Cofidis speedster Nacer Bouhanni won a sprint finish to claim the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya.

The Cofidis rider surged ahead of the front of the peloton to win the 175.8-kilometer stage to and from Calella in front of Ben Swift (Sky) and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE).

Bouhanni almost gave the race a miss after crushing disappointment at the weekend's Milan-San Remo.

"It was a nightmare, had the perfect race until the final sprint," Bouhanni said. "I have had almost no sleep for the past two nights, but I decided to come and not disappoint for the team.

"The Tour (Volta a Catalunya) is a great race and has given me the opportunity to get big wins like this.

Bouhanni also wears the leaders's jersey but has not expectations of holding on to it once the roads tilt upwards.

 "It's a difficult race with many climbs," he said. "Teams like Movistar will always make the race hard, but I still hope to have three or four options to contest sprints."

Australia's Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) made the break of the day along with Boris Dron (Wanty Groupe Gobert) and Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural) and went on to capture his own reward.

Despite building a seven minute lead the trio were caught on the category 1 Coll Formic with 50km remaining, but Meyer was able to pull on the mountains classification by the end of race day after building an unassailable points tally on the first three categorised climbs.

The  race in northeastern Spain has attracted a number of cycling's big hitters, including Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Australia's Richie Porte (BMC).

Tuesday 22 Mar 2016