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After Direct Energie had worked all day, Chicchi denied the French team the victory in the bunch sprint on stage 1 of Boucles de la Mayenne as he held off Boudat and Duval; Coquard retained the leader’s jersey

Photo: Sirotti










03.06.2016 @ 18:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Francesco Chicchi (Androni) proved that he still has the speed to win bunch sprints at the top level when he powered to victory in stage 1 of the Boucles de la Mayenne. After the French team had worked all day, the Italian denied the French team the win as he held off Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Julien Duval (Armee) in the bunch sprint. Race leader Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) could only manage fifth but it was enough to retain the lead.


At the end of the 2014 season, it looked like Francesco Chicchi had to retire prematurely when he wasn’t offered a new contract by the Neri Sottoli team. He was only thrown a lifeline by the Androni team on February 10 but the Italian team has had no reason to regret their decision to give the veteran sprinter a second chance.


Already on March 28, Chicchi won his first race for his new team at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali and later in the year he was the fastest in a stage of the Vuelta a Venezuela where he also scored two second places. This year he has had a harder time but a fourth place at Coppi e Bartali and a second place in Langkawi proves that he still has the speed to be competitive.


Today Chicchi proved that he is still able to win races at the highest level when he beat a strong field of sprinters led by race leader Bryan Coquard in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Boucles de la Mayenne. After Direct Energie had done all the work to set Coquard up for victory, the wily Italian caught them by surprise and took the victory ahead of Direct Energie lead-out man Thomas Boudat and Julien Duval.


After yesterday’s prologue, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in stage 1 which brought the riders over 190km from Renault to Craon and included four smaller climbs along the way. In the end, they did four laps of a flat finishing circuit where a bunch sprint was expected.


It was a pleasant, partly cloudy day when the riders arrived from the start. All riders were still in the race as they rolled through the neutral zone.


Unsurprisingly, it was a very fast start with lots of attacks and it was a six-rider group that was the first to get a significant advantage. However, they were soon brought back and the next group of three riders had no luck either.


No one has escaped as they reached the first climb after 24km of racing and this allowed Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) to win the KOM sprint ahead of Daan Hoeyberghs (Beobank), Joris Nieuwenhuis (Rabobank) and Raphael Freienstein (Kuota-Lotto). The attacking continued for almost 40km before the right move was formed just before they got to the first Hot Spot sprint. Here Benoit Sinner (Armee), Roman Kustadinchev (Gazprom) and Kasper Asgreen (Trefor) managed to get clear and it was Asgreen who won the sprint ahead of Kustadinchev and Sinner. Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) picked up the final point after he had attacked with Mikel Iturria (Euskadi)


After the sprint, Chavanel and Iturria managed to bridge the gap which had gone out to 45 seconds after the first hour during which no less than 48.3km had been covered. The gap continued to grow and when Sinner beat Chavanel, Asgreen and Kustadinchev in the first intermediate sprint at the 54km mark, it was 1.40. However, the peloton was reluctant to let them get much of an advantage and so the gap stabilized around 1.30.


Asgreen beat Kustadinchev and Iturria in the second KOM sprint where the peloton crossed the line 1.25 later and it was Sinner who beat Asgreen, Kustadinchev and Iturria in the second Hot Spot sprint at the 78km mark. It was Direct Energie that controlled things and after the gap had briefly dropped to a minute, they allowed it to reach a maximum of 2 minutes with 90km to go.


Direct Energie upped the pace again and when they had reduced the gap to 1.25, Yoann Offredo (FDJ) unsuccessfully tried to bridge across. When the Frenchman was brought back, Direct Energie again stepped off the gas and so the gap had gone out to 1.55 just before Chavanel beat Kustadinchev, Asgreen and Iturria in the final Hot Spot Sprint.


The stage suddenly got animated when Julien Duval, Yanno Guyot (Armee), Adrien Petit (Direct Energie), Benjamin Giraud (Delko) and Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ) tried to bridge across but they were soon brought back. However, the chase had an impact on the gap which was down to 40 seconds with 62km to go.


Sinner beat Chavanel, Iturria and Asgreen in the next intermediate sprint where the gap had again gone out to 1.10. At the first passage of the line, it was down to 45 seconds and it hovered around that mark during the first lap before Kustadinchev won the final Hot Spot sprint ahead of Iturria, Asgreen and Chavanel.


After the sprint, Chavanel tried a solo move but he was soon brought back. However, the attack spelled the end for Kustadinchev who was quickly caught by the peloton.


The front quartet entered the final 30km with an advantage of 45 seconds before Sinner became the next riders to surrender. However, the gap was now coming down quickly as Fortuneo-Vital Concept had taken control in the peloton.


The front trio desperately tried to hang onto a 25-second advantage and they were still 16 seconds ahead when they started the final 13km lap of the circuit. However, it was mission impossible as Pierrick Fedrigo were taking some massive turns for Fortuneo-Vital Conceot and with 10km to go, it was all back together.


There were immediate counterattacks and it was Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural) who managed to put 10 seconds into the peloton. He rode strongly but he had little chance against Fortuneo-Vital Concept that brought him back with less than 4km to go.


Cofidis hit the front in the hard fight for position but Fortuneo-Vital Concept was back in control with 2km to go. However, Coquard looked to be in the perfect position as they passed the flamme rouge and took the final turn but the race leader had to settle for fifth. Instead, it was Chicchi who proved his speed by taking the win, holding off Coquard’s teammate Boudat and Duval.


There were no bonus seconds for Coquard but he still retained the lead. However, his teammate Boudat has now moved into second and is just 4 seconds behind his leader. Coquard now faces the biggest test in the race in tomorrow’s queen stage whose challenges are three climbs tha come in quick succession in the second half of the race before the riders again end the stage by doing four laps of a finishing circuit.



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