Ben Swift got his season off to a flying start by sprinting to third place at the Trofeo Palma.
The 25-year-old was thrust into the thick of the action as the pan-flat circuit race reached its conclusion and edged out the likes of Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Francisco Ventoso and Jose Joaquin Rojas (both Movistar) for his place on the podium.
It was Lotto-Belisol’s Kenny Dehaes who was celebrating the victory, though, after he proved too strong for Garmin-Sharp rider Tyler Farrar in a pulsating finale.
It had been Perrig Quémeneur who brought the first of the four Challenge Mallorca races to life by initiating the day’s main breakaway after 13km, and despite attempts to join him by the likes of Francisco Moreno (CJR) and Equipo Euskadi duo Aritz Bagues and Mikel Aristi, the Europcar man cut a lone figure at the head of affairs for much of the 116km trek.
Quémeneur’s advantage had peaked at almost four minutes, but that quickly tumbled when Movistar and Team Sky stepped up their pursuit and the peloton was back as one as they entered the last 25km of action.
Bradley Wiggins tested his legs and took maximum points on the day’s final intermediate sprint before helping guide Swift into contention his first top-three finish of 2013.
Hunt hails togetherness
After the race, Sports Director Dan Hunt was pleased with the performance his riders had shown, and told us: “We wanted the guys to ride together as a unit today and they did that. There’s 10 of them in action here and the racing was aggressive, nervous and tight due to the blustery conditions.
“We pushed Ian [Boswell] and Josh [Edmondson] forward early on but when the break went away with just a few guys in it, it was always going to be easy to manage. They were never given much room and Bradley [Wiggins] helped Movistar bring everything back in the final four laps.
“He won the most aggressive rider prize for that display, and once we’d had the regrouping, Lampre started to control things. We positioned Swifty on their train instead of giving him a dedicated lead-out. That worked well – Danny Pate looked after him brilliantly and Kosta [Siutsou] moved everyone forward at just the right time.
“Swifty looked after himself in the finale but just got caught on the wrong side of the wheel when Dehaes went. He was sprinting in pretty good company, though, and did well to pick up a top-three finish.
“We’ll be riding for him again on Monday, and although it’s more undulating than it was today, we’re still expecting it to come down to a bunch sprint.”
The Trofeo Palma was Hunt’s first race as a Team Sky Sports Director since the 2010 season and the Englishman was delighted to be back behind the wheel.
He added: “I got back into the swing of things quickly and it was great being back in the convoy.
“Having Rod [Ellingworth] in the car there with me was a big help and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the three days to come.”
The Trofeo Campos sees the peloton take on laps of an undulating circuit between Campos and Ses Salines and a short, steep climb towards the finish should see a punchy sprinter prosper.