached the summit of the Côte de Conca. RadioShack-Leopard and FDJ joined the chase and the escapees were retrieved with less than 3km to race.
Bos used the slightly uphill final straight and a strong leadout from his teammate Brown to fly to his first victory in the Criterium International. He took not only the overall leader’s yellow jersey but the lead in the points’ classification. Bouhanni donned the jersey of best young rider and while Gerard took the polka-dot kit of best climber.
Stage 2, a 7km individual time trial, will be run Saturday afternoon in Porto-Vecchio.
The Criterium International concludes Sunday.