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After a perfect lead-out from Soupe and Laporte, Bouhanni easily won the uphill sprint at the Tour de Vendee ahead of Dumoulin and Coquard; Dumoulin took the overall Coupe de France win

Photo: A.S.O.








02.10.2016 @ 18:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) showed that he is ready to lead France at the World Championships when he powered to a dominant victory in the uphill sprint at the Tour de Vendee. After a perfect lead-out from Geoffrey Soupe and Christophe Laporte, he easily held Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) off to win the race for the second time. Second place was enough for Dumoulin to take overall victory in the Coupe de France.


Earlier this week, it was announced that Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Demare have both been selected for the World Championships but a decision about leadership in the French team has not been taken yet. Hence, the pair will be involved in a close battle during the next week to prove that they deserve the captaincy role in the expected sprint finish in Qatar.


While Demare headed to the Tour de l’Eurometropole, Bouhanni chose to go for a second win in the Tour de Vendee which usually finishes with an uphill sprint. The Cofidis rider couldn’t have asked for a better outcome as Demare finished far off the pace in Belgium while Bouhanni turned out to be in a class of his own in the French event.


The race was highly anticipated due to the close battle for the overall Coupe de France win between Samuel Dumoulin and Baptiste Planckaert. The former did everything right to grab Bouhanni’s wheel in the finale and even though he was not even close to coming around the Cofidis star, second place was enough to secure the overall victory.


The 45th Tour de Vendee was held on a 203.8km between Fontenay-Le-Comte and La Roche Sur-Yon. After an opening circuit on the southern outskirts of the starting city, the riders traveled north through relatively flat terrain. It gradually got a bit hillier as the peloton tackled the Cote de la Mouhee, Cote du Duiteau, Cote des Pouzeres and Cote du Moulin des Bois inside the final 65km. The final challenge came with 38.5km to go and from there flat roads led the peloton to the finish. In the end, they did three laps of the 3.9km finishing circuit which had an uphill finishing straight.


The riders had excellent conditions when they gathered for the start and after a mechanical for Direct Energie rider in the neutral zone, the attacking started immediately. First two riders got clear and when two riders bridged across, a quartet with Clement Koretzky (Vorarlberg), Thierry Hupond (Delkoo), Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) and Antoine Warnier (Wallonie) had gathered. Another rider made the junction but they were soon brought back.


Fabien Doubey (FDJ), Dylan Kowalski (Roubaix) and Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) were the next to get a small advantage and while Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko) tok off in pursuit, they managed to get an advantage of 45 seconds. The Lithuanian soon made the junction and the gap grew rapidly. After 16km of racing, they were already 2 minutes ahead and when Doubey beat Kowalski and Siskevicius in the first sprint, the peloton followed three minutes later.


Cofidis hit the front to keep things under control while Doubey again beat Siskevicius and Gesbert in the  second sprint. After a first hour at 41.5km/h, they kept the gap at around 3 minutes.


Doubey beat Siskevicius and Kowalski in the third sprint too while Cofidis let the gap hover between 2.30 and 3.00. He was also the fastest in the fourth sprint after two hours at 39.7km/h, this time holding off Siskevicius and Gesbert.


With 110km to go, Wallonie came to the fore to share the work with Cofidis and while Kowalski attended the race doctor, they kept the gap at 2.45. Kowalski had to surrender to his injuries and abandoned the race before Doubey beat Siskevicius and Gesbert in the fifth sprint.


Gesbert crashed on a small descent but was quickly back in the break when they hit the final 100km with an advantage of just 2.05. Here Doubey won the next sprint ahead of Gesbert and Siskevicius.


Cofidis and Wallonie were working well together to keep the gap stable at around 2 minutes. Doubey also beat Gesbert and Siskevicius in the seventh sprint and then Direct Energie came to the fore to share the pace-setting with the two other teams.


The increased firepower made a difference and as the fight for position for the climbs intensified, the gap started to come down. Cofidis and Direct Energie lined out their troops on the front and reduced the gap to 55 seconds with 60km to go.


As they hit the first of the late climbs, Siskevicius was dropped from the break and on the next climb, Doubey also had to surrender. That left just Gesbert to press on woth an advantage of less than a minute.


With 55km to go, Direct Energie took full control but despite their hard work from, Gesbert managed to push the gap out to 1.10 and it stayed around a minute for a while. Further back, the attacking started again with 50km to go when Quentin Pacher (Delko), Oliver Le Gac (FDJ) and Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) gave it a go. Gesbert won the final sprint ahead of Voeckler and Le Gac. As Voeckler was just following wheels, the trio was soon caught and when they were brought back, Direct Energie again took control.


The attacks had increased the pace and so Gesbert was brought back with 46km to go. Direct Energie kept riding hard, with Voeckler taking massive turns for the Belgian team.


As they hit a climb with 40km to go, the attacking started again and it was the FDJ pair of Cedric Pineau and Johan Le Bon who gave it a shot. Marco Minnaard (Wanty) was also active but at the top, only the two FDJ riders had survived.


With 35km to go, the pair had increased their advantage to 20 seconds but they had a hard time in the battle against the peloton. The chase was organized as Caja Rural, Cofidis and Direct Energie were all working hard, with Romain Guillemois taking big turns for the latter team. Nonetheless, the gap stayed at 20 seconds for a while and the front duo still had a 15-second advantage with 20km to go.


Le Bon and Pineau did well to maintain a 10-second advantage at the first passage of the line with 12km to go and they had even pushed it out to 15 seconds at the end of the first lap. However, Direct Energie lined out two riders on the front and with 6km to go, they had reduced the gap to just five seconds.


Pineau took one final turn and then swung off, leaving it to Le Bon to press on. However, the FDJ rider was brought back as they hit the final 5km.


Direct Energie kept riding on the front and Adrien Petit did a great work to neutralize an attack from Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) who gave it a shot as they headed up the finishing straight for the penultimate time. Moments later an Le Gac attacked again and as he was joined by the Armee pair og Thibault Ferasse and Stephane Poulhies and Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie), a quartet had gone clear.


Ferasse emptied himself for his teammate and then swung off, leaving Poulhies to lead the trio under the flamme rouge. However, he didn’t get any help and so they were brought back just moments later.


Cofidis led the chase as they did the lead-out for Bouhanni and it was Geoffrey Soupe who closed the gap to the trio and then Christophe Laporte took over. He delivered Bouhanni in the perfect position and Dumoulin could do nothing more than staying on his wheel. Bryan Coquard managed to come around Romain Feillu (Auber 93) to take a distant third place.


Dumoulin’s second place was enough to secure the overall win in the Coupe de France with an 18-point advantage over Baptiste Planckaert while Feillu and Coquard were separated by just one point in the battle for third. Auber 93 won the teams classification ahead of Armee and Cofidis.


With the Tour de Vendee done and dusted, attention in France turns to Thursday’s Paris-Bourges and the final big classic, Sunday’s Paris-Tours.



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