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Smith takes fourth in Volta sprint finish

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/03/2017

Young New Zealand cyclist Dion Smith has unleashed an impressive sprint to finish fourth in the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya in northern Spain.

The 24-year-old Kiwi, riding for Belgian pro team Wanty-Groupe Gobert, paced himself well over the testing 178.9km stage which took in six climbs and included two category one ascents.

Italian Davide Cimolai (FDJ) took line honours in four hours, 28 minutes and 11 seconds, with Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) four seconds behind and Italy's Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data) a further two seconds back.

Smith headed the chasing bunch home, edging vastly experienced German sprinter Andre Greipel (Lotto) in a mass finish.

Smith said he felt strong on the climbs, and paid tribute to the work his teammates did to position him at the front of the peloton.

"I'm very happy because we aimed for top-10, but in my situation I am a bit disappointed not to be on the podium."

Smith's fourth earns him the white jersey as the best young rider, and praise from Wanty's sports director Sebastien Demerbaix.

"We know Dion sprints very fast, but we didn't expect him to beat Greipel in a bunch sprint.

"We went for top 10, so fourth is great."

Stage two comprises a 41.3km team trial around Banyoles, in the north-eastern province of Ginola, while Demerbaix expects Thomas Degand and Guillaume Martin to feature in the third and fifth mountain stages.

But Smith's strong finish on Tuesday (NZT) could see Wanty adapt plans for the seven-stage tour.

"The fourth stage with a climb with 15km to go should suit him, as well as stages six and seven," Demerbaix said.

Smith is also looking forward to tackling the mainly flat 194.3km fourth stage from Llivia to Igualada.

"It should be a bunch sprint again - on a good day, with a small bunch, I believe in my own chances."

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