Keukeleire wins the opening stage of the Tour of Slovenia

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Keukeleire wins the opening stage of the Tour of Slovenia

Jens Keukeleire wins Stage 1 of the 2016 Tour of Slovenia

Jens Keukeleire wins Stage 1 of the 2016 Tour of Slovenia

Belgian Jens Keukeleire took the victory on stage one of the Tour of Slovenia today after outstanding work in the finale by Australian teammate Jack Haig who finished fourth.

A tactically sound day unfolded for ORICA-GreenEDGE with Haig splitting the race on the final climb after a vicious acceleration before leading Keukeliere out for the sprint and the win ahead of Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida).

“It was a hard stage today,” said Keukeleire. “There were a few teams trying to control the race but it was a good course for me, I’m pretty fast on that kind of finish.”

“I have to thank the whole team but especially Jack (Haig). His attack on the final climb got rid of a lot of the faster guys and then he committed fully to set me up perfectly for the finish.

“We raced very intelligently today and also with some luck. I am really happy with how we raced as a team, the way we attacked in the final and I’m thankful that I had the strength to finish it off.”

Sport director Matt Wilson was pleased with the result and full team’s performance.

“A really great performance from the team today,” said Wilson. “The course was tougher than we anticipated and in the end that worked out well for us.”

“Jack buried himself in the finale after a superb attack on the last climb and Jens (Keukeleire) was very strong in the sprint to the line. It couldn’t have gone any better for a five-man team today.

“We came here with the objective of winning stages. We have achieved that on the first day and also taken the race lead. There is no pressure on us but we are happy with our position and will do everything we can to defend the leader’s jersey.”

How it happened:

A beautiful sunny day in Ljubljana welcomed riders to the start of the Tour of Slovenia today with the action beginning immediately from the flag.

Five riders went clear early in the stage and with the peloton sitting back, the quintet formed the day’s breakaway.

After 70kilometres of racing over the lumpy, undulating parcours the group had a lead of over six minutes.

Thirty kilometres later and the situation on the road had not changed, but the weather had. The rain started to fall as the peloton passed through the feed zone.

The fast pace of the race continued into the final 40kilometres as the advantage of the breakaway began to fall below the two-minute mark.

Dimension-Data and Lampre-Merida were doing the lion’s share of the work at the front of the peloton as Team Sky began to move up the field with under 30kilometres left to race.

Five became four with 25kilometres to go and the escapees now had less than a minute on the peloton. The catch and subsequent sprint finish seemed inevitable.

Approaching the finishing circuit the breakaway completely fell apart as attacks began to spring from the peloton.

Around forty riders were left at the front with only ten kilometres to go, including Keukeleire and Haig for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

Haig attacked ferociously on the short but steep final climb and split the group before unleashing another acceleration with Keukeleire on his wheel.

As Haig pulled off Keukeleire gave it everything and held off Ulissi and Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon18) to take the stage win and the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Haig impressed further by finishing in fourth place after carrying his speed from the lead out all the way to the line.

Tomorrow’s second stage is the mountainous Queen stage and covers 217kilometres from Nova Gorica to Golte. It is a brutal parcours with a few thousand metres of elevation before a very tough summit finish.

Tour of Slovenia stage one results:

1. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 04:27:34
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) ST
3. Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon18) ST

General classification after stage one:

1. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 04:27:34
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) ST
3. Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon18) ST
4. Jack Haig (ORICA-GreenEDGE) +0:03

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