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Having been given a 20-minute advantage, neo-pro Fournier rode to a hugely surprising solo win in the first stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe and took the overall lead; Coquard beat Enger in the sprint for second

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BRYAN COQUARD

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CIRCUIT CYCLISTE SARTHE

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SONDRE HOLST ENGER

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05.04.2016 @ 16:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marc Fournier (FDJ) delivered a massive surprise in the first stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe when he claimed his first pro win in a very strange opener of the short French race. Part of a 2-rider breakaway with Grischka Janorschke (Roth), he was given a 20-minute advantage and as the peloton started to chase way too late, he rode to a big solo win after having dropped his companion on the finishing circuit and now leads the race overall. Direct Energie chased hard in the end but Bryan Coquard’s sprint win was only good enough to take second on the stage, 2.15 behind the lone winner.

 

Going into this week’s Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, most people were looking at time triallists like Jerome Coppel, Anton Vorobyev, Tiago Machado and Matthias Brändle as potential winners of the race. However, after the opening stage which was expected be one for the sprinters, the pre-race favourites may have thrown the race away.

 

Neo-pro Marc Fournier hasn’t achieved any results since he joined FDJ at the start of the year and so nobody took any notice when he escaped with Grischa Janorschke already after 2km of racing. However, they all underestimated the French youngster who now finds himself with a chance to win the race overall after he took a hugely surprising solo win.

 

Fournier and Janorschke were given a massive 20-minute lead as the sprint teams were all hesitating in the chase. With small 6-rider teams and a mix of sprinters and GC riders in the line-ups, everybody was keen to save riders for the lead-out and so the chase only got going on the five laps of the 14.2km finishing circuit. It was way too late and even though Direct Energie managed to cut the gap significantly and even split the peloton to pieces on the circuit, they were left wondering what might have been after Bryan Coquard won the sprint behind the lone Fournier who had dropped Janorschke in the finale.

 

The 64th edition of Circuit Cycliste Sarthe kicked off with a 182.8km around the city of Chateau du Loir. There were two small climbs at the midpoint of the first big 111.8km loop and in the end, the riders will do 5 laps of a 14.2km finishing circuit. It had a small climb which offered KOM points on the second lap but it was expected to do little to challenge the sprinters.

 

It was bright sunshine when the riders gathered for the start and observed one minute of silence in memory of Antoine Demoitie. As most expected a sprint finish, it didn’t take long for Fournier to escape alongside Grischa Janorschke (Roth) as they got clear after just 2km of racing.

 

The peloton was in absolutely no hurry ad the gap quickly reached 8.40. This was no signal for the bunch to up the pace, and suddenly they were informed that the gap had gone out to a massive 12.45.

 

The two escapees averaged a modest 39.7km/h during the first hour before Janorschke beat Fournier in the first intermediate sprint at the 43.8km mark. The peloton crossed the line 14.30 and it was Leonardo Duque (Delko) who won the sprint for third.

 

The gap reached a maximum of 17.40 before the peloton finally reacted as they hit the first climb of the day. Here 6-7 rides attacked and even though they were eventually brought back, the attacking cut the lead a bit. Meanwhile, one of the favourites Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) crashed but he managed to rejoined the peloton.

 

Fournier beat Janorschke in the KOM sprint while Floris De Tier (Topsport), Martin Kohler (Torh), Tony Hurel (Direct Energie) and Daniel Diaz (Delko) were first from the peloton. Sonder Holst Enger (IAM) led the briefly attacked but then things calmed down again.

 

Androni kept the gap around 17.20 and after Fournier had beaten Janorschke in the second KOM sprint, De Tier, Kohler, Chris Anker Sørensen (Fortuneo) and Matthias Brändle (IAM) led the peloton to the top a massive 15 minutes later. IAM came to lend Androni a hand but as they crossed the finish line for the first time with 71km to go, they were still 14 minutes behind.

 

The only drama in the peloton was a crash that involved the Roompot pair of Huub Duijn and Maurits Lammertink but they were finally upping the pace slightly. The gap had been reduced to 11.50 at the end of the first lap. One lap later it was down to 11 minutes.

 

Androni and IAM were still leading the peloton but they were definitely not chasing and the escapees realized that they were not going to get caught. Hence, Fournier decided to attack as he hit the small climb of the circuit and he quickly put more than a minute into Janorschke.

 

As they crossed the line at the end of the second lap, Fournier had pushed his advantage out to 2.45 whle Dayer Quintana (Movistar) led the peloton to the finish 11 minutes later. Movistar had decided to up the pace even though it was too late.

 

At the end of the third lap, Fournier had put more than five minutes into Janorschke while Movistar had reduced the gap to 9.30. The Spaniards were really pushing now and as they started the final lap, they were only six minutes behind.

 

Direct Energie took over the pace-setting with Thomas Voeckler and the fast pace meant that the peloton split, with a second group starting the final lap 7.30 behind the lone leader. The French team tried to split things further in the windy conditions and Voeckler, Tony Hurel and Romain Sicard managed to blow the race apart.

 

The bunch was split in three groups and only 32 riders had made it into the first group as they entered the final 10km. They kept driving the pace all the way to the line but their acceleration had come too late. Fournier had plenty of time to celebrate his win and Direct Energie were left wondering what might have been as Bryan Coquard won the sprint for second after Janorschke had been brought back on the final circuits, with Sondre Holst Enger (IAM), Juan Jose Lobato (IAM) and Daniele Ratto (Androni) completing the top 5.

 

The peloton lost 2.15 at the finish and with the win and bonus second, Fournier takes the first leader’s jersey with an advantage of 2.26 over Coquard. He will take that big advantage into the second day which offers two half-stages. The riders will tackle a flat morning stage with just a small climb at the midpoint and in the afternoon the important 6.8km time trial in Angers will be held. It has usually been crucial for the overall outcome but with Fournier’s big lead, things could be different in 2016.

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