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Stopping the clock in 6.00 on the short and 5.5km course in Banyoles, FDJ beat Astana by just 0.54 seconds in the opening team time trial at the La Méditerranéenne stage race; Ladagnous is the first leader

Photo: Unipublic










11.02.2016 @ 17:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

FDJ lived up to their status as favourites by winning the opening team time trial of the first ever La Méditerranéenne. In a nail-biting stage on a short 5.5km course in the Spanish city of Banyoles, they went 0.54 seconds faster than Astana to put Matthieu Ladagnous in the first leader’s jersey of the four-day race.


FDJ had gone into last week’s Etoile de Besseges with a formidable line-up that included the three leaders Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Demare and Arthur Vichot and had expected to open their account in the French race. However, they came up short as Pinot had to settle for second in the time trial and third overall while Demare didn’t have much luck in the sprints.


Instead, they have set the sights on this week’s inaugural La Méditerranéenne as the place to get the first wins and they have gone into the race with Demare as a formidable weapon for the sprint stages. The former French champion is supported by a formidable lead-out train during the four days in Spain, France and Italy.


The decision to focus on fast riders in the race that has taken over the place from the former Tour Mediteraneen stage race, paid off even before Demare has had the chance to sprint. Today the team got their first victory of 2016 in the opening team time trial.


The stage took place on a short 5.5km course in the Spanish city of Banyoles and this made it a race more for fast lead-out trains than big time trial specialists. That suited FDJ well and they covered the course in 6.00 to take the win.


However, it turned out to be a nail-biting affair. Astana are at the start with only six riders but delivered a surprisingly good performance against the bigger teams. With Andriy Grivko as the driving, they were just 0.54 off the pace in third place.


The Kazakhs had taken the lead after Roubaix-Lille Metropole had led the stage for most of the day until they were finally beaten, first by Cofidis and then by Direct Energie who would ultimately end the stage in third. Astana were the first ProTeam on the course and they were 8 seconds faster than the leaders at that point.


FDJ were the penultimate team to start and it was Matthieu Ladagnous that led his teammates to the finish in the best time. The final team were Ag2r who have lots of overall contenders with the likes of Alexis Vuillermoz, Jan Bakelants and Cyril Gautier but they could only manage seventh.


With the win, FDJ put Ladagnous in the leader’s jersey which he will wear in tomorrow’s first road stage. It’s mostly flat with just two smaller climbs at the midpoint but as the final part takes place along the coast where lots of wind is forecasted, it could turn out to be a selective affair.


A short team time trial

The inaugural La Méditerranéenne kicked off with a short 5.5km team time trial in the Spanish city of the Banyoles. It was a motsly flat affair and didn’t include too many technical challenges. There was a small 200m climb along the way but it was generally expected to suit riders with lots of speed for such a short test.


It was cloudy and rainy when Amee de Terre rolled down the ramp as the first team. The French continental team averaged 50.016km/h and set an early mark of 6.35.


Team Vorarlberg take the lead

Armee de Terre didn’t lead the stage for long as Euskadi Basque Country-Murias lowered the mark by stopping the clock in 6.32. However, they didn’t get time to sit in the hot seat either as Team Vorarlberg were even faster with a time of 6.26.


The first team not to take the lead was Veranclassic that could only manage 6.57 to slot into last place as things had been made complicated when the fifth rider was dropped and arrived alone behind his four teammates who got the same time as their lone companion.


Best time for Roubaix-Lille Metropole

Rally Racing went into the race with lots of TT firepower as their line-up included Danny Pate, Rob Britton, Evan Huffman and Tom Zirbel and they lived up to expectations as they took the lead with 6.18. Surprisingly, Roubaix-Lille Metropole were even faster as they clocked a time of 6.11 and moved into the hot seat after averaging 53.25km/h.


HP BTP-Auber 93 were the last continental team and they had to settle for fourth with a time of 6.26. Bardiani-CSF were the first from the pro continental ranks but they were unable to match two of the lower ranked teams as they clocked 6.24 for third place.


Cofidis move into the hot seat

Androni-Sidermec had lots of fast guys that were suited to this kind of short effort but they were also unable to match Roubaix and Rally, stopping the clock in 6.21 and moving into third. Delko Marseille-Provence KTM did even worse as they could only manage 7th with 6.30.


Fortuneo-Vital Concept were the first to really challenge Roubaix but their time of 6.16 was only good enough for second. Instead, it was Arnold Jeannesson’s Cofidis team that finally managed to beat the small continental team as they were fractions of a second faster, with Florian Senechal crossing the line in first position.


Great rider by Astana

Direct Energie are here with a young team but that didn’t stop them from delivering a great performance. Thomas Boudat led his teammates across the line in 6.08 which saw them take the lead.


Only the three ProTeams were now left and Astana were first off. With only 6 riders, they had a significant handicap but that was not enough to hold them back. Averaging 54.9km/h, Andriy Grivko led his teammates to the finish in 6.00 which was a massive 8 seconds faster than Direct Energie.


FDJ take the win

Things got exciting when FDJ hit the finishing straight as it became clear that it would be a close fight. The French team’s lead-out train sprinted to the line, with Matthieu Ladagnous first across the line and the fifth rider crossing the line in a time that was just 0.54 second faster than Astana’s.


Ag2r were the only team left on the course but they had a poor ride and arrived 18 seconds too, slotting into 7th place. Hence, it was FDJ that stepped onto the podium as stage winners and Ladagnous who claimed the lead.



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