The Groupama-FDJ riders surely had different hopes on the first stage of the Volta a Catalunya on Monday. Unfortunately, their leader Michael Storer was caught in a crash with six kilometres to go and therefore lost all hope for the overall. Due to some splits in the peloton following that crash, Bruno Armirail and Lenny Martinez, the team’s first riders on the line, lost ten seconds in that opening stage. Tuesday, it will already be time for the first summit finish of the week to Vallter.

On the first day of spring, the riders were able to enjoy nice weather on Monday for the start of the Volta a Catalunya. From and to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 164 kilometres had to be covered before a final, slightly uphill sprint, where Quentin Pacher took third in 2022. Without a real man for a bunch finish this year, the Groupama-FDJ team mostly wanted to avoid any issue on this opening day. “We knew the course quite well”, explained Jussi Veikkanen. “Then, when the breakaway went, we understood that some teams wanted to control right away. The fugitives’ lead never went over four minutes and the pace was always solid. In the lead, they tried to gamble a bit in the second part of the race, but Jumbo-Visma pulled hard in the last climb to catch them. As for us, we remained safely in the bunch without a hitch”. Following the usual scenario, the breakaway was eventually caught six kilometres from the finish.

“I got by better than some others”, Michael Storer

However, barely a few hundred metres after, the final as well as the Groupama-FDJ’s plans were turned upside down. “There was a big crash five kilometres from the finish”, added Jussi. “They crashed at 60-70 km/h. It split the peloton into several pieces, but most importantly, Michael was involved. Lorenzo waited for him, and luckily so, as Michael had pain in his knee and needed help to get up and go again. He was able to finish the stage but with several wounds, and he will undergo some exams in the evening”. “There was a crash on the right, I braked but the guy behind me did not brake enough and hit me”, said the Australian. “It’s a shame, but it’s cycling. My knee hurts but I think I got by better than some others.” After finishing at nine minutes, the Aussie is however out of contention for the GC. Bruno Armirail and Lenny Martinez had to deal with the splits in the final to reach the line, but finally finished ten seconds behind the winner Primoz Roglic. Back to racing after his crash in the Grand Prix de Denain, Clément Davy experienced a difficult day but will be “ready” tomorrow. On Tuesday, the first test already looms for the climbers with the final climb of Vallter (15.1 km at 6.7%).

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