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One of three riders to follow Van Avermaet’s attack in the final kilometre, Demare launched a long sprint to beat Stybar in a drag race on the cobbled uphill finishing straight at Binche-Chimay-Binche; Roelandts took third

Photo: A.S.O.

ARNAUD DEMARE

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JURGEN ROELANDTS

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MEMORIAL FRANK VANDENBROUCKE

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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04.10.2016 @ 17:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two days after Nacer Bouhanni’s win at the Tour de Vendee, Arnaud Demare (FDJ) showed that he is also ready to lead France at the World Championships in Qatar when he powered to victory in the cobbled uphill sprint at Binche-Chimay-Binche. Together with Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), he managed to follow Greg Van Avermaet’s (BMC) big attack in the final kilometre and then launched a long sprint to hold Stybar off in a drag race to the line. Roelandts came around Van Avermaet to take the final spot on the podium.

 

Two days ago Nacer Bouhanni staked claim on the French captaincy role at the World Championships when he powered to victory in the uphill sprint in the Tour de Vendee. On the same day, his rival Arnaud Demare suffered in the crosswinds at the Tour de l’Eurometropole and it briefly looked like the debate about the captaincy role in the French camp had come to an end.

 

However, Demare apparently knew that his form is great so when he lined up for today’s Binche-Chimay-Binche which ends with its traditional cobbled uphill finish, he was determined to show that nothing is decided yet. Throughout the entire race, his FDJ team controlled the race firmly and so put a lot of pressure on their leader to deliver.

 

This time Demare didn’t disappoint as he turned out to be the strongest in the very tough finale. When Greg Van Avermaet launched his expected attack on the steepest, cobbled section, only he, Zdenek Stybar and Jurgen Roelandts could follow. When the road again started to rise after a small descent, he launched a very long sprint that only Stybar could match but as the Czech failed to come around, Demare took a very important first win since June.

 

The 29th edition of Binche-Chimay-Binche was be held on a 194.5km course that brought the riders from Binche to Chimay and back to Binche. The first 129.9km constituted the trip between the cities that make up the name of the race. The terrain was rolling and the main challenge was the famous Petit Poggio climb which comes after 84.8km of racing. After the first passage of the finish line, the riders ended the race by doing four laps of a 16.2km circuit. The first 4km were all slightly uphill while the second half was descending. However, it had a nasty sting in its tail as there were two cobbled sections inside the final 2km, with the final pave coming on the uphill finishing straight.

 

It was a beautiful sunny day when the peloton gathered in Belgium, but it did not dampen the attacking spirit. After many attempts, two riders got away as Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) and Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM) quickly got a lead of 3.40.

 

After a quiet phase, the attacking started again when four riders escaped, it was with prominent participation. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) was part of the quartet together with Marc Fournier (FDJ), Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Giorgio Bocchiola (D'Amico), and they reduced the gap to just 1.40. However, the peloton quickly brought them back.

 

The injection of pace meant that the gap was down to 1.30, but when the field again calmed down, it grew dramatically. After more than 85km of racing, it was a massive 9 minutes. Carmelo Foti and Antonio Parrinello (D'Amico) had taken off in pursuit and found themselves 3.40 behind the leaders.

 

FDJ and Direct Energie started to chase and also Etixx-Quick Step and BMC came to the fore. Hence, the gap started to come down. With 90 km to go, it was down to 6.40, and the harder pace meant that the two chasers were caught.

 

Etixx-QuickStep and FDJ took complete control and whey hit the final 75km, Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep), Marc Fournier and Ignatas Konivalovas (FDJ) had reduced the gap to 4.55. When they crossed the line for the first time 11 km later, they were still 4.35 ahead.

 

After the passage of the line, the chase got more organized as Ivan Garcia (Etixx-QuickStep) and the BMC pair of Fabien Lienhard and Taylor Eisenhart started to work with Keisse, Konovalovas and Fournier. Especially the two BMC riders increased the pace but nonetheless the gap was still 3.40 at the end of the first lap. Dries De Bondt (Veranda’s) and Garcia Cortuna led the bunch across the line and riders started to get dropped as the tension increased.

 

Eisenhart, Garcia, Keisse and Yoann Offredo (FDJ) continued to ride in the peloton and when Eisenhart swung off, FDJ added Matthieu Ladagnous’ firepower. Offredo led the group up the fiishing staright as they approached the finish and this time several riders were dropped. Again De Bondt moved to the fore to pick up some more points for the Napoleon Games Cycling Cup and led the bunch across the line 2.05 behind the leaders.

 

As they headed up the climb after the finish, Ladagnous was the only rider doing the work and when he started to tire, Dimiti Claeys (Wanty) launched a first attack. A group of around 10 got clear and when they were brought back, Gert Joeaar (Cofidis), Jempy Drucker (BMC) and a Veranda’s rider escaped. Claeys and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) joined the move but they were soon caught. Loic Vliegen (BMC), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and van der Sande were the next to try but they had no luck either. Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) tried to accelerate but then FDJ took control with Offredo and William Bonnet.

 

Etixx-QuickStep tried to calm things down with Frantsek Sisr and he shout the next move from Vliegen, Vanbilsen and a Roompot rider down. A small group briefly got clear but finally Offredo and Sisr managed to calm things down. Meanwhile, one of the outsiders Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen) punctured.

 

The attacking had reduced the gap to just 30 seconds as they hit the final 20km and it was Offredo and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) who took control in the peloton. As they hit the cobbles, Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo) attacked and Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) joined him.

 

At the start of the final lap, the pair had a small advantage and they sprinted past the fading Bak and Laengen. However, Offredo soon brought them back and instead Drucker and Gaviria gave it a go. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal), Van Hecke, Marco Marcato (Wanty) and Oliver Naesen (IAM) joined them and then Huub Duijn (Roompot) bridged across to make it a septet.

 

FDJ started to chase hard with Bonnet and Benoit Vaugrenard and Ladagnous. Direct Energie also came to the fore and the two French teams slowly started to close the 10-second gap.

 

Offredo managed to shut the move down when 9km remained and he also shut the next move from Drucker and van der Sande down. Duijn, Dries Devenyns (IAM) and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) were then part of a small quintet but Etixx-QuickStep shut it down.

 

With 6km to go, Vanbilsen finally managed to create a small gap but Offredo controlled him firmly. Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo) lent him a hand and the pair kept the gap at 5 seconds.

 

Offredo continued to ride as they entered the final 3km where the BMC train took over with Floris Gerts. Offredo took one final turn to bring Vanbilsen back and then BMC took full control.

 

Gerts took a massive turn and when LottoNL-Jumbo tried to pass, Drucker took over. The Luxembourger did a great lead-out for Greg Van Avermaet who attacked as they hit the cobbles when they went under the flamme rouge.

 

Van Avermaet, Stybar, Roelandts and Demare managed to create a small gap and it was Roelandts who surged ahead of Van Avermaet as they went through a turn on a late descent with a few hundred metres to go. As the road again started to rise, Demare launched a long sprint and only Stybar could follow. The former winner of the race tried to come around but Demare had enough left to win the drag race. Roelandts came around Van Avermaet to take third while Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen) was the best of the rest in fifth.

 

The win didn’t change the top of the standings in the Napoleon Games Cycling Cup as Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) remains in the lead. With Binche-Chimay-Binche done and dusted, there’s just one race left in Belgium and in the Napoleon Games Cycling Cup. On Tuesday, the riders will be back in the saddle for the Nationale Sluitingsprijs which is usually a race for sprinters.

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