Team Sky produced a storming display on the first stage of the Tour de Luxembourg and claimed four of the top six positions after Denis Galimzyanov had snatched a narrow sprint victory in Bascharage.
And although it was Katusha’s Galimzyanov who kicked on for a slender triumph, Greg Henderson and Davide Appollonio claimed the remaining two spots on the podium, while Mathew Hayman and Jeremy Hunt also clung on for fourth and sixth places respectively.
A lack of time bonuses meanwhile, ensured Wednesday’s prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) retained his grip on the yellow jersey and maintained a five-second advantage over Europcar’s Damien Gaudin.
The 192.8km stage had got under way once again in the capital city and Christian Poos (Differdange) and Jens Mouris (Vacansoleil) wasted no time in breaking away from the bunch. The duo were joined by Arnaud Labbe (Cofidis) and Bert Scheirlinckx (Landbouwkrediet) and quickly built up a lead of four minutes.
Back in the peloton, Leopard Trek took control on the front to ensure that gap was not allowed to grow any further, and their efforts had cut the escapees’ lead back to just over a minute as they began the first of three 15km laps which rounded off the day.
Scheirlinckx and Mouris would shed their accomplices soon after but they were hauled back as they returned to the destination town for the third and final time, and it was then that Team Sky’s lead-out train came to the fore.
Despite outmuscling many of their rivals in a frenetic finish, Galimzyanov worked his way into contention before battling on for his second win of the season.
Lujungqvist hails display
Back in the team car, Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist was full of praise for his riders’ performance, but admitted Henderson had been left contemplating what might have been.
He told us: “Greg is a little bit disappointed he didn’t get the win because he felt he hesitated slightly and went around the wrong side of Davide at the end there. It was a great team performance though, and to have as many guys there as we did in the final 400m is testament to that - it was incredible to see.
“There was a big crash just behind them, but thankfully they were well positioned to avoid it and then their lead-out was pretty much perfect. It was a fast and technical run-in, and the crosswinds also made things difficult, but unfortunately we just weren’t able to wrap things up. Greg should definitely not get himself down though, he gave it his all and will learn from his mistake.
“Froomey also deserves a mention today because he did a really good job to help bring the break back before the other guys hit the front.”
Friday’s stage is the longest of the tour of sees the riders travel 200.7km from Schifflange to Differdange. Ljungqvist is expecting another fast finish but is not expecting a mass gallop like the one he witnessed in Bascharage.
He added: “It should be a tougher day because it is constantly undulating and has a hard final few kilometres. The climbs here are not so big, but they come one after another and a fast pace in the peloton could see a few guys get dropped.
“A bunch should still be together at the front to contest the win though, and we’ll be going all out again to try and do just that.”