In Michael Woods’ debut race with new squad Israel Start-up Nation, the Canadian took fourth place on Friday’s opening summit finish of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. On his tenth day of racing in 2021, Bauke Mollema earned the day’s flowers and the race lead.
Stage 1 was a lumpy, 186.6-km affair ending with a triple ascent of Col de Gourdon, 10 km of 4.4 percent, the final kilometre closer to 7 percent.
Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var 2021 – Stage 1:
🏔️ 2x Cat 2
🌥️ 13°C, broken clouds
📺 Eurosport/GCN (17:00 CET)
Route: https://t.co/KWpMaLJYaI pic.twitter.com/0EsIbvMyVB
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) February 19, 2021
A breakaway comprised of Pro Team and Continental Team riders tore loose early in the day to roll up a 6:00 lead, and Tom Wirtgen of Dutch outfit Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles was first over the line in the two intermediate sprints.
Inside the 100km to go mark a group of five riders has several minutes advantage over the peloton, where all our riders are in.
⛰️Col de Gourdon is already waiting.
— Astana – Premier Tech (@AstanaPremTech) February 19, 2021
The escapees kept their lead on the first passage of the Gourdon, Otto Vergaerde of Alpecin-Fenix tipping over in the lead. Vergaerde then went solo, but the peloton swept up all before the second passage where Woods’ teammate Krists Neilands scooped up the maximum KOM points.
The final climb of Gourdon saw B&B Hotels’ Quentin Pacher surge ahead of the reduced peloton. Geraint Thomas led the chasing pack before Groupama-FDJ grabbed the reins going into the final 3 km, dispatching Pacher.
Mollema had the best legs in the finale, with Greg van Avermaet doing his new AG2R-Citroën squad proud with second place. Groupama-FDJ packed the top-10 with four riders including Thibaut Pinot in ninth. Woods and Pinot were part of a 24-strong group that finished 3 seconds in arrears of Mollema.
After the stage Woods said, “It was a good day… just difficult to know where your legs are going to be at…got a bit boxed in on the sprint unfortunately.”
”I’m happy with my legs and I think tomorrow will be better for me!”
Great effort by @rusty_woods to take 4th place in the opening stage of Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. #YallaISN
🇫🇷 #Tour0683 pic.twitter.com/abOMXkntwJ
— Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy (@TeamIsraelSUN) February 19, 2021
Hugo Houle came in 101st and Antoine Duchesne finished 116th.
Saturday’s second stage isn’t quite as taxing as Friday’s, but it ends with a short, steep climb to the finish.
2021 Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var Stage 1
1) Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek-Segafredo) 4:50:19
2) Greg van Avermaet (Belgium/AG2R-Citroën) +0:02
3) Valentin Madouas (France/Groupama-FDJ) s.t.
4) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +0:03
101) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana-Premier Tech) +7:16
116) Antoine Duchesne (Canada/Groupama-FDJ) +14:02