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With a dominant performance in the uphill sprint, Colbrelli beat Herrada and Barbero to win the Tour du Limousin queen stage; Rosskopf retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti












18.08.2016 @ 17:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a difficult start to the second part of the season, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) proved that he is back on track for a great end to the year when he powered to victory in the queen stage at the Tour du Limousin. After a late attack from race leader Joey Rosskopf (BMC) had failed, the Italian was in a class of his own in the uphill sprint where he easily beat Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural). Rosskopf retained the lead on the eve of the final stage.


After his breakthrough season in 2014, Sonny Colbrelli was expected to reach new heights in 2015 but a frustrating first half of the year left him completely empty-handed. It was the Tour du Limousin that signaled his return to form as the Italian puncheur won a stage and the overall in the French race.


It was no surprise that the event in Limousin was the scene of his first stage race victory as the lumpy courses and many puncheur finales make it a perfect race for Colbrelli. Hence, he is hopeful that the race can again mark a bit of a turnaround in 2016 as the Italian has been set back by pneumonia since he ended the Giro d’Italia.


After his fantastic start to the year that saw him finish on the podium in the Amstel Gold Race, the illness made for a difficult start to the second part of the year. However, Limousin again turns out to be a happy hunting ground for Colbrelli as he powered to victory with his trademark uphill sprint in today’s queen stage of the race, thus moving back into contention for a top result in the GC after the breakaway surprised the peloton in stage 1.


After two relatively flat stages, it was time for the hardest stage. The riders covered 179.9km between Le Lonzac and Liginiac and with a total amount of climbing of 3678m, it was definitely not a flat course. Already after 33.1km of racing, the riders reached the top of the category 3 Cote du Bos (8.4km, 2.7%) and the hardest climb of the race, the category 2 climb of Cot de Soursac (4.9km, 4.7%), came at the 81km mark. From there, the terrain was significantly easier but there was a nasty sting in the tail. The category 4 Cote de Roche le Peyroux (2.8km, 4%) topped out just 7.1km from the finish and from there it was a flat run-in to the finish. The final 200m were slightly uphill.


After two days in brutal heat, the riders had much lower temperatures, cloudy weather and wet roads when they gathered for the start. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani) and Alberto Cecchin (Roth) who had fallen ill, were the only non-starters when the peloton rolled into the hilly terrain towards Liginiac.


Despite light rain falling in the early part, it was another very fast start with numerous attacks. Apparently, that was too much for Jens Mouris (Drapac) who abandoned after just 5km of racing. Moments later, Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Wesley Kreder (Roompot) and Julien Duval (Armee) managed to get an advantage of 25 seconds. A rider from Auber 93 and one from Wanty managd to join them but things were back together at the 13km mark.


The fast pace made the peloton explode as riders like Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Arnaud Gerard (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Yannick Martinez (Delko), Edoardo Zardini, Simone Sterbini (Bardiani), Guillaume Thevenot (Direct Energie), Pieter Weening (Roompot) and Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) fell behind. Meanwhile, race leader Joey Rosskopf was riding very attentively in the front end of the peloton.


The peloton briefly slowed down but after a sudden acceleration, more splits occurred. While Martinez left the race, the Cofidis pair of Nacer Bouhanni and Hug Hofstetter were among the riders to be left behind after 23km of very fast racing. Moments later, a strong group escaped when Simone Andreetta (Bardiani), Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix), Cyril Gautier (Ag2r), Jeremy Maison (FDJ), Ricardo Carapaz (Movistar), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) and Marco Frapporti (Androni) managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds.


Things were looking promising for the break but the peloton was not content with the situation. As they again accelerated in the wet and foggy condition, the gap came down to 15 seconds and the elimination continued. Now Duval, Jimmy Turgis (Ag2r), Maxime Renault (Auber 93) and Samuel Spokes (Drapac) were unable to keep up with the bunch.


As they hit the first climb, the break was brought back but another 8 riders escaped immediately. Nick van der Lijke (Roompot) reached the top in first position followed by Julien El Fares (Delko) and Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93) but as they went down the descent, the group was brought back.


