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The young Wallonie-Bruxelles rider Demoitie makes it into a 10-rider escape late in the race at the hilly Tour du Finistere and takes an impressive sprint win ahead of favourites Simon and Fonseca

Photo: Sirotti




19.04.2014 @ 17:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Antoine Demoitie upset the favourites in big way when the young rider from the small Wallonie-Bruxelles team won today's hilly one-day race, Tour du Finistere, which was a round of the Coupe de France race series. The Belgian bridged across to a dangerous attack in the finale and still had enough left in the tank to stay with his companions on the steep 11-12% climb inside the final two kilometres before beating Julien Simon (Cofidis) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne) in the final sprint.


The small Wallonie-Bruxelles continental team had already come close to a big win in a French race twice as Sebastien Delfosse had taken a pair of podium places in some major events on the calendar. Today, however, everything came together for the small team when they took a hugely surprising win in the hilly Breton Tour du Finistere which is a part of the Coupe de France series and so hotly contested.


Antoine Demoitie is mostly known for his fast sprint but today he proved that he is no pure sprinter. When a strong group went clear on the hilly finishing circuit, he joined his teammate Julien Stassen to brige across to the move that contained several strong riders.


A few riders, including Stassen, fell off the pace to leave just 10 riders up the road while behind some of the strongest teams, Ag2r and FDJ, led the chase. Having had a one-minute gap, the escapees seemed to lose the battle when it went down to just 30-seconds at the start of the final 8.7km lap but then the peloton started to lose its momentum.


Suddenly, the escapees had the upper hand and by the time they reached the bottom of the short steep 500m climb Cote de Stang-Bigan inside the final 2km, they were 40 seconds ahead. It was now clear that one of the escapees would come away with the win and all eyes were on Julien Simon and Armindo Fonseca who had all the skills to excel in this kind of finale.


However, the French pair had to settle for the minor podium spots as Demoitie rode a fantastic finale to beat the two fast Frenchmen in the sprint. With assistance from teammate Laurent Evrard who was also part of the move, the young Belgian timed everything perfectly to take what is by far the biggest win of his career. Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) was left wondering what might have been when he beat Brice Feillu (Bretagne) in the peloton's sprint for 11th while Simon had the consolation of taking over the Coupe de France lead from Bryan Coquard (Europcar).


Tomorrow the Coupe de France continues when most of today's riders will be back in another Breton race that will be a completely different affair. Known as the Breton Paris-Roubaix, the Tro Bro Leon takes the riders over several sections of gravel roads, making it one of the most unique races on the French calendar.


A hilly race in Bretagne

As usual, the Tour du Finistere took place on a hilly route in Bretagne. The 193.2km race started in Saint-Evarzec and headed over constantly rolling terrain to the north before turning back to the finishing city of Quimper near the race's starting point. Here the race ended with 4 laps of an 8.7km finishing circuit that included two climbs: the Route de Plogonnec (1.7km, 4-5%) and the Côte de Stang-Bihan (500m, 11-12%). From the top of the latter, only 1.1km of false flat remained to the finish, making for a very tough finale to the race.


Unlike last year's rainy edition, the 2014 race took off under beautiful weather conditions, with Team MTN-Qhubeka starting the race with a significant disadvantage as Linus Gerdemann, Martin Wesemann and Andreas Stauff all failed to make the start. Right from the start, a few attacks were launched, with Timothy Dupont (Roubaix) being one of the first to give it an unsuccessful try.


An early break

Coupe de France races are often very aggressive, especially when they are held on hilly courses and so it was very unusual to see the early break go clear only a few kilometres from the start. Already after 8km of racing, Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) and Clément Saint-Martin (La Pomme Marseille) took off and the peloton was keen to let them go, allowing them to have a 40-second gap just moments later.


The gap kept growing until reached 3.20 after 17km of racing. There was a small reaction from the peloton as the situation was briefly stabilized but then the advantage again started to come up. After 33km of racing, it was already 6 minutes but now the peloton started to chase.


