Mar 28, 2015 – USA’s Benjamin King captured his first ever win as a professional on stage 1 of the Criterium International in Corsica. After taking off alongside Frenchman Clément Saint-Martin as soon as the first kilometre of the race, the Cannondale-Garmin rider managed to stay clear from the chasing pack, before outsprinting his breakaway companion in Porto-Vecchio. King naturally captures the overall leader’s yellow jersey before the afternoon’s time-trial.
After an early rise, the 118 riders took off at 9:27 for stage 1 of the Criterium International, under a beautiful blue corsican sky. As soon as the first of the 92.5 kilometres on the morning’s menu, Clément Saint-Martin (M13) took off, taking with him Benjamin King (TCG) for what was to be a decisive breakaway. Both men saw their lead over the pack rapidly grow, while Turgis (COF) and Van Empel (ROP) tried their luck on a counter-attack. But despite moving desperately close of the front two (10’’), they would never manage to reach the lead. Meanwhile, the gap over the pack grew from 1’10 at km 7 to a maximum 4’30 at km 30.
Led by teams Europcar and Bretagne Seché Environement, the peloton started the real chase. The counter-attacking men were eventually caught at km 43.5 while the leaders could still enjoy a 3’30 lead. King was the first to make it to the top of the only climb of the day, the Côte de Conca (km 45.5), with a 3’05 advantage over the pack.
At the intermediate sprint set in Lecci (km 73.5), King beat Saint-Martin to the line and could start considering stage success thanks to a very interesting 2’30 lead. It was time for a long time-trial for both men versus the hungry pack. On the winding and sinuous roads of southern Corsica, the front riders carried on their impressive run, perfectly working together. It looked like their showdown against the pack was going their way as they could still enjoy a lead of over 2’ with 15 kilometres to go. Despite the efforts of team FDJ, King and Saint-Martin would never by caught.
On the long false flat final straight, King powered away with 200m to go. The American went on to victoriously cross the finish line, clinching the first win of his pro career. A triumph that is also the first this season of his Cannondale-Garmin team. While he wasn’t initially planned to compete on the event, King captures the overall leader’s yellow jersey with an 8’’ advantage over Saint-Martin. The pack eventually reached the finish led by Romain Feillu (BSE), third, with a 46’’ time déficit. King also takes command of the king of the mountain and points classifications while Saint-Martin will be wearing the best young rider’s white jersey on this afternoon’s time-trial.
Ben King – Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling
“It’s a great feeling to win here. All I could think about in the final twenty kilometers were my teammates. Especially Langevelde, who was in great condition and had a bad crash yesterday. I also crashed last weekend in MSR. We’ve had some bad luck, but we haven’t lost our fighting spirit. So, I desperately wanted to get the win for my teammates. That was my motivation. I’m happy I was able to deliver.”
Eric Van Lancker – DS, Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling
“Ben King did an exceptional ride today. He got off the front after a very fast start with a rider from team Marceille. They built up their lead to 4 minutes, 30 seconds. Different teams started working but the two were able to hold off the peloton all day long. In the final kilometers I just told him to stay cool and relax. He won the final sprint and starts this afternoon’s stage in the leaders jersey. It’s a great win for Ben and for the team, we are very proud.”