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The FDJ sprinter makes up for yesterday's disappointment by launching a powerful sprint to beat John Degenkolb and Yauheni Hutarovich on the second stage of the Etoile de Besseges; Helven defends overall lead

Photo: ASO/P.Perreve

ETOILE DE BESSÈGES

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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NACER BOUHANNI

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06.02.2014 @ 16:38 Posted by Lasse Wedege Penning

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) has got the ball rolling in 2014 after winning the second stage of the Etoile de Besseges in a bunch sprint. After yesterday's failure, the teams of the sprinters made no mistakes and made sure to catch the break in time for Bouhanni to beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) in the final sprint while Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen) comfortably defended his overall lead.

 

Yesterday Nacer Bouhanni was left disappointed when his FDJ team failed to catch the early breakaway on the first stage of the Etoile de Besseges. Showing his frustration, the Frenchman decided not to contest the sprint for 7th and rolled across the line as the final rider in the main peloton.

 

Today he was eager to make amends and he did so in the best possible way when he won the bunch sprint that ended the second stage of the race. He proved his class by beating top level sprinters John Degenkolb and Yauheni Hutarovich in the final dash to the line.

 

After yesterday's failure, the teams of the sprinters left nothing to chance and the early breakaway never had an advantage of more than 4 minutes. The Topsport Vlaanderen of defending champion Sander Helven did the majority of the chase work while the fast men sent their troops to the front at the end to close the final small bit of the gap.

 

Helven finished safely in the bunch to keep his 5-second lead over Laurens De Vreese (Wanty) and now faces his second day as race leader. He has a significantly more difficult challenge ahead of him tomorrow as the 152.6km 3rd stage around Besseges includes three passages of the category 1 Cote de Trelys. When the summit is crested for the final time, 57.1km remain and so the most likely outcome is some kind of sprint finish.

 

A flat stage

The 149.3km 2nd stage from Nimes to Saint Ambroix was mostly flat and only included two small category 2 climbs along the way. The stage finished with 5 laps of a 7.3km circuit in Saint Ambroix that included a small hill that could potentially be used as a launch pad for an attack.

 

Apparently, many riders had been inspired by yesterday's successful breakaway as the opening hour of the stage was raced at an extremely rapid pace as several riders were keen to be part of the day's escape. The first rider to get a significant gap was Jeremy Bescond (Cofidis) but his move was quickly neutralized.

 

Cofidis aggressive from the start

Cofidis were eager to be part of the action and they launched another solo rider up the road, only to see the move again be caught. After 15km, no escape had formed, with Brice Feillu (Bretagne) and Julian Kern (Ag2r) the next riders to give it a go.

 

The duo had little success but moments later a dangerous situation occurred when a strong 10-rider group containing some very strong names got clear. Arthur Vichot, Cédric Pineau (FDJ.fr), Jérôme Coppel (Cofidis), Boris Vallée (Lotto-Belisol), Bryan Coquard, Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Chad Haga (Giant-Shimano), Olivier Chevalier (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Romain Feillu, Clément Koretzky (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Jan Ghyselinck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Julien Duval (Roubaix-Lille Métropole) and Evaldas Siskevicius (La Pomme Marseille 13) made up the move that forced the peloton to make a strong reaction.

 

The break is formed

The bunch managed to neutralize the attack and after 30km of racing, the break still hadn't been formed. However, the peloton was now ready for a break and when Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale), Clément Koretzky (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Dimitri Le Boulch (BigMat-Auber 93) and Thomas Rostollan (La Pomme Marseille 13) attacked, the elastic snapped.

 

In just 7km, the quintet built up a gap of 3.30, prompting Topsport Vlaanderen to kick into action. Having learnt from yesterday's mistake, the team of the race leader kept the gap stable at around 3.30 for most of the stage.

 

Battle for KOM points

While the first hour was raced at an average speed of 45.2km/h, the race now settled into a steady rhythm, with the second hour being tackled at a speed of 38.2km/h.  The only excitement happened at the day's two climbs where Fouchard and Koretzky both beat each other to take maximum points, with Rostollan being third on both occasions.

 

With 50km to go, the peloton decided that it was time to up the pace and Topsport Vlaanderen started to bring back the break. With 39km to go, the advantage was down to 2.10 and a little later the riders crossed the line to start the laps on the finishing circuit.

 

The sprint teams start to chase

Fouchard beat Koretzky and Domont in the only intermediate sprint as the gap had now come down to less than 2 minutes. The teams of the sprinters had taken control in the peloton, with FDJ, Europcar, Giant-Shimano and Roubaix all doing their share of the work.

 

On the third lap, Koretzky attacked his companions and he was quickly chased down by Fouchard and Le Boulch. For a moment, it seemed that the break had split for good but Rostollan and Domont managed to get back.

 

Rostollan last man standing

On the penultimate lap, Rostollan tried a move and he quickly put 13 seconds into his former companions. Europcar was now driving the peloton at full speed to set up Bryan Coquard for the sprint and they quickly caught the 4-rider chase group.

 

With 9km to go, Rostollan was also brought back, setting up the expected counterattack from Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani). The Italian had no success and it was Europcar's Romain Sicard and Cyril Gautier who led the peloton onto the final lap.

 

Jules tries his hand

Justin Jules (La Pomme Marseille) tried to surprise the sprinters but they were in no mood to see an attacker take the spoils. The Frenchman was reeled in and so it all ended in a big bunch sprint.

 

Here Bouhanni proved that he is a sprint star in the making by denying Degenkolb and Hutarovich the win while Helven crossed the line safely to comfortable defend his lead.

 

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