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After Cofidis had worked all day to set up a bunch sprint, Bennett took the biggest classics win of his career by winning Paris-Bourges; Bouhanni had to settle for second while Nizzolo took third

Photo: TNE/Stiehl

BORA-HANSGROHE

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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NACER BOUHANNI

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PARIS-BOURGES

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SAM BENNETT

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08.10.2015 @ 17:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) confirmed his huge potential as a top sprinter when he won the traditional warm-up race for Paris-Tours, today’s Paris-Bourges. After Cofidis had been working for Nacer Bouhanni all day, the Irishman beat the French star into second while Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) had to settle for third.

 

Sam Bennett has had a remarkable start to his professional career and notched up no less than three wins in his neo-pro season. This year he has confirmed his big potential, most notably by beating most of the sprint stars in the final stage of the Tour of Qatar.

 

Illness meant that the Tour de France was never a success for the talented Irishman but after he beat Alexander Kristoff in a sprint at the Arctic Race of Norway, it has been evident that he is on track to a good season finale. He really impressed at the World Championships where he proved an improved resistance in such a long, hard race by staying with the best until very late in the race.

 

Bennett is aiming to use that great form to end his season on a high and the dream scenario would be to cap the season off with a win in the big sprint classic Paris-Tours. Today he proved that he is ready for the challenge by winning the traditional warm-up race, Paris-Bourges.

 

Sunny conditions had made it a relatively calm and easy affair, with Jimmy Engoulvent, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank) spending the day in the break. Cofidis had controlled things firmly for Nacer Bouhanni, with a bit of assistance from Giacomo Nizzolo’s Trek team.

 

Inside the final 60km, Benat Txoperena (Murias Taldea) tried to bridge the gap of 2.55 between the front trio and the Cofidis-led peloton. That started some aggressive riding and a 15-rider group briefly got clear before the peloton brought it back under control.

 

Txoperena never made it across and instead it was U23 world champion Kevin Ledanois (Bretagne) who tried to bridge the gap of 1.40. He failed to make the junction though and so more riders tried to attack.

 

Alexandre Blain (Marseille) and Tom Thill (Differdange) took off but were passed by a very strong six-rider group with Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Michell Cornelisse (Rabobank), Garikoitz Bravo (Murias Taldea), Clement Saint-Martin (Marseille) and Romaind Guillermois (Europcar). With 34km to go, they were just 50 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton was at 1.25.

 

The peloton reacted strongly to the dangerous chase group and they accelerated hard. With 20km to go, they were just 25 seconds behind the front trio while the chase group had been whittled down to just four riders and was just 5 seconds ahead.

 

The chasers were brought back as the gap to the trio dropped to just 15 seconds. This set the scene for Voeckler’s predictable solo move and he entered the final 10km with and advantage of 20 seconds over the peloton which was led by Cofidis.

 

Voeckler did his best to stay away but had no chance against the speeding peloton. He was brought back inside the final 5km and it all came down to the expected bunch sprint where Bennett managed to upset the star sprinters, relegating Bouhanni and Nizzolo to the minor podium positions and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) to fourth.

 

Paris-Bourges has now set the scene for the big battle at Sunday’s Paris-Tours where the main names from today’s race will be back in action. The race will end the classics season before the Chrono des Nations time trial will end the French season one week later.

 

A flat course

The 65th edition of Paris-Bourges was held on a 190.3km courset hat brought the riders from Gien to Bourges. The mostly flat course just had three smaller climbs with 90.2km,, 56.9km and 40km to go respectively and from the top of the final ascent, it was a flat run-in to Bourges.

 

Paris-Bourges has often been hard and selective due to wind and rain but this year it was sunny and calm when the riders gathered for the start. They got the race off to a delayed beginning but that didn’t dampen the attacking spirit as the first kilometres were very fast.

 

Lots of attacks

No one had managed to escape at the first intermediate sprint after 14km of racing where Peter Lenderink (Rabobank) beat Quentin Pacher (Armee) and Thomas Damueseau (Roubaix). The former two had used a small climb before he sprint to get a small advantage but they were quickly brought back.

 

The riders sped along at an average speed of 46km/h while the attacking continued. An Ag2r rider was the only one to get a significant advantage but as the fast pace made the peloton split in two, he was brought back before he could be identified.

 

Three riders get clear

A small group managed to get a 15-second advantage at the 35km mark and from this move, Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) emerged. The rest of the group was brought back and this allowed the peloton to finally slow down, meaning that the gap had gone out to 1.30 with 150km to go.

 

Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar) took off in pursuit and he had a gap of 2.25 to bridge at a point when the peloton was 3.40 behind. Voeckler decided to wait for his teammate and the Europcar pair slowly made it back to Tusveld, making the junction after two hours of racing.

 

Cofidis in control

The gap reached 3.50 before Cofidis started to chase and they had brought the gap down to 2.40 at the 63km mark. The French team was riding surprisingly fast and had brought the gap down to 1.50 before they slowed down massively.

 

As a consequence, the gap had gone out to 3.45 at the 85km mark and this prompted Trek to ask Julien Bernard to chase with the Cofidis riders. Meanwhile, Tusveld beat Engoulvent and Voeckler in the first KOM sprint.

 

The added firepower worked as the gap was down to 2.50 as the peloton entered the final 80km. Cofidis were again doing all the work and kept the gap around the 3-minute mark for a while. Meanwhile, Tusveld beat Voeckler and Engoulvent in the second KOM sprint. Moments later, the attacking started in the peloton but it all came down to the expected bunch sprint that was won by Bennett.

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