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Having made it into a 22-rider lead group, Chavanel beat Gallopin and Vichot in the sprint to win stage 3 of the Etoile de Besseges; he also took the overall lead with a 2-second advantage over Gallopin

Photo: Sirotti

ARTHUR VICHOT

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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ETOILE DE BESSÈGES

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SYLVAIN CHAVANEL

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TONY GALLOPIN

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05.02.2016 @ 17:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sylvain Chavanel could not have wished for a better start to his time at Direct Energie as he came out on top in the queen stage of the Etoile de Besseges. Having joined a 22-rider group of strong climbers on the tough stage, he emerged as the fastest in the sprint where he beat Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) to take both the stage victory and the overall lead.

 

Sylvain Chavanel’s final year at IAM was a huge disappointment and he found himself with no team when the Swiss management decided not to renew his contract. However, he was always convinced that he was competitive at the highest level and for 2016 he has returned to his roots at the Direct Energie team.

 

Chavanel got his career at his new team off to a solid start as he helped to deliver Bryan Coquard to victories in the first two stages of the Etoile de Besseges. Today he was the rider in the spotlight as he continued their winning streak in the queen stage to break a personal drought of more than a year.

 

The hilly stage started with three laps of a tough circuit that included the Col de Treylis and already during the first passage of the climb, the GC riders played with the muscles. A 29-rider front group emerged in the front and it quickly became apparent that the peloton would never get back.

 

Chavanel was in the group with Direct Energie teammates Angelo Tulik and race leader Bryan Coquard but the sprinter paid the price for the hard efforts when Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) went full gas the final time up the climb. That left just Chavanel and Tulik to defend their colours as they headed onto the flat 6.8km finishing circuit that would be tackled thrice.

 

With 35km to go, the group consisted of Maxime Monfort and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Thibaut Pinot, Sébastien Reichenbach and Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Pierre Latour, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Hubert Dupont (AG2R), Jérôme Coppel and Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling), Angelo Tulik and Sylvain Chavanel  (Direct Energie), Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural), Jérôme Cousin and Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Maxime Cam and Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix-Lille Métropole), Flavien Dassonville (HP BTP-Auber 93), Sébastien Delfosse and Antoine Warnier (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Boris Dron (Wanty Groupe-Gobert). Delko Marseille and Caja Rural set the pace in the peloton but with 4.00 to make up in 30km, they were out of the battle for victory. That battle kicked off when Dron attacked from the break and he managed to get a decent gap.

 

Van der Sande and Jeannesson were dropped from the chase group as they started the first of the three laps of the finishing circuit with 20km to go. Here Dron had an advantage of 25 seconds while the peloton was at 4.00.

 

Dron was impressive and managed to extend his lead to 40 seconds.. That was the signal for FDJ to start to chase and they had brought the gap down to 25 seconds at the end of the first lap where Jeannesson and van der Sande were trailing by 50 seconds.

 

Dron started to fade and with 10km to go, he was brought back. FDJ continued to set the pace, keeping the peloton at 3.30 at the start of the final lap.

 

No one dared to attack FDJ until Devenyns made a move under the flamme rouge. However, he was brought back in time for the sprint and here Chavanel turned out to be the fastest, beating Gallopin and Vichot into the minor podium positions. Timothy Dupont (Verandas Willems) won the sprint of the peloton 2.45 later.

 

The victory was enough to move Chavanel into the race lead with a 2-second advantage over Gallopin while Vichot is third, 9 seconds behind. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s final road stage which is one for the puncheurs. After a lumpy first part, the riders will end the stage by doing four laps of a 15.4km circuit that includes the Mur de Laudun. The finish line is located on the lower slopes, meaning that the scene is set for an uphill sprint.

 

The queen stage

After two relatively flat stages, it was time for the queen stage in the Etoile de Besseges when the riders tackled 152.6km around the city of Besseges. The first part of the stage consisted of three laps of a big 44.4km circuit that included the category 1 Col de Treylis and an uncategorized climb and the stage finished with 3 laps of a flat 6.8km circuit.

 

The conditions were perfect when the riders gathered for the start as there was plenty of sunshine and barely any wind. Several riders who crashed yesterday, didn’t take the start, including the Cofidis pair of Jonas Ahlstrand and Kenneth Vanbilsen.

