Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team organized perfectly in a sprinter friendly, 164km Stage 1 of Tour de San Luis on Monday. They set up sprint star Mark Cavendish for the victory in just the second road race of 2013 for OPQS.
OPQS pulled the peloton to catch a four-rider break — which was originally seven — in the final kilometers. As OPQS helped bring the peloton back together in the final 7km, they then controlled the front in a top field that featured other top sprinters, such as Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre Merida), and Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team). Cavendish was able to sprint to the win by a little less than a bike length, with a straight finish perfect for a bunch sprint. Sacha Modolo (Bardiani CSF Inox) was 2nd, and Petacchi 3rd.
"The team did a great job for me today," Cavendish said. "We were the first team to start riding, with Martin Velits at the beginning, we were present at the front the whole day. We got help from other teams too, the sprinter teams, but the guys just rode so strong and stayed with me the whole day. It is so nice to have a team with me that is 100 percent committed. I'm so, so proud of the guys today."
Sports Director Davide Bramati had similar high praise for the brilliant work of the team, for pulling back the break and putting Cavendish in great position.
"We closed the gap with Michal Kwiatkowski, Pieter Serry, Sylvain Chavanel, and Matteo Trentin," Bramati said. "They worked really hard for Mark. There is a great team spirit. It's a good day for our riders, but also the staff. The staff worked very hard because it was different — we don't have our car, or our team truck, so it was difficult. But we are all happy with this victory."
Cavendish said the last kilometers were "hectic," but riders like Kwiatkowski brought him to the front exactly when he had to be there.
"All the teams are fresh and motivated, so it was real, real chaos," Cavendish said. "It was hard to stay together. I had a few guys with me, and in the finishing straight, within 1 kilometer or 400 meters it was just kind of about staying at the front. It was hard with a bit of a dip into the finish and nothing really marking 100 meters or 200 meters, so I just kind of jumped at 250 meters. I knew when I jumped I'd have a good shot at it, even though there was some wind. It feels good to be fresh with a good bunch of guys and on such a fast bike. The guys really looked after me, so I had 100 percent energy at the finish. I'm so happy I could win."
This is the third victory for OPQS in 2013, in three disciplines. The team wished to dedicate this victory to OPQS rider Tom Boonen, who underwent an operation yesterday for a septic infection in his left elbow bursa.
"The pressure is now off, but we will continue to try and get more results for the team and try to set up our lead out as best we can," Cavendish said. "We also have a few guys for the GC here, so we will try to be present for both stage hunting and a good place in the GC."