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Having joined an attack by Kwiatkowski on the penultimate distance, Gallopin rode away on the final climb and held off his chasers to win both the stage and take the overall lead in Paris-Nice

Photo: Lotto Soudal










14.03.2015 @ 17:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) made a big coup in today’s hugely dramatic penultimate stage of Paris-Nice as the Frenchman took a huge solo victory in Nice and also secured himself a comfortable overall lead. The Frenchman first joined a strong attack from race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) on the penultimate descent before he distanced his rivals on the final climb and held off two big chase groups to make it a big day for the local fans on the Promenade d’Anglais in Nice.


Last year Tony Gallopin confirmed his big potential when he first wore the leader’s jersey and later won a stage at the Tour de France. Today he repeated both those performances in another major stage race in his home race when he took it all on the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice.


The Race to the Sun had become the Race to the Rain as the riders tackled the many hills in the Nice hinterlands in wet and cold conditions. This made it a hugely dramatic race of attrition and here Gallopin used a combination of good descending skills, good climbing legs and pure strength to distance all the GC rivals and take a comfortable overall lead.


Gallopin made his first move on the descent from the penultimate climb of Col Saint-Roch at a time when a big 20-rider group was 1.20 ahead of the peloton that was reduced to around 20 riders. Etixx-QuickStep still had strength in numbers as race leader Michal Kwiatkowski still had Tony Martin, Michal Golas, Julian Alaphilippe and Maxime Bouet at his side and it was Alaphilippe who led the group over the top.


As it has often been the case, Martin accelerated hard on the wet descent, with Kwiatkowski glued to his wheel. Only Golas could keep up with them but an impressive Gallopin managed to bridge the gap to the strong Etixx trio. Throughout the descent, the quartet extended their lead while they continued to pass riders from the early break.


As they hit the bottom of the descent, they were just 35 seconds behind Michael Valgren (Tinkoff-Saxo) who had attacked out of the lead group. The young Dane was joined by Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) while the Kwiatkowski group bridged the gap to the rest of the early break due to a strong turn by Golas.


At this point Sky was on the defensive and it was a strong Ben Swift who rode hard on the front of the small main group 17 seconds further back. However, they continued to lose ground and with 34km to go, they were 34 seconds behind the Kwiatkowski group.


The chase group split and it was Kwiatkowski, Golas, Martin, Gallopin, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) who caught the leaders with 33km to go. Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) also made it back to the front just as they hit the final climb.


Martin was sent out the back door from the front group as Golas did a huge work. Meanwhile, Swift swung off and left it to Geraint Thomas to set the pace in the main group that was down to just the Welshman, Richie Porte (both Sky), Rui Costa, Rafael Valls (both Lampre-Merida), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Simon Spilak (Katusha), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL), Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep). The latter three were quickly dropped while the elimination had also started in the front group.


When Gallopin hit the front, only Kwiatkowski, Valgren, Chavanel and Edet could keep up with him. Moments later Kwiatkowski even had to leave a gap, allowing the Frenchman to distance his rivals.


Sky were now getting a bit of assistance in the main group and so they were getting closer to the Kwiatkowski group. They picked up Chavanel who had lost contact and with 29km to go, they rejoined the race leader.


The pace went down and so Valgren decided to attack. Thomas again started to work for Sky before Fuglsang made an unsuccessful move.


This was the signal for Porte to kick into action and only Spilak could initially stay with him. Costa, Thomas, Fuglsang and Valls bridged to them and they quickly caught Valgren while Kwiatkowski, Wellens and Izagirre were fighting hard further back.


Valgren was dropped from the Porte group just before Gallopin crested the summit. Fuglsang, Porte, Thomas, Costa, Valls and Spilak followed 24 seconds later while Izagirre, Kwiatkowski, Wellens and Valgren were at 40 seconds.


Wellens had bad luck when he suffered a puncture and he had to chase for a long time before he rejoined the Kwiatkowski group. They were also joined by Edet, Chavanel and Vichot and this gave the race leader a bit of assistance.


With 20km to go, the groups were 25 and 45 seconds behind Gallopin respectively and they didn’t get any closer.


Moments later, disaster struck for Porte as he went down on the technical descent. He was quickly back on his bike but now had to chase hard to get back. Things got even worse for Sky when Thomas also went down and suddenly the two Sky riders found themselves in the Kwiatkowski group.


Gallopin won the final intermediate sprint to pick up important bonus seconds while Costa beat Fuglang in the sprint for second.


From there, it was a big pursuit between the two groups and Gallopin but the Frenchman had the upper hand. For a long time, the chasers maintained the gap at around 20 seconds but in the finale they lost ground. Things were worse for the main group as they constantly saw the gap getting bigger and bigger.


With 5km to go, Gallopin was 23 and 45 seconds ahead of the two groups respectively and when he crossed the line he had extended both those gaps. Spilak beat Costa, Fuglsang and Valls in the sprint for second, 32 seconds behind the Lotto Soudal rider while Valgren was fastest in the main group which lost a minute to the stage winner.


With the win, Gallopin now takes the overall lead and he goes into the final stage with a 36-second advantage over Porte while Kwiatkowski – who lost a few seconds in the finale – is one second further back. However, he faces a tough test tomorrow as the race ends with the legendary 9.6km time trial up the Col d’Eze which has an average gradient of 4.7%. All is still to play for in the 2015 edition of the Race to the Sun


A big mountain stage

After yesterday’s final chance for the sprinters, it was back into the hills for stage 6 which brought the riders over 184.5km from Vence to Nice. The stage barely had any flat roads as it was up or down all day and the riders had to tackle no less than 7 categorized climbs that were all in the first of second cetgory. The final challenge was the category 1 Cote de Peille which summited just 26km from the finish.


The riders took the start under a cloudy sky, with rain threatening to fall later in the day. Six riders decided not to head into the hilly terrain as Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Michael Schär (BMC) who crashed yesterday, Dries Devenyns (IAM who has been suffering from a cold, Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) who has not fully recovered from recent illness, and Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo) left the race before the start.


A big group gets clear

As expected the race got off to a very fast and the attacking started right from the gun. Already after 4km of racing, 14 riders managed  to get clear, with Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Lars Boom (Astana), Rohan Dennis (BMC), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE), Heinrich Haussler (IAM), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Matti Breschel, Sergio Paulinho (both Tinkoff-Saxo), Sergey Chernetskii (Katusha), Bob Jungels, Gert Steegmans (both Trek) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) getting into the move. Jan Bakelants (Ag2r), Ion Izagirre (Movistar), André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Florian Senechal (Cofidis) and Jack Bauer (Cannondale-Garmin) took off in pursuit. After 10km, they were 25 seconds behind while the peloton was at 50 seconds.


The chasers had to fight hard to make the junction and at the 18km mark, they were still 25 seconds behind. Meanwhile, Boom led van Baarle and Dennis across the line in the first intermediate sprint.


More riders attack

The chasers got some welcome assistance on the lower slopes of the Col de Vence where Dayer Quintana (Movistar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Rein Taaramae (Astana), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Michael Valgren (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) joined them. They finally made the junction at the 25km mark at a time when the peloton was 1.10 behind.


Cimolai, Steegmans, Senechal and Breschel were dropped from the 29-rider lead group and later Haussler also lost contact. Meanwhile, the peloton continued to lose group and at the 28km mark, the gap was 1.50.


More KOM points for De Gendt

While Steegmans and Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) abandoned the race, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r) and Ben Hermans (BMC) took off in pursuit. The former distanced his two companions and passed Greipel who was the next to get dropped from the leading group.


Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff-Saxo) also attacked from the peloton and they were later joined by Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Breschel and Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne). When De Gendt led Boom, Jungels, van Baarle, Erviti, Dennis and Bauer over the top, Chavanel was 35 seconds behind while Hermans and Cherel were at 55 seconds, the next chasers at 1.10 and the peloton at 2.10.


Chavanel makes it across

Chavanel made the junction with the leaders while Hermans and Cherel were caught by the next chase group. At the 41km mark, they were sill 50 seconds behind while the peloton had lost 2.40.


After 48km of racing, the two front groups merged to form a 31-rider group. Now the peloton had upped the speed and at the 51km mark, the gap was only 2.15.


The sprinters abandon

After 75km of racing, Taaramae and Kruijswijk briefly got a gap but they were quickly back in the fold. Meanwhile, the gap again grew as they went up the Cote de Levens where De Gendt led Boom, van Baarle, Bauer and Slagter over the top.


While Haussler, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) left the race, the rain started to fall on the peloton. Meanwhile, Barguil who was in the lead group, was apparently in too much pain after his recent crash and so he also decided to leave the race.


De Gendt drops off

Boom led van Baarle, Bauer, Chavanel and Cherel over the top of the Cote de Chateauneuf before the front group splint on the descent under the impetus on Chavanel. Meanwhile, the peloton also started to chase faster and at the 109km mark, the gap was only 2.25. The fast pace say Tiago Machado (Katusha), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) be among many riders to lose contact with the peloton.


The front group came back together with De Gendt and Breschel being the only two riders who never got back. Moments later, they hit the Cote de Coaraze where the both the peloton and the front group split.


Kwiatkowski attacks

Bennett, Sicard, Hermans and Hivery were dropped from the leading group while the peloton was divided into two parts. Race leader Michal Kwiatkowski was in a first group that was 25 seconds ahead of the rest.


Kwiatkowski combined forces with teammates Tony Martin, Julian Alaphilippe and Michael Golas as well as Philippe Gilbert (BMC) to distance the rest and at the 115km mark, they were 35 seconds ahead of the Sky-led peloton.


Sky managed to bring it back together with 60km to go just when Slagter led Bauer, Clarke and Wellens over the top of the climb. They went straight into the Col Saint-Roch and here the front group split completely.


Martin leads the chase

Yates tried a brief attack but he was quickly brought back by Wellens, Gautier, Bakelants, Edet, Chavanel, Bauer, Izagirre, Valgren and Mate. Bauer briefly lost contact but he managed to rejoin them before the top.


In the peloton, Martin was working hard for Etixx-QuickStep and they were now just 1.20 behind. However, the pace had taken its toll as only around 20 riders were left, with Romain Bardet (Ag2r) being dropped as they approached the top. The escapees crested the summit with an advantage of 1.20 and moments later Martin and Kwiatkowski started the exciting finale by attacking on the descent.



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