The wet descent turned out to be dramatic as a crash brought down Coquard and split the group into three parts. At the 42km mark, a front group with 30 riders, including Rosskopf, was chased by a group of 40-45 riders while a gruppetto with Bouhanni was several minutes behind. Meanwhile, Courteille, Gerard and Marc Fournier (FDJ) abandoned.


The riders covered 41.9km during the first hour before 8 riders managed to build and advantage of 12 seconds. More riders bridged across to make it a 15-rider group with Clement Penven (Armee), Kevin Lebreton (Armee), Jerome Mainard (Armee), Matteo Busato (Wilier), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), El Fares, Pierrick Fedrigo (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Marc Soler (Movistar), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Xandro Meurisse (Wanty), Manuel Senni (BMC), Antomarchi, Lastra, Dimitri Claeys (Wanty) and they managed to push their advantage out to 35 seconds.


The first peloton was unwilling to let them go and it was the Bardiani team that reduced the gap to 25 seconds after 58km of racing. Further back, a second group of around 80 riders had now lost 1.15. At the same time, the Direct Energie pair of Coquard and Thevenot were forced to abandon.


The front group split up and it was Busato, Roy, El Fares, Soler, Lemoine and Antomarchi who managed to press on. They were joined by Yoann Barbas (Armee) and Anthony Maldonado (Auber 93) to make it an octet and they managed to increase their advantage to 45 seconds. As the peloton finally slowed down, a regrouping started to take place and the race settled into a steadier rhythm after the hectic start.


The peloton was almost back together when El Fares beat Barbas and Maldonado in the second KOM sprint after 83km of racing, with the peloton arriving 1.40 later. The rain had now stopped and the riders had pleasant conditions as they ended the second hour at an average speed of 41.7km/h.


The peloton was unwilling to let the gap grow too much and kept it at around 1.20 before they took a small breather. That allowed the gap to reach a maximum of 2.20 as they entered the final 75km where Erik Baska (Tinkoff) abandoned.


When Antomarchi beat El Fares and Maldonado in the second intermediate sprint where the peloton crossed the line 2.10 later and the gap was unchanged when they crossed the finish line for the first time with 54km to go.


BMC had taken control in the peloton and they kept the gap at around 2 minutes for a while. At the same time, El Fares beat Maldonado and Antomarchi in the final intermediate sprint.


The gap was still 2.25 with less than 40km to go but as several team started to chase, the gap melted away rapidly. With 24km to go, it was already down to 50 seconds and riders were again getting dropped from the peloton, with Penven and Peter Velits (BMC) among the riders to get distanced.


As the peloton hit the penultimate climb, the group exploded and the front group also split to pieces. Soler left his companions behind before Busato and Lemoine managed to make it back. The trio still had 50 seconds as they entered the final 15km and moments later, Antomarchi and Roy also made the junction.


With 10km to go, the front quintet were only 15 seconds ahead and as they hit the final climb, Roy and Antomarchi were again left behind. Like on the previous climb, Soler turned out to be the strongest and he reached the top as the lone leaders with a 10-second advantage. Rosskopf led the peloton over the summit.


Soler did his best to stay away but with 3km to go, he was brought back. Surprisingly, Rosskopf made the next attack but it was all in vain. In the end, it came down to an uphill sprint and here Colbrelli turned out to be in a class of his own, easily taking the win ahead of Jesus Herrada and Carlos Barbero.


Rosskopf finished safely in the front group and so retained the leader’s jersey with a four-second advantage over Hubert Dupont (Ag2r). However, nothing is decided yet as the final stage is another tough one. Every year the race with the uphill sprint in Limoges and that will be the case for this edition as well. At 185.3km, the stage between Saint-Leonard-de-Niblat and Limoges is the longest of the race and it is the typical lumpy affair. There are two early category 3 climb – 2.8km at 3.5% and 2.8km at 4.5% respectively – and another climb (4.4km, 3%) with 48.5km to. However, the main action will unfold during the final three laps of the well-known 12km circuit where it all ends on an uphill finishing straight of 1000m.



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