Bazeilles, France - Rui Oliveira sprinted to a top 10 finish at stage 1 of Circuit des Ardennes, placing 6th in the bunch sprint at the end of the 172 km day of racing. His 6th place finish is the Hagens Berman Axeon rider’s second top ten finish of the season after placing 7th at the 1.HC rated Handzame Classic back in March.
John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel p/b Araphoe Resources) took the stage win ahead of Roy Jans (Cibel-Cebon), while Anthony Maldonado (St-Michel-Auber 93) finished in 3rd place.
“Today was really windy, especially the last part of the race,” said Oliveira. “With the help of Joao, I was able to sneak to the front in the last few kilometers. I just didn’t have the legs to do better today, but can’t be too disappointed on such a hard day with 2,500 meters of climbing, not exactly a sprint stage.”
Hagens Berman Axeon sport director Koos Moerenhout echoed Oliveira’s assessment of the difficulty in Friday’s first stage.
“It wasn’t an easy day for the riders,” he said. “Hard middle part of the stage with a lot of climbing and also a lot of wind. Even though it ended in a bunch sprint, there were a significant number of attacks. Joao was able to get in a couple of the breaks today, might happen again tomorrow.”
Almeida went on to place 23rd, with Jonny Brown finishing 33rd. Ivo Oliveira and Will Barta finished 54th and 55th respectively, and Michael Rice finished 113th.
Saturday’s second stage from Beauraing to Givet will be another big day with over 2,700 meters of climbing over the course of 175 km.
“Apparently it’s the hardest stage,” said Moerenhout. “It might still be controlled, but we’ll see. We will for sure look for opportunities.”
Saturday’s stage begins at 11:45 am CEST (5:45 EST).
(Header photo of Rui Oliveira by Davey Wilson.)