Louisfert, France - A dropped chain in the last 100 meters was not enough to stop a hard-charging Rui Oliveira from earning his 6th top 10 finish of the season on the first stage of Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste in Northwestern France on Wednesday. Oliveira finished in 7th place, narrowly getting edged out of a top 5 result.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the guys for protecting me all day and helping me,” said the second year Hagens Berman Axeon veteran Oliveira. “In the last few kilometers, Maikel caught the break and I was really well positioned and fresh for the sprint. With 200m to go, I launched my sprint. I felt really strong, but with 100m to go, a guy tried to enter in a gap where there wasn’t any space and we touched handlebars. I almost crashed and my chain dropped. I had to do the last bit before the finish without pedaling. Today, I thought I had a real shot at winning or for sure top 3. It’s really frustrating, but we will fight for the victory again this week.”
The 160 km stage that started in Châteaubriant saw a breakaway comprised of Edoardo Affini (SEG Racing), Owen James (Côtes d'Armor-Marie Morin-Véranda Rideau), and Henrik Evensen (Joker-Icopal) develop fairly early on the day. The break enjoyed a 1:45 advantage for much of the stage until it was brought back with 10 km left in the race. Herman Dahl (Joker-Icopal) won the stage from a bunch sprint.
“Our plan worked well today,” said sport director Koos Moerenhout. “The race went according to what we had expected for the stage. The guys did a great job looking after Rui and setting him up for the sprint. It was a shame that he was almost kicked off the bike coming into the final 100 meters, it could’ve been a much better result. But our confidence in him is there; he’s got the legs and is riding strong. Tomorrow we’ll give it another try.”
Joao Almeida, fresh off his victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23, finished with Zeke Mostov and Jonny Brown in the main group. Mikkel Bjerg and Maikel Zijlaard were 0:43 and 0:49 behind respectively.
The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team will face an increased amount of climbing in the 180 km from Louisfert to Plougoumelen on stage 2. Thursday’s start time is 12:10 CEST (6:10 am EDT).
(Header photo of Rui Oliveira by Joyce Jason Ghijs.)