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Brent Bookwalter (right) will be aiming for a good time trial Wednesday. (©BMC/Graham Watson.)
Brent Bookwalter (right) will be aiming for a good time trial Wednesday. (©BMC/Graham Watson.)

Circuit de la Sarthe, Stage 1: Sprint Finish

8. April 2014

A bunch sprint capped Tuesday's opening stage of Circuit de la Sarthe on the eve of a double-stage day in the five-stage, four-day French race.

The Course:
Beginning in Saint-Jean-de-Monts, the 197.2-kilometer race traveled to Saint-Géréon, where the peloton completed six laps of a 5.3-kilometer circuit that included a 200-meter rise.

The Day's Breakaway:
Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Duber Quintero (Team Colombia) and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) broke away at the start and enjoyed a seven-and-a-half minute lead before being caught by the chasing efforts of the Team Europcar and FDJ.fr squads with two laps to go.

The Podium:
Past French national road champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) won the bunch sprint finish ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Juan José Lobato (Movistar Team).

Best for the BMC Racing Team:
Ben Hermans, in 17th, was best-placed for the BMC Racing Team.

Looking Ahead:
Wednesday's double-stage day begins with an 88.3-kilometer road race from Ancenis to Angers in the morning, followed by a flat, 6.8-kilometer individual time trial in Angers in the late afternoon.

What Hermans Said:
"I needed a lot of time to come into race rhythm since it's been a long time since I last raced (Tirreno-Adriatico). We trained hard at an altitude camp on Mount Etna, but that is completely different from racing. You are doing a lot of work, but also getting tired and then you have to see if you are fresh enough for racing. Today, I felt quite good and fresh. The time trial tomorrow will give me more insight on my freshness. It is really short, so it doesn't have much to do with big form. Hopefully, I can go deep and be a little lucky. Time gaps will not be big, so it is sometimes a matter of seconds if you make it into the top 10 or you finish 60th. I did this race in 2012 and finished top 15 in the time trial, which was good for the general classification. Hopefully, I can do a little better. The goal is to be good in the classics to help our leaders there. That is also why I was at the altitude camp. But if I can make a good result here, it is already good for the morale and also for the team."

What Sport Director Jackson Stewart Said:
"We were sprinting for Daniel Oss but he is just coming back from injury and hasn't had as much racing. So we just tried to get him there. Unfortunately, he got a flat with four laps to go so I don't know how much that took out of him. I don't think there is going to be a whole lot of difference in the time trial because it is so short. But I think we have a lot of good time trialists here, so obviously we need to do our best. The two days after that are going to be what decides the general classification, with the time bonuses and a hilltop finish and difficult circuits."

See photos from the race in the BMC Racing Team Flickr gallery.