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After Monfort and Wyss had been brought back inside the final kilometre, Geniez won the final stage of the Tour de l’Ain in a sprint from a small group; Oomen was seventh and took overall victory ahead of De Clercq and Latour

Photo: A.S.O.
















13.08.2016 @ 16:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Defending champion Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) finally got his season back on track when he came out in a very hectic and active final stage of the Tour de l’Ain. After Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) and Marcel Wyss (IAM) were caught inside the final kilometre, he emerged as the fastest in a select group of climbers, holding off Romain Hardy (Cofidis) and Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal). Hardy was later relegated. Sam Oomen (Giant-Alpecin) finished seventh and took overall victory ahead of De Clercq and Pierre Latour (Ag2r).


The 2015 season was a bit of a breakthrough for Alexandre Geniez. The Frenchman won a mountain stage in the Vuelta a few years ago but last year he showed more consistency with a top 10 in the Giro d’Italia, victory in Tro Bro Leon and a stage win and overall victory in the Tour de l’Ain.


This year Geniez had hoped to build on his progress but nothing has gone as planned for the talented Frenchman. After a few days, he crashed out of the Giro, his big goal of the season, and he failed to recover in time for the Tour de France.


To make things even worse, Geniez crashed in his return to competition, the Clasica San Sebastian, and so he and his FDJ team openly admitted that he was not in a condition that would allow him to defend his title at this week’s Tour de l’Ain. Hence, he opted for an aggressive approach, riding on the attack in the first sprint stage.


However, Geniez surprised himself in yesterday’s queen stage where he finished sixth and this gave him confidence for today’s final stage. Finally, he got his season back on track as he managed to win today’s final stage.


Geniez showed his growing condition by making it into the elite group of climbers that emerged after the mighty Le Grand Colombier climb. He then benefited from hard work from Guillaume Martin (Wanty) and race leader Sam Oomen who managed to bring a strong duo of Maxime Monfort and Marcel Wyss back with less than 1000m to go after a flat 30km run-in to the finish. In the end, it came down to a sprint from a small group and here he proved his fast turn of speed by holding off Romain Hardy who is known as an excellent sprinter from small groups.


The other big winner was Oomen who did everything right in the difficult finale. Despite being without any teammates in the flat section and being under constant attacks, he managed to keep things together. In the end, he had luck that his most dangerous rivals didn’t get enough bonus seconds in the sprint and so his seventh place was enough to take the overall win.


After yesterday’s queen stage, the riders faced another very tough challenge on the final day. At just 132.2km, the stage between Lagnieu and Belley was very short but that did not mean that it was an easy one. After 15.3km of flat racing, the riders hit the bottom of the category 2 Cote de Corlier (7.6km) and then they tackled the category 2 Col de la Rochette (5.3km). A long descent then led to the bottom of the mighty Col du Grand Colombier which averaged 7.32% over 12.3km and was very steep in the final 5km. However, the top ca with 42.7km to go and after the descent, there were 30.2km to the finish in Belley.


As in the previous stages, the riders had excellent conditions when they gathered for the start under a sunny sky and in a 25-degree temperature. Only Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18) who was a late call-up for the race, decided to skip the final stage.


After Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) had rejoined the peloton following a mechanical in the neutral zone, the race got off to a brutally fast start with lots of attacks. FDJ and Delko set a brutal pace before an FDJ rider and a Rabobank rider got the first small advantage. However, they only got 10m before they were brought back.


FDJ and Delko continued to control things before Jerome Mainard (Armee) made a failed solo attack. More riders tried to get clear and the peloton started to split as they approached the Cote de Corlier.


As they hit the climb, Arnaud Courteille, Kevin Reza (FDJ), Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie), Jorge Arcas (Movistar), Thomas Degand (Wanty), Lennard Kamna (Stölting), Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Steven Lammertink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Felix Pouilly (Roubaix), Romain Combaud (Delko), Lennard Hofstede (Rabobank) and Mainard managed to escape. When they had an advantage of 20 seconds, Arcas and Rossetto took off and they quickly put 20 seconds into their former companions. While Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) fought his way back to the peloton after a mechanical, Rossetto dropped his companion who soon fell back to the chase group.