 

The climbers play with the muscles

 The climbing started right from the start as the peloton hit the Col de Treylis where Blel Kadri (Ag2r), Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural), Florian Senechal (Cofidis), Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) and Christophe Premont (Verandas Willems) attacked. Nine riders took off in pursuit but it all came back together. Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r) briefly escaped but he was quickly brought back and instead 22 riders escaped before they got to the top where Jerome Coppel (IAM) beat Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ), Kevin Reza (FDJ), Pierre Latour (Ag2r) and Chavenel in the KOM sprint. The peloton followed just 38 seconds later.

 

Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Thibaut Pinot, Reichenbach, Arthur Vichot, Reza (FDJ), Hubert Dupont, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Pierre Latour (Ag2r), Coppel, Dries Devenyns, Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM), Chavanel, Coquard (Direct Energie), Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural), Jerome Cousin, Arnold Jeannesson, Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Maxime Cam, Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Condept), Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix), Flavien Dassonville (HP BTP), Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) and Damien Shaw (An Post) had made the selection. Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) had missed the move but bridged across on the descent.

 

More riders bridge across

Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie), Benjamin Giraud (Delko Marseille), Boris Dron (Wanty), Antoine Warnier (Wallonie) and Thomas Rostollan (Armee) took off in pursuit and they wre just 18 seconds behind at the 25km mark. At this point, the peloton had lost 58 seconds.

 

The two front groups merged to make it a 29-rider group which had pushed the gap out to 1.50 with 123km to go. Wanty-Groupe Gobert started to chase but despite the lack of cooperation in the break, they had a hard time bringing the gap down as it was still 1.55 with 116km to go.

 

The break splits up

Cousin and Peraud decided to take off and quickly put 18 seconds into their chasers and they even had 50 second at the start of the second lap of the big circuit. Here Peraud beat Cousin in the intermediate sprint while Gallopin picked up the final second on offer. The peloton had been distanced by 2.10.

 

Vichot fought his way back to the chase group after a puncture and so missed the move when Chavanel and van der Sande attacked on the climb. The pair was 40 seconds behind the leaders while the 25-rider group was at a minute and the peloton at 2.40.

 

Giraud is dropped

Reichenbach decided to sacrifice himself for his teammates and worked hard in the chase group. He was still able to respond when the attacking started again and he joined forces with Devenyns, Latour and Cam in a counterattack.

 

Chavanel, van der Sande, Reichenbach, Devenyns, Latour and Cam joined the two leaders and the front octet now had 21 seconds over their chasers when Cousin beat Peraud, Reichenbach, Devenyns and Chavenel in the KOM sprint. Giraud was 1.40 behind as he had been dropped from the break while the peloton was at 2.53.

 

Delfosse bridges across

The gap between the two breakaways went out to 40 seconds while Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Jimmy Duquennoy (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Dries De Bondt (Verandas Willems) abandoned. At the same time, Colin Stüssi (Roth) crashed in the peloton.

 

Delfosse managed to bridge across to the leaders as the chasers had brought the gap down to 20 seconds but the peloton was still losing ground, trailing by 3.20. Nonetheless, they had managed to catch Giraud.

 

A regrouping

With 86km to go, the chasers caught the leaders and we again had a 28-rider lead group, 3.15 ahead of the peloton. The pace went down and for the first time, Wanty-Groupe Gobert started to take back some time, bringing the gap down to 2.15 with 78km to go.

 

Auber 93 started to work with Wanty and that had an impact on the gap which was just 1.52 at the start of the final lap of the circuit. As they hit the climb, Delko Marseille took over in the peloton while Peraud set the pace in the break.

 

Coquard is dropped

Peraud turned out to be the strongest as he had extended the gap to 2.15 with 60km to go. At this point, the group broke to pieces and race leader Coquard was the first to get distanced. Next Shaw, Reza, Fumeaux and Rostollan also lost contact.

 

Pinot, Dupont, Coppel and Jeannesson and Jeannesson attacked and crested the summit in that order while Coquard followed 1.50 later. The peloton had lost ground and was now 3 minutes behind.

 

The quartet is caught

The front quartet quickly put 30 seconds into their chasers while Coquard was caught by the peloton which was now 3.30 behind. With 41km to go, the gap had been brought down to 22 seconds.

 

Fumeaux, Shaw and Rostollan were caught by the peloton which was still losing ground. With 35km to go, the front quartet was caught and the peloton had been distanced by 4.20.That set the scene for the finale from which Chavanel emerged victorious.

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