Acy-Romance, France – Confusion in the final two kilometers of Friday's opening stage of Circuit des Ardennes prevented the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team from going for the win.
Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Koos Moerenhout said one of the lead motorcycles led half the pack off course in the waning moments of the 184.5-kilometer race in France.
"It was really a shame because we were right up there and in good position to set up for the bunch sprint," Moerenhout said. "We were hoping this would be one for Michael Rice. But unfortunately, he could not go for his chance."
Will Barta ended up as the team's best finisher, in 62nd place, after coming back from a crash earlier in the stage.
Markus Hoelgaard (Team Joker Icopal) took the win ahead of teammate Kristoffer Skjerping to make it a 1-2 finish for the Norwegian team. All five of Axeon Hagens Berman's riders were awarded the same finishing time due to the mix-up at the end.
After the day's four-man breakaway was reeled in 30 kilometers from the end of the 184.5 km race, Axeon Hagens Berman's Jhonatan Narvaez attacked on the day's final climb. Thomas Deruette (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect) was the only rider to follow him and the pair quickly gained a nearly 45-second advantage.
"Unfortunately, the other guy was not really into it," Moerenhout said. "It was a strong move by Jhonatan. But in the last couple of kilometers, they were brought back."
Saturday's 181.1 km stage starts and finishes in Rochehaut and features a challenging uphill finish. The three-day race concludes Sunday with a double-stage day.
Header photo of Axeon Hagens Berman riders courtesy of Circuit des Ardennes International. From left, Will Barta, Rui Oliveira, Michael Rice, Jhonatan Narvaez and Adrien Costa.