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"I'm very disappointed. The team is not rewarded at all. We were the number one team throughout the day. Alexis Gougeard was in the early break, then Mikael Cherel attacked on his own. We still had the numbers i...

Photo: Sirotti








03.02.2014 @ 16:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ag2r-La Mondiale was the dominant team in the first race of the European season, the GP La Marseillaise but could only manage 3rd with Samuel Dumoulin. The diminutive French sprinter was deeply disappointed with the outcome after  a showing that had seen Mikael Cherel getting caught with just 3km to go.


Ag2r-La Mondiale started their first race on home soil, yesterday's GP La Marseillaise, with a firm intention of putting on a show. On the hilly course around Marseille, the team had a number of cards to play, led by 2012 winner Samuel Dumoulin.


It was not to be though. When it all came down to a sprint finish after their rider Mikael Cherel had been caught with just 3km to go, Dumoulin was beaten by Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix) and could only manage 3rd.


Having dominated most of the race, the team was a driving force in animating the race and this left Dumoulin with a sense of disappointment.


"I'm very disappointed," he told Directvelo. "The team is not rewarded at all. We were the number one team throughout the day. Alexis Gougeard was in the early break, then Mikael Cherel attacked on his own. We still had the numbers in the finale.


"It was complicated in the finishing straight. When Mikael Cherel was caught, he did a big turn that created a 12-rider group with many of our riders. Then I told myself that there was a chance to win. I didn't see the big bunch. When we hit the finishing straight, we did not see that they had caught us. The two Belgians came back and started to sprint 500m from the line. It disturbed me. I didn't expect that, I caught me out. Forgetting my situation, it is a annoying for the team that did a good race."


Cherel almost did the unthinkable but the long headwind straight into Marseille proved to be too much.


"I spent a lot of time alone in the lead," he said. "I really thought that it was possible when I was 1.3 ahead of the bunch. I was aware, though, that it would not be easy to get to Marseille on my own. There are often groups that escape on Gineste [the final climb]. On the climb, I was hampered by the wind.


"I saw that they were coming back. When I was caught by the group with Samuel Dumoulin, I helped him. I sacrificed myself in the last kilometre. I can only be disappointed. I am here to win races, not to make headlines. But if we look at the positives, we can say that it bodes well for the rest of the season."


Sports director Stephane Goubert praised his team.


"Alexis [Gougeard] was in the first breakaway with four riders and it helped to relieve the burden on the team," he said. "Samuel [Dumoulin], Mikael [Cherel] and Romain [Bardet] could save their energy. We wanted an aggressive race and that's what we made with Romain and Mikael who found himself alone in the lead in the finale. Unfortunately, he was caught three kilometres from the finish.


"Samuel was present in the counterattack but the peloton got back 500m from the line. He had already started his sprint and lacked the speed in the last few hundred metres to do better than 3rd.


"Tonight I will remember the great spirit that animated the whole team today," he added. "Everyone has worked for the team and it was also a goal of this first European race of the season. It was important to put the team on track and for that reason alone , the balance of the day is very good. "


Ag2r-La Mondiale will next line up at the Etoile de Besseges which starts on Wednesday and runs for 5 days.



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