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After his team had kept the break under control all day, Coquard beat Pelucchi and Kreder in the bunch sprint on the morning stage of Circuit Cycliste Sarthe; Fournier retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti

BRYAN COQUARD

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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MATTEO PELUCCHI

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06.04.2016 @ 14:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) made up for yesterday’s disappointment by taking his second win in less than a week on the morning stage 2a at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. Unlike yesterday, his team kept the break firmly under control and in the bunch sprint he beat Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) and Raymond Kreder (Roompot) in a close battle. Marc Fournier (FDJ) finished safely in the bunch and retained the overall lead.

 

After his win in the Route Adelie Vitré and his excellent comeback from the injury he sustained in February, Bryan Coquard was regarded as the man to beat in the bunch sprints at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. In fact, people were wondering whether the in-form Frenchman would be able to win all road stages in the four-day race.

 

However, nothing went to plan on the opening day when a lack of cooperation between the sprint teams allowed escapee Marc Fournier (FDJ) to build an advantage of 20 minutes. Even though Coquard’s Direct Energie team chased hard in the finale, it was too little too late and when the French sprinter crossed the line as the fastest from the bunch, he was left wondering what might have been as Fournier had stayed away by more than 2 minutes.

 

Coquard and Direct Energie were keen not to make the same mistake in today’s short, flat morning stage and this time they didn’t fail. The early break never got an advantage of more than 50 seconds and in the end Coquard again proved that he is the fastest rider in the race, claiming his second win since his return from injury.

 

After yesterday’s big surprise, the riders tackled a short 85.1km stage in the morning, starting in Saint Mars la Jaille and finishing in Angers. There was a small climb at the 32km mark but apart from that, it was mainly a flat stage. In the end, the riders did three laps of a flat 6.2km circuit in Angers.

 

The 94 riders that finished yesterday’s stage were all present as they headed to the start under a sunny sky. Like yesterday an early two-rider break was established straight from the gun as Loic Chetout (Cofidis) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) attacked immediately and quickly put 25 seconds into the peloton.

 

The peloton were unwilling to repeat yesterday’s mistake and so the escapees had to fight hard to get a big advantage. They were only 35 seconds ahead at the 7km mark and the gap was still only 50 seconds after 14km of racing.

 

It was Matteo Pelucchi’s IAM team that took responsibility for the chase and they kept the gap stable at 50 seconds as they headed to the only climb of the day. The small gap allowed Remy Di Gregorio (Delko) to bridge across before Gougeard beat Chetout and the Delko climber in the battle for the KOM points. However, the peloton crossed the line just 15 seconds later.

 

The bunch again slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to 40 seconds at the end of a slow first hour during which only 38.6km had been covered. IAM kept the gap at 30-40 seconds until they reached the 50km mark. Here Direct Energie came to the fore to lend them a hand.

 

The escapees hit the final 30km with a small 30-second advantage and they had pushed it out to 40 seconds as they crossed the finish line to start the first lap of the circuit. More teams started to chase and it became increasingly difficult for the escapees.

 

The break managed to up the pace which was too much for Di Gregorio who had been distanced by 14 seconds at the end of the first lap where the peloton was still 30 seconds behind. The climber was soon swallowed up by IAM and Direct Energie who were again driving the chase.

 

Surprisingly, the gap stabilized at around 30 seconds and at the start of the final lap, it was still 21 seconds. IAM were chasing desperately and inside the final 5km, their effort started to pay off.

 

When the gap was less than 30m, Gougeard sat up. Chetout persisted a little longer but he was swallowed up before they passed the flamme rouge. Hence, it all came down to the expected bunch sprint and like yesterday Coquard proved that he is the fastest rider in the race as he beat Matteo Pelucchi and Raymond Kreder to take his second win since he returned from injury.

 

Marc Fournier finished safely in the bunch and so he still holds an advantage of 2.20 over Coquard. He faces a much sterner test in the afternoon when he tackles the tradition 6.8km time trial in Angers. The course for the individual test is completely flat but has a pretty technical middle section where several turns will test the riders.

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