Despite struggling on the only climb of the opening stage of the Criterium International and only just making it back to the pack in the closing moments of the race, Theo Bos powered to an impressive win after a spectacular bunched sprint. Beating Bouhanni and Cantwell to the line, the Dutchman captures the overall lead and will be wearing the yellow jersey in the afternoon’s time-trial.
Arashiro first on the break
The shortened format (89kms) of the morning stage attracted quite a few breakaway candidates as soon as the first kilometres, but the pack responded at each attempt in the opening ten kilometres. Eventually, at kilometre 11, Yukiya Arashiro (EUC) managed to take off taking with him Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Romain Hardy (COF), Arnaud Gérard (BSE) and Antoine Lavieu (LPM). The group of five enjoyed a maximum 3’30’’ advantage at km 28. Teams Argos-Shimano and Garmin-Sharp then decided to really take on the chase, maintaining the escapees within a decent enough gap.
Argos-Shimano under control
The front men led by Gerard, reached the summit of the Côte de Conca with a lead of 1’35’’ on the pack. The intermediate sprint, set at Lecci, was claimed by Arashiro while the pack remained just 35’’ adrift. It looked like mission impossible for the leaders in the final moments of the stage as teams RadioShack-Leopard and FDJ joined in the chase. With just under 3 kilometres to go, the front five were finally caught. Time had come for a bunched sprint as the pack headed back to Porto-Vecchio.
On the slightly uphill final straight, Theo Bos (BLA) made the best of the excellent work of his team mate Brown to fly to victory. The Dutch sprinter flew to his fourth success of the season (after stage wins in Algarve and Langkawi) and his first on the Criterium International, beating Bouhanni (FDJ) and Cantwell (SKY) to the line. Bos therefore captures the overall leader’s yellow jersey as well as the lead of the points’ classification. Before the afternoon’s individual time-trial, Bouhanni is the best young rider and Gerard will carry the polka-dot best climber’s jersey.
“I knew that I could achieve something on this stage but it proved to be really difficult. 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 kilometres 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. Almost no time to recover. My team mates led me out really well. 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. I don’t even know what my start time is, but I know that it’ll be at that time that I will loose it.”