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For the second time in three days, Boeckmans emerged as the fastest in a bunch sprint at the Tour de Picardie, beating Guardini and Coquard in the final stage; the Belgian also wins the race overall

Photo: Lotto Soudal












17.05.2015 @ 18:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) completed an excellent weekend in France when he won today’s third and final stage of the Tour de Picardie. The Belgian held off yesterday’s winner Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) in the bunch sprint and this was enough to also take a comfortable overall victory in the race.


Going into the Tour de Picardie, Lotto Soudal planned to do the three expected bunch sprints for Belgian champion Jens Debusschere. However, the race ended up being completely dominated by teammate Kris Boeckmans.


In the first stage, Boeckmans and Jasper de Buyst had been doing the lead-out for Debusschere when a big crash happened in the final turn. That allowed the two Belgians to take a 1-2 for Lotto Soudal and suddenly Boeckmans found himself in the yellow jersey.


Of course that prompted the Belgian team to change their plans and now Boeckmans was the protected rider as they went into the final two stages that were expected to finish in bunch sprints. He did well by taking second in yesterday’s second stage where only Andrea Guardini was faster and so he found himself in a great position as he went into today’s final stage that was also expected to be one for the sprinters.


Only Guardini was a real danger if it came down to a sprint but Lotto Soudal was on the defensive all day as they had to work hard to bring back a strong Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) who was caught with less than 4km to go. That left them with little firepower for the sprint and gave Guardini a perfect chance to strike.


In the finale, Astana, Europcar and FDJ dominated the lead-out as they tried to set up Guardini, Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Demare respectively. However, Boeckmans was able to position himself well and when it all came down to the final metres, he defended his lead in the best possible way as he held off Guardini and Coquard to take his second stage win in the 3-day race.


Boeckmans won the race with a 10-second advantage over Guardini while Evaldas Siskevicius (Marseille) completed a great race by taking third, 6 seconds further adrift, after he had been in the break every day. Siskevicius also won the points competition while Alexis Bodiot (Armee) won the combination classification. Astana was the best team.


With the Tour de Picardie done and dusted, the French racing scene takes a small break. The next major events are the two Coupe de France races GP Plumelec and Boucles de l’Aulne that take place on May 30 and 31 respectively.


One for the sprinters

After two days for the sprinters, the fast riders were again expected to shine on the third and final stage of the Tour de Picardie. The riders would travel over 189.9km from Athies to Mers-les-Bans on a mostly flat course that only included four smaller climbs in the second half. The final of those came with 15km to go and from there it was downhill or flat in the finale.


It was a warm and sunny day when the riders gathered for the start. As usual, they got the stage off to a very fast start with lots of attacks.


A big group goes clear

Early on a 10-rider group managed to get clear but Cofidis had missed the move and so they brought it back. The attacking continued as the peloton continued to set a blistering pace.


At the 25km mark, a 21-rider group got an advantage and they managed to build a gap of 30 seconds. David Boucher, Olivier Le Gac (FDJ), Dan Craven, Yannick Martinez, Yoann Gene (Europcar), Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r), Christoph Pfingsten, Daniel Schorn (Bora-Argon 18), Roy Jans (Wanty), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Floris De Tier (Topsport), Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93), Ignatas Konovalovas, Evaldas Siskveicius (La Pomme Marseille), Sebastien Delfosse, Tom Dernies (Wallonie), Rudy Barbier, Rudy Kowalski (Roubaix), Alexis Guerin and Damien Garcia (AWT) worked hard to maintain that gap while they also took time to contest the first intermediate sprint where Barbier beat Jauregui and Jans.


The break takes off

The group was brought back and so the attacking continued. At the end of the first hour, the peloton had covered 49.4km and the decisive move had still not been formed.


Finally, the race calmed down when Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) attacked. He was joined by Siskevicius, Delfosse and Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix) and those four riders quickly got an adavnatge of 40 seconds.


Lotto Soudal in control

The peloton slowed down and so the gap had gone out to 3.35 as they entered the final 120km. It reached 5.10 before Lotto Soudal started to control the situation.


The gap steadily came down and as they entered the final 100km, it was only 3.55. Meanwhile, Matthieu Boulo (Bretagne), Yannick Eijssen (Wanty) and Benoit Sinner (Armee) left the race.


KOM points for Bagdonas

Bagdonas beat Turgis and Delfosse in the first KOM sprint while Lotto Soudal kept the gap stable at 3.40. Bagdonas was again the fastest in the second KOM sprint, beating Delfosse and Rugis.


Lotto Soudal now accelerated and as they entered the final 50km, the gap was only 3.15. When Bagdonas beat Delfosse and Siskevicius in the third KOM sprint, it was 2.05.


The chase gets organized

Cofidis started to work with Lotto Soudal and when Siskevicius beat Bagdonas and Delfosse in the second intermediate sprint, they had brought the gap down to just 1.10. This prompted Turgis to attack and only Bagdonas could keep up with him.


Lotto Soudal were back in control and they allowed the gap to grow to 1.20 as they entered the final 25km. Here they accelerated and brought back the chasers.


Bagdonas takes off

Bagdonas dropped Turgis and won the final KOM sprint with 15km to go, followed by Turgis and Tiesj Benoot who was chasing hard for Lotto Soudal. Moments later, a 10-rider group attacked but they were brought back.


Marseille now came to the fore but the strong Bagdonas still had 10 seconds with 4km to go. In the end, it was not enough and as he was brought back, Astana and FDJ lined up there trains. Europcar also came to the fore but it was Boeckmans who took the win.



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