France's Laporte takes first stage of cycling season

·1-min read
Egan Bernal crossed the finish line for the first time this season at the end of the opening stage of the Etoile de Besseges race in France

Frenchman Christophe Laporte won the first stage of the World Tour cycling season when he edged a bunch finish on the opening day of the Etoile de Besseges on Wednesday.

The five-day race in the south of France has attracted several big names this year, led by former Tour de France winners Colombian Egan Bernal and Welshman Geraint Thomas, both with Ineos.

Four-time Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali of Trek-Segafredo and a strong contingent from the rebranded French team AG2R Citroen are also racing.

"Nice to be back racing," Thomas said in a video posted by Ineos on Twitter.

Laporte, who rides for Cofidis, took the sprint at the end of a 143.6km stage round Bellegarde, just south of Nimes, ahead of compatriot Nacer Bouhanni of Arkea-Samsic and the Dane Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo.

"It was good to be back in the group but it was a nervous race," said Thomas. "There was a lot of braking hard and people shouting. A lot of fresh legs at the end, so it was a bit crazy."

The five-day race concludes on Sunday with an individual time trial.