Rossetto crested the summit of the climb with a 30-second advantage over his chasers who was led to the top by Combaud, Arcas, Nauleau and Mainard. Lotto Soudal had taken control in the peloton and was 1.10 behind the lone Frenchman. He managed to maintain his advantages until he hit the second climb.


Tosh van der Sande had been doing the early work for Lotto Soudal and he was dropped as soon as they started to climb. As Giant-Alpecin took over the pace-setting, they soon caught the chasers and reduced the gap to Rossetto to just 22 seconds as they got to the top. Here Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) led Marc Soler (Movistar), Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) and Martijn Tusveld (Giant-Alpecin) over the top behind the lone Frenchman.


The peloton had split into several groups and the first bunch brought Rossetto back on the descent. Meanwhile, three sprinters abandoned as Benjamin Giraud (Delko), Bryan Alaphilippe (Armee) and Alexi Bodiot (Armee) all left the race.


Two riders briefly got clear and a Bora rider also made an ill-fated solo attempt before Dumoulin, Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Victor Campenaerts (LottoNL-Jumbo), Delio Fernandez (Delko) and Hofstede escaped. The peloton was content with the situation and so the gap had gone out to 1.10 at the 66km mark.


The peloton quickly accelerated again and as the gap started to come down, Trentin was dropped from the bunch. Jeremy Maison (FDJ), Vervaeke, Clement Chevrier (IAM) and Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) took off in pursuit of the leaders who failed to cooperate well. In fact, Camepnaerts briefly got a 5-second advantage before they found back together. The lack of cooperation allowed the chasers to bridge the gap.


The peloton was just 50 seconds behind and as the escapees had to ride hard, Dumoulin, Vachon and Hofstede were left behind. The latter two were soon brought back by the peloton while Dumoulin still tried to stay away. However, the Frenchman finally had to surrender.


Campenaerts was briefly dropped from the front group but he managed to make it back. The sextet managed to increase the advantage to 1.10 before Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) tried to bridge across. He got an advantage of 10 seconds before Julien Simon (Cofidis) tried to join him.


As they hit the Grand Colombier, the front group lost more manpower as Maison and then Fernandez were both left behind. That left just a quartet to press on but they were losing ground as the gap soon dropped to 45 seconds. Monfort, Simon, Fernandez and Maison were all brought back.


Five kilometres from the top, Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) tried to bridge across but he had no luck. Further up the road, Vervaeke dropped his companions and he quickly put 20 seconds into Chevrier, Jungels and Campenaerts.


The main group was now whittled down to just Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Pierre Latour (Ag2r), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Argon 18), Sam Oomen (Giant-Alpecin), Gauillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Kilian Frankiny (Switzerland), Pedrero and David Gaudu (France) and it was the latter who launched the next attack. He quickly got an advantage of 10 seconds.


Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) managed to rejoin the peloton and he launched an immediate counterattack and he did an excellent job to pass all the chasers and make it across to his teammate Vervaeke. Meanwhile, Gaudu and the Jungels group were brought back by the peloton.


De Clercq left Vervaeke behind and the Belgian was soon picked up by the main group before his teammate crested the summit as the lone leader. As the peloton approached the top, Gaudu and Latour attacked and they joined the lone Belgian on the descent.


The front trio managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds over the chase group which was now made up of Geniez, Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Molard, Monfort, Oomen, Pedrero, Martin and Frankiny but they soon stated to lose ground. Meanwhile, a third group had gathered just 40 seconds behind the leaders.


Martin did a lot of work in the chase group before Marcel Wyss (IAM) joined them. The Swiss was impressive as he didn’t need any time to recover before he joined Monfort and Hardy in an attack.


The trio bridged the gap to the leaders but the group split almost immediately as Wyss and Monfort took off again. The rest of the attackers were brought back by the peloton which was mainly led by Martin.


With 10km to go, Pedrero attacked again and he found himself stuck in between the peloton and the leaders. Further back, Oomen did his best to control the situation.


Martin took some huge turns on the front and in a dramatic finale, the attackers were brought back inside the final 500m. Hence, it came down to a sprint from a small group and here Geniez beat Hardy in a photo finish. De Clercq took third. It was a dramatic sprint and Hardy was later relegