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Relentless Bradley Wiggins takes charge in Tour of Catalonia opener

Team Sky rider finishes sixth after splitting pack

Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins provided his first real signs this year of race-winning form in the opening stage of the Tour of Catalonia.

On a seemingly uncomplicated stage, starting and finishing in the coastal resort of Calella, Wiggins single-handedly ripped the peloton into two uneven chunks with a surprisingly powerful drive at the front of the bunch, some 6km from the finish.

Thanks to the Briton’s relentless – and skilfully timed – acceleration on a downhill section, the Sky rider effectively forged a break of 13 riders including two team-mates, Dario Cataldo and David Lopez. When the baker’s dozen flashed across the finish line with a 28-second advantage on the pack, victory went to Belgian sprinter Gianni Meersman, with Wiggins in sixth. But concerning the overall classification of Catalonia, the Briton’s statement of intent could hardly have been clearer.

For Wiggins, the seven-day Catalan stage race is his first this year in the WorldTour league – cycling’s top division of races – and, according to Sky’s sports director Dan Hunt, the Briton aims to hit the ground running. In February, Wiggins raced in Mallorca, but was flying under the radar. And in the Tour of Oman, his role was purely as support for team-mate Chris Froome, who took the victory.

“We’re going to be trying to win here,” Hunt said, “and we’ve got the rider [Wiggins] to do it with.”