The chase gets organized

Under the impetus of Cofidis and the local Bretagne team, the advantage started to come down and it was quickly brought down to 4.50. Despite the increased pace, Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) found room to attack as he set off to close an almost five-minute gap on his own.


While the peloton kept the gap stable between the 4- and 5-minute marks, Rickaert did a fantastic job to gradually get closer to the leaders. At the 70km mark, he had made the junction to make it a front trio.


Rickaert pays the price

Bretagne and Cofidis brought the gap down to 3.20 where they stabilized for a little while before Bretagne decided to put down the hammer. The local heroes worked hard to bring the gap down to around 2 minutes when they again stepped off the gas.


As the riders hit the Cote de Laz, Rickaert paid the price for his hard chase and fell off the pace. Bretagne was now again riding hard on the front, bringing the gap down to less than 1 minute. Meanwhile, Gougeard rode away from Saint-Martin to become the lone leader of the race.


Gougeard is caught

The hard pace on the climb created several splits in the peloton, with the first group picking up both Rickaert and Saint-Martin. With 66km to go, Gougeard was only 25 seconds ahead and four kilometres further up the road, he was back in the fold.


The peloton slowed down a bit, allowed the second part of the bunch to rejoin the front but it didn't take long for the attacking again to start. A group with Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Seché), Anthony Geslin (, Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis), Frederik Backaert (Wanty), Hugo Houle, Lloyd Mondory (AG2R-La Mondiale), Julien Duval, Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix-Lille Métropole), Julien Antomarchi (La Pomme), Romain Guillemois (Europcar), Jaco Venter (MTN-Qhubeka) and Julien Stassen (Wallonie-Bruxelles) took off and they were later joined by Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Seché), Arnaud Courteille, Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (, Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), an impressive Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Steven Tronet (BigMat-Auber 93) to make it a big 18-rider group.


The decisive move goes clear

Antomarchi tried to take off on his own but was soon brought back by the escape which was just 25 seconds ahead of the peloton. The main group was reluctant to let such a big group go clear and soon after, it was all back together.


The peloton passed the finish line to start the first lap of the finishing circuit as a compact group but when they hit the Stang-Bihan for the second time, things started to split up. Quentin Jauregui (Roubaix) and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) took off while Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne) and Maxime Daniel (Ag2r) were both part of a quartet that took off in pursuit.


More riders bridge across

More riders tried to take off wile Gougeard and Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) led the chase in the peloton and after after some regrouping a front group with Tony Hurel, Natnael Berhane (Europcar), Fonseca, Bagot, Daniel, Tronet, Jauregui, Jose Goncalves (La Pomme Marseille), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) and Laurent Evrard (Wallonie) had gathered on the front. They were 20 seconds ahead of the peloton from which the attacking continued.


Antoine Demoitie and his Wallonie teammate Julien Stasse both bridged across and later Julien Simon (Cofidis) also made the junction. As they passed the line to start the penultimate lap, the front group was 56 seconds ahead of the peloton that was now led by FDJ.


The chase fails

Stassen, Hurel, and Tronet all fell off the pace while an impressive Gougeard had joined FDJ in the chase work. At one point, the gap was a minute but it now started to come down. At the penultimate passage of the line, it was 30 seconds and it seemed that the peloton had the upper hand.


While Gougeard was finally dropped from the peloton, his teammate Steve Chainel took over the pace-setting for Ag2r who were not content with the situation but 6km from the finish, the gap was still 25 seconds. Impressively, it now started to grow and as they hit the Stang-Bihan with less than 2km to go, the 10 leaders were 40 seconds ahead.


It was now clear that the escapees would sprint it out for the win and all eyes were on Simon and Fonseca to battle it out. However, Demoitie had different plans and took a hugely surprising victory while Dumoulin led the peloton across the line 36 seconds later to take 11th.



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