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After Breen was caught inside the final kilometre, Halvorsen beat Feillu and Planckaert in the bunch sprint at GP d’Isbergues; Planckaert is just one point behind Dumoulin in the Coupe de France with one race to go

Photo: Team Joker










18.09.2016 @ 17:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Kristoffer Halvorsen (Joker) confirmed that he is a future top sprinter in the making when he claimed an impressive win at the GP d’Isbergues which is the penultimate round of the Coupe de France series. After Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) had been caught less than one kilometre from the finish, the Norwegian beat Romain Feillu (Auber 93) and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) in the bunch sprint. Planckaert is now just one point behind Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) in the Coupe de France with one race to go in the prestigious series.


In March, the cycling world were wondering who Kristoffer Halvorsen was after the young Norwegian had sprinted to a surprise second place at the 1.HC race Nokere Koerse. Since then the 20-year-old Joker rider has continued to impress and confirmed that he can mix it up with the WorldTour riders.


Halvorsen went on to take sixth in the hard final stage of the Tour of Norway and he finished third at the National Championships behind Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff. Later he won a stage in the Tour de l’Avenir and then sprinted to third on the final stage of the Tour des Fjords which was a hard, selective race with a tough climb in the finale.


Today Halvorsen did even better when he claimed his first big international win in the GP d’Isbergues, the penultimate round of the Coupe de France. After his Joker team had worked hard to bring back a dangerous break in the finale, the Norwegian paid back his teammates by beating Romain Feillu and Baptiste Planckaert in the bunch sprint.


The 70th edition of the GP d’Isbergues was held on a 204.3km course that started and finished in Isbergues. Already after 6.9km of racing, the riders crossed the finish line for the first time and then they tackled one lap of a big circuit on the southwestern outskirts of the city. It included nine climbs, with the first coming at the 49.5km mark. However, most of the ascents came in the second half, with the final three challenges being located after 128.4km, 141.5km and 156.5km of racing respectively. Just 13.3km after the final climb, the riders crossed the line for the first time and then they ended the race by doing five laps of a flat 6.9km circuit in Isbergues.


Light rain was falling when the riders gathered for the start and it was Florent Pereira (Roubaix) who launched the first attack straight from the gun. Moritz Backofen (Stölting) also gave it a try but it was the sextet of Christophe Masson (Veranclassic), Fristjof Roinas (Sparebanken), Louis Verhelst (Roubaix), Reidar Borgersen (Joker), Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) and Martin Laas (Delko) that got the first bigger advantage. Auber 93 started to chase hard but they could not prevent the gap from going out to 20 seconds.


John Le Bon (FDJ) and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) managed to jump across and Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) and Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi) tried to do the same. However, the situation was too dangerous for FDJ that brought things back together at the 18km mark.


James Oram (ONE), Gery Druyts (Crelan) and Justin Jules (Veranclassic) surged clear and Francois Bidard (Ag2r), Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko) took off in pursuit but after 25km of racing, everybody was back in the fold. The fast pace was taking its toll as Grischa Janorschke (Roth) was dropped and Tom Devriendt (Wanty) abandoned. Meanwhile, Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) had to chase to rejoin the peloton after a mechanical, getting crucial assistance from Benot Jarrier.


There were lots of attacks but the riders had covered more than 30km before Jeremy Leveau (Roubaix), Rob Ruijgh (Crelan), Bjorn Tore Hoem (Joker) and Samuel Leroux (Veranclassic) managed to get a bigger advantage. As the peloton slowed down and the rain stopped, the gap went out rapidly. It had reached 4.10 before Wallonie, Direct Energie, Delko and Fortuneo started to chase.


While FDJ sprinter Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ) had to stop due to a mechanical, the four chasing teams kept the gap between 4.00 and 4.30, keeping an average speed of 42km/h at the end of the second hour. After 95km of racing, the gap was still four minutes and the situation was fully under control.


Janorschke became the second rider to abandon the race before Direct Energie upped the pace. The quickly reduced the gap to 2.55 but as it was too early to catch the break, the escapees were allowed to reopen their advantage to 3.30. Meanwhile, raindrops again started to fall.


With 80km to go, the gap was 3.35 and during the next 10km, Direct Energie shaved another 35 seconds off the lead. Here the peloton increased the pace significantly and with 64km to go, the escapees were only 1.45. Meanwhile, the fast pace took its toll as riders like Sven Reutter, Sebastien Chavanel and Thomas Deruette were all left behind and Christophe Laborie and Benoit Jarrier abandoned.


Suddenly, the peloton split in the crosswinds and it was a 60-rider first group that emerged. Most of the Direct Energie team had made the selection but one of the big favourites, Baptiste Planckaert was left behind. That forced the Wallonie team to chase hard and they brought the groups back together with 54km to go. At the same time, the front quartet was caught.


The attacking started again and impressively Leaveau and Hoem were there again when 8 riders got clear. They were joined by Florian Senechal (Cofidis), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r), Le Bon (FDJ), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Vegard Breen (Fortuneo) and Flavien Dassonville (Auber 93) and with most of the big teams there, Wallonie was again forced on the defensive.


The gap went out to 15 seconds before ONE came to the fore to lend the Belgians a hand but nonetheless the escapees pushed it out to 25 second with 44km to go. Rain started to fall harder and Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) paid for his hard work earlier in the race when they crossed the finish line for the first time 23 seconds behind the leaders.


Planckaert lost a valuable teammate when Tom Dernies suffered a puncture and riders were constantly left behind, with Fabien Doubey, Kristian House, James Oram, Anthony Maldonas, Arits Bagues and Alexis Bodiot among the riders to lose contact. At the same time, Leaveau was dropped from the break which was 20 seconds ahead with four laps to go.


A crash took Leonardo Duque (Delko) out of contention but that didn’t stop Wallonie and Armee that worked hard on the front. With 20km to go, they had reduced the gap to 15 seconds, with Yann Guyot and Romain Le Roux doing a huge job for the latter team.


When Guyot and Le Roux swung off, ONE came to the fore to help Wallonie and while they chased hard, the front group split up. Hoem and Senechal were the first to get dropped and when Chavanel and Dassonville also fell behind, only Jauregui, Le Bon and Breen were left.


The front trio started the final lap with an advantage of 16 seconds and now it was the Joker team that led the peloton. With four kilometres to go, they had reduced the gap to 10 seconds and it was only 6 seconds one kilometre later


Breen dropped his companions and still had a small lead when he passed under the flamme rouge. However, in an exciting finale, he was caught just metres from the line and it came down to the expected sprint. Here Halvorsen turned out to be the fastest as he held Romain Feillu and Planckaert off in the final dash to the line.


With his third place, Planckaert reduced the gap to Samuel Dumoulin in the overall Coupe de France standings to just one point and so the scene is set for a huge final battle in Tour de Vendee which is the final round of the series on October 2.



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