Jumbo-Visma’s star sprinter Dylan Groenewegen wins the opening stage ahead of Fabio Jakobsen of Deceuninck-Quick Step.

The 2020 Volta Ciclista a la Comunitat Valenciana kicked off Wednesday with a rolling 180-kilometer stage from Castellón to Villareal.

Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) took the field sprint, besting Fabio Jakobson (Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates). The win marked Groenewegen’s fourth career victory at the Spanish stage race.

In his post-race comments, Groenewegen addressed the pressure to perform that comes with the season opener.

“It’s always nice to start the season with a win,” Groenewegen said. “As a sprinter, you feel the pressure to perform at the start of the season. Then it is nice if it works right away. That gives peace. The first [win] has arrived and that is very tasty.”

A four-man break got away early, just 5km into the race, and the group gained a maximum advantage of nearly three minutes on the peloton.

The peloton encountered a modest climb of 3.7km at 5.5 percent grade about halfway into the day. Cédric Beullens (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) attacked to take the lead for the best climber classification.

The peloton caught the breakaway with 10km to go, and soon after Deceuninck-QuickStep took control of the front of the race, to try to deliver Jakobson to the line.

Lotto-Soudal lined up for John Degenkolb, while several solo attacks were launched, but nothing stuck.

Inside of 3km, Jumbo-Visma merged into the front of the shoulder-to-shoulder group.

Although Jakobson was lined up for the win, from 200 meters out, a very late charge by Groenewegen captured the win.

Stage winner Groenewegen indicated “The team was very strong today. Due to my own fault, I started the sprint a little too far out. In the first race of the season it is always a matter of finding the right feeling and trying to find each other again in the lead out.”

Matteo Trentin (CCC) said the push to the line was especially chaotic. “It was like being in a huge washing machine,” Trentin said.

The opening stage is one of three sprint stages peppered throughout the five-day tour. The battle for the General Classification will likely wait until Saturday’s penultimate stage, which concludes with an uphill finish to Altea.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde is touted as general classification favorite, with two punchy finishes and no time-trial. A notable DNS was Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), who was scheduled to debut his season at the race. Unspecified illness prevented the 2017 Giro winner from rolling out, and he was replaced by Paul Martens.

Thursday’s stage 2 is an undulating 181km route from Torrent to Cullera. The stage finishes with a steep 3.1km climb which exceeds 21 percent in the final 150 meters. Time bonuses for the first three places could produce a battle between the GC favorites.

Stage 1
1. Dylan Groenewegen, Jumbo-Visma, 4:07:40
2. Fabio Jakobson, Deceuninck-QuickStep
3. Alexander Kristoff, UAE-Team Emirates, all at s.t.

General Classification
1. Dylan Groenewegen, Jumbo-Visma, 4:07:37
2. Fabio Jakobson, Deceuninck-QuickStep
3. Alexander Kristoff, UAE-Team Emirates, all at s.t.

https://www.velonews.com/2020/02/news/valenciana-dylan-groenewegen-wins-stage-1-sprint_504537