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Just as the scene was set for a reduced bunch sprint, Bakelants made a strong solo attack 6km from the finish and held off the peloton to win GranPiemonte; Trentin beat Colbrelli in the sprint for second

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele










02.10.2015 @ 16:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) proved that he is one of the best riders in the field when it comes to launching late attacks, when he took his first win in Ag2r colours in the GranPiemonte. Accelerating from a reduced bunch just 6km from the finish on a rainy day in Italy, he managed to deny the sprinters the win by holding off a reduced peloton from which Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) beat Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) in the sprint for second.


In 2013, Jan Bakelants became a household name in professional cycling when he took a surprise win in stage 2 of the Tour de France. Back then, he showed panache and guts by attacking from a reduced field at a time when everything was set for a group sprint and he narrowly held off Peter Sagan by a single second to take both the stage win and the most coveted leader’s jersey in cycling.


Since then, Bakelants has made a name as one of the best attackers in the peloton, often riding aggressively in the finales. However, he is still not a prolific winner and after joining Ag2r at the start of the year, he has been unable to take a single victory.


However, it has long been evident that Bakelants is on track for a great season finale. He rode strongly in the Eneco Tour and the Canadian WorldTour races and went into the GP Wallonie as the big favourite. He was clearly the strongest in that race but was marked out by his rivals and had to settle for second.


Now he aims to finish the season strongly in Il Lombardia and today he got his Italian campaign off to a fantastic start when he again put his finisseur skills to use by denying the sprinters the win in the GranPiemonte classic which was back on the calendar after a two-year absence. On a rainy day in Italy, he attacked out of a reduced peloton that was prepared to sprint for the win and no one managed to catch him.


The rainy conditions and a 13-rider group had made it a very hard race and it was a much reduced field that got to the final 25km. At this point, Fabio Felline (Trek), Timo Roosen (LottoNL), Sergei Tvetcov (Androni), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Alan Marangoni (Cannondale), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) and Tao Geoghegan-Hart (Sky) were the surviving riders from the break and they still had an advantage of 25 seconds, with Lampre-Merida setting a brutal pace. When the group was about to be caught, Felline attacked again and Roosen and Brambilla tried to join the move.


With 20km to go, Felline led Brambilla and Roosen by 9 seconds while Benedetti and Marangoni were at 33 seconds. The peloton had caught Tvetcov and Geoghegan-Hart and was now led by Katusha 33 seconds behind the lone leader.


Benedetti and Marangoni were the next riders to get caught while Roosen and Brambilla made it back to Felline. With 15km to go, the trio led the peloton by 30 seconds and it was still 24 seconds when they started their lap of the 13.3km finishing circuit.


The trio did really well to keep their gap which was still 18 seconds with 10km to go. However, the peloton accelerated hard in the finale and with 7km to go, it was all back together.


Bakelants made his strong move just before the 5km to go mark and he had an advantage of just 6 seconds with 3km to go. MTN-Qhubeka were leading the chase for Kristian Sbaragli but the gap was still 7 seconds one kilometre later.


Etixx-QuickStep took over at the flamme rouge, trying to set up Matteo Trentin for the win, but it was all too late. Bakelants held the peloton off and a frustrated Trentin had to settle for second after beating Sonny Colbrelli, Eduard Grosu (Nippo) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) in the sprint.


The series of Italian autumn classics reaches its climax on Sunday when the riders head out for the final monument of the season, Il Lombardia, before another races bring the Italian season to a close next week.


A lumpy course

The 2015 GranPiemonte was held on a 185km course that from the riders from San Francesco Al Campo to Cirié. After a flat first half, the riders tackled the climbs of Alice Superiore and Prascosano in the second half before they descended to the finish. In the end, they did one lap of a 13.3km finishing circuit that was almost completely flat but included a short 500m rise at the midpoint.


The riders faced very challenging conditions when they gathered for the start as it was raining cats and dogs. Three riders preferred not to do a long day in the rain as Richie Porte (Sky) and the Cannondale-Garmin pair of Davide Villella and Tom-Jelte Slagter were non-starters.


13 riders get clear

As usual in Italian one-day races, it was an aggressive start and it some time for an early break to get formed. Things got dangerous just after the 6km mark when a big 13-rider group with Romain Campistrous (Ag2r), Serguei Tvetcov (Androni), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Gianluca Brambilla, Michal Golas (Etixx-QuickStep), Larry Warbasse (IAM), Chun Kai Feng (Lampre-Merida), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo), Alan Marangoni (Cannondale), Timo Roosen (LottoNL), Tao Geoghegan-Hart (Sky),Fabio Felline and Marco Coledan (Trek) got a 20-scond advantage. At the 16km mark, they had pushed it out to 1.15 and at the 30km mark it was 2.16.


Samuele Conti (Southeast) became the first rider to abandon while the peloton slowly started to reel the big break in. After a first hour at 46.2km/h average speed, it was Tinkoff-Saxo that kept the gap stable at around 1.45 for a while.


Stable situation

The peloton was riding single-file and briefly brought the gap down to 1.30 before it reached a maximum of 2.16 at the 71km mark. It stayed there for a while before the peloton brought it down to 1.44 as they entered the final 100km.


The riders had averaged 45.7km/h when they got to the feed zone at the end of the second hour where the gap was still 1.42. Moments later, a small crash involved riders from Bora-Argon 18 and LottoNL-Jumbo.


Movistar do some damage

Giovanni Visconi (Movistar) was one of many riders to leave the race due to the horrendous conditions while the peloton upped the pace as they hit the first major climb. With 75km to go, the gap was down to 1.31 and this prompted the escapees to up the pace, sending Berlato and Coledan out the back door.


It was Movistar doing the damage in the peloton and while they slowly brought the gap down, Feng also lost contact with the front group, leaving just 10 riders in the lead. They were just 1.20 ahead when Movistar managed to split the field, with just 40 riders making the selection.


The front group splits up

The front group split up again as Benedetti, Marangoni, Roosen and Golas were dropped, leaving Campistrous, Tvetcov, Brambilla, Felline, Warbasse and Geoghegan Hart to press on. Meanwhile, Berlato, Coledan and Feng were caught.


At the top of the climb, the four chasers were 16 seconds behind the leaders who had extended their advantage over the peloton to 1.39. On the descent, the front group came back together to again make it 10 riders in the lead.


Golas crashes

The peloton rode fast down the descent and the 40-rider group was just 1.05 behind at the end of the third hour while a second group was just 30 seconds further back. With 50km to go, the gap stabilized around 1.15.


The two main groups merged while Movistar continued to ride fast on the front, keeping the gap at around 1.10. With 45km to go, they accelerated again and had brought the gap down to 40 seconds with 41km to go.


Lampre-Merida took over the pace-setting and brought the gap down to 30 seconds. Meanwhile, Golas crashed out of the front group and the tumble split the group, leaving just Benedetti, Brambilla, Marangoni, Roosen, Teoghegan Hart and Felline in front. Tvetcov was 11 seconds behind and managed to make it back but Golas, Warbasse and Campistrous would not see the front again. However, the seven riders were all caught and it was Bakelants who ended as the winner.



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