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Finetto and Belletti share the spoils on final day in Limousin

After an amazing Kern had been brought back less than 1km from the line, Belletti won the bunch sprint on the final stage of the Tour du Limousin; Finetto took the overall victory














22.08.2014 @ 18:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Manuel Belletti (Androni) took his first his first victory for his new team when he won the bunch sprint on the final stage of the Tour du Limousin, holding off Kevin Reza (Europcar) and Björn Leukemans (Wanty) in the final dash to the line. Mauro Finetto (Neri Sottoli) finished safely with the bunch and took the overall victory.


After several years at the WorldTour level, Manuel Belletti steeped down to the pro continental ranks for the 2014 season when he signed a contract with the Androni team. So far the season has not brought a lot of luck for the fast Italian but today things finally changed.


In the final stage of the Tour du Limousin, his team showed plenty of confidence in their sprinter and they helped chase behind an amazing Christophe Kern (Europcar) who single-handedly kept the peloton at bay. The Frenchman was brought back with less than a kilometre to go and in the ensuing bunch sprint, Belletti paid back his teammates for their work by holding off Kevin Reza and Bjorn Leukemans.


The stage was held on a 175.6km course from Meuzac to Limoges and it was the easiest of the four-day race. Only three smaller climbs had to be tackled and the race ended with four laps of a 12km finishing circuit that had a slightly uphill finishing straight.


The stage started without one of its favourites as Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Jeremy Leveau and Romain Le Roux (Roubaix) didn’t take the start. The remaining riders left Meuzac under beautiful weather conditions and were clearly eager to race.


The first part was extremely fast and several groups were created in the early part. After 10km, four riders got the first significant gap but Neri Sottoli brought it back together.


Stefan Pirazzi (Bardiani), Christophe Labori (Bretagne), Marco Garcia (Caja Rural) and Clement Saint-Martin (La Pomme) were the next to get an advantage while Julien Berard (Ag2r) and Evaldas Siskevicius (La Pomme) took off in pursuit. However, both groups were brought back and instead Kevin Ista (IAM) and Julien El Fares (La Pomme) took off.


More riders bridged the gap and suddenly Imhof, Ista (IAM Cycling), Fedrigo (, Kern (Europcar), Baugnies, Minnaard (Wanty-Group gobert) Rabottini, Taborre (Neri-Sottoli), Duque (Colombia) Zardini (Bardiani-CSF), Bideau, Fonseca (Bretagne), Garcia (Caja Rujal), Dassonville (BigMat-Auber 93), Duval (Roubaix-Lille Metropole) and El Fares (La Pomme Marseille - 13) formed a very strong group with Haussler (IAM Cycling) Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale), Quemeneur (Europcar), Degand (Gobert Wanty-Group), Valencia (Colombia) and Vachon (Bretagne) making up a chase group. The two groups merged but when Vachon had beaten Domont and Dassonville in the first intermediate sprint, it was back together.


The attacking continued but the elastic snapped when Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) attacked. Axel Domont (Ag2r), Florian Guillou (Bretagne) and Jose Goncalves (La Pomme) bridged the gap and later Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Francis De Greef (Wanty) also made the junction.


The sextet was allowed to build a gap of 2.30 before Neri Sottoli and CCC started to control the situation. While Domont won the first KOM sprint ahead of Quemeneur and De Greef the second intermediate sprint, those two teams kept the gap stable at around that mark.


Domont was again the fastest in the second KOM sprint and now the gap had reached 3.30. Neri Sottoli and CCC started to accelerate and when Domont won the final intermediate sprint with 61km to go, it was just 2.25.


Quemeneur beat Domont in the final KOM sprint but at that point they were only 1.25 ahead. Androni had now taken over the responsibility and when they had brought the gap down to 30 seconds, riders started to attack from the peloton.


Steve Chainel (Ag2r) was the first to give it a try but it was Kern and Jeremy Bescond (Cofidis) who made the junction. Quemeneur fell back to the peloton but under the impetus of the two new escapees, the group reopened their advantage to 1.40.


De Greef was the next rider to get dropped and surprisingly, the escapees managed to keep their gap stable. With 20km to go, Neri Sottoli again hit the front and when CCC also started to work, the advantage came down.


Kern was doing almost all the work in the front group and when they started the final 12km lap, they were still one minute ahead. At this point, FDJ had started to chase and now the gap was coming down.


Goncalves made an unsuccessful attempt but it was Kern who got away 5km from the finish. At that point he was 20 seconds ahead but one kilometre further down the road, he had added another 10 seconds to the lead.


However, FDJ were now going full gas and inside the final kilometre, Kern was brought back. Instead, Belletti launched his furious sprint and claimed his first win in Androni colours.


Mauro Finetto finished safely in the bunch and so won the race overall while Leukemans scored enough bonus seconds to move into second ahead of Davide Rebellin (CCC). Domont wont the sprints and mountains jerseys while Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani) was the best young rider and Europcar the best team.


Racing in France resumes on Sunday when many of the riders from Limousin test themselves in the Chateauroux Classic de l’Indre which is usually decided in a bunch sprint.



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