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After several attacks, Geniez emerged as the fastest from a five-rider group that sprinted for the win in Tro Bro Leon; Jarrier and Senechal completed the podium

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson

ALEXANDRE GENIEZ

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BENOIT JARRIER

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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TRO BRO LÉON

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19.04.2015 @ 18:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) shone in unusual terrain when he took a surprise win in Tro Bro Leon whose many gravel roads have made it known as the mini Paris-Roubaix. The Frenchman made it into a 5-rider group that sprinted for the win and he managed to relegate Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne) and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) into the minor positions to take his first win since his stage victory in the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.

 

Alexandre Geniez is known as a climber and his major achievements have all been acheived on the steep ascents. His career highlight came in 2013 when he won the Vuelta a Espana queen stage to Peyragudes in the Pyrenees and he has long been expected to become a great GC rider.

 

His progress has stalled and he has had a difficult start to the season. However, he is now back to full health and this week which is a big one in the Coupe de France race series, he has been absolutely flying, clearly indicating that he is getting ready for his big goal at the Giro d’Italia.

 

Last Thursday, he rode strongly in the early breakaway in the Grand Prix Denain and he was the last rider to get caught by the peloton in the traditional sprint race. Yesterday he found himself in the mix in the hard one-day race Tour du Finistere where he finished fourth and as he had to fight his way back from a mechanical, his FDJ team claimed that he was the strongest rider in the race.

 

Today he proved his team right when he took a surprise win in terrain that usually doesn’t suit him. On the flat roads in Bretagne, he conquered Tro Bro Leon whose 25 sectors of gravel roads have given it the nickname of the mini Paris-Roubaix.

 

Geniez didn’t rely on his climbing skills to take his first win of the year and instead he made use of his sprint to claim the victory. After a race of attrition that was marred by strong wind, it was a gradual elimination that left just 5 riders to decide the win.

 

Geniez found himself in a difficult position as he was up against the Bretagne pair of Benoit Jarrier and Pierre-Luc Perichon and Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar) and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) who are both known as fast sprinters. Hence, he had to ride aggressively and on the two laps of the 4.8km finishing circuit which included a gravel sector, he made repeated attacks.

 

However, he failed to get clear and only Perichon got distanced. As the group again slowed down, the Bretagne rider managed to rejoin the group and so it was a quintet that sprinted for the win.

 

In a sprint after a hard race, the outcome is not always what one would expect and this was certainly not the case in the French race. Geniez managed to beat the faster finishers as he relegated Jarrier and Senechal to the minor podium spots.

 

The race was part of the Coupe de France race series and Geniez now moves into third in the standings, 18 points behind Pierrick Fedrigo (Bretagne) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) who both have 88 points. The next race in the series is held next Sunday when the riders tackle La Roue Tourangelle.

 

25 gravel sectors

The 32nd Tro Bro Leon was held on a 204.4km course around the city of Lannilis and didn’t include any major climbs. As usual, the main challenges were the 25 sectors of gravel roads that were spread throughout the entire course. The first one came after 37.5km of racing and from there, the riders had little room to relax. The riders ended the race by doing two laps of a 4.8km finishing circuit that included one 700m gravel sector which ended just 2.1km from the finish in Lannilis.

 

After yesterday’s rainy day at the Tour du Finistere, the riders had beautiful sunshine when they gathered for the start in the Breton city of Lannilis. However, a very strong wind was blowing from a northeasterly direction and was expected to do some damage.

 

A big groups gets clear

The riders got the race off to a very fast start with lots of attacks and it took a long time for the early break to get formed. Early on, it seemed that Dan Craven (Europcar), Benjamin Giraud (Marseille) and Julien Duval (Armee) had made the difference as they managed to build an advantage of 28 seconds but they never got more than that. A four-rider chase group with Florian Vachon (Bretagne) tried to bridge the gap but they never made it across.

 

19 riders now got clear to form a very dangerous group with Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Francis Mourey (FDJ), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Kevin Ledanois (Bretagne), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Wesley Kreder (Roompot), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Florian Senechal (Cofidis),Tim De Troyer (Wanty), Quentin Pacher (Armee), Alexandre Blain (Marseille), Ignatas Konovalovas (Marseille), Egoitz Garcia (Murias Taldea), Clement Koretzky (Vorarlberg), Vachon, Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne) and Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne). After 50km of racing, they were 50 seconds ahead and now Jerome Baugnies (Wanty), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Frederik Backaert (Wanty), Clement Saint-Martin (Marseille) and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie) tried to bridge the gap but they never made it across.

 

12 riders take off

The gap went out to two minutes before a 22-rider group took off in pursuit. They managed to make the junction, making it a 41-rider lead group.

 

As they tackled the third gravel sector, the gap was 2.20 and now Saint-Martin got dropped from the lead group which started to splinter. A 12-rider group with Gougeard, Senechal, Voeckler, Craven, Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ), Jarrier, Ledanois, Berden De Vries (Roompot), Maxime Renault (Auber), Konovalovas, Saint-Martin and Koretzky got clear and manage to distance their former companions by 45 seconds. At this point, the peloton was 2.45 behind.

 

A sextet is formed

Wanty were leading the chase but they lost ground and soon found themselves 4 minutes behind. Meanwhile, Armee de Terre were leading the chase group and they made it back to form a 40-rider lead group.

 

The attacking continued from this big group and it was Senechal, Geniez, Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), De Vries and Tom Dernies (Wallonie) who got clear. They managed to build an advantage of 45 seconds while the peloton was now 5 minutes behind.

 

Bagdonas and Jarrier get across

Senechal crashed in the feed zone but he was quickly able to make it back to the leaders. Meanwhile, Jarrier and Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) took off in pursuit and while they managed to bring the gap down to 30 seconds, the big chase group had now been distanced by 1.40.

 

Jarrier and Bagdonas made the junction and while Geniez fought his way back from a puncture, they maintained an advantage of around 1.30. It even went up to 2 minutes but as they entered the final 50km, it was back to 1.18.

 

The group splits up

Bagdonas was unfortunate to puncture out of the lead group when the gap was down to just a minute as they hit gravel sector 18. Here Devries and Dernies got distanced, leaving just Geniez, Senechal, Engoulvent, Jarrier and Perichon to press on.

 

Geniez made a brief attack but the quintet was back together moments later. Meanwhile, Gougeard and Vachon had taken off in pursuit but hey were now 1.45 behind. Their progress was hampered when Gougeard nearly went down in a crash.

 

Geniez launches several attacks

The quintet worked well together and when they started the first laps of the 4.8km finishing circuit, it was clear that the winner would come out of that group as they were still 1.32 ahead. This opened the door for attack and it was Geniez who made the first move.

 

The FDJ rider failed to get clear but he refused to give up. When he tried again, Perichon got dropped but he failed to get rid of Jarrier, Senechal and Engoulvent. As they passed the flamme rouge, Pericon rejoined the group but it was Geniez who turned out to be the fastest in the sprint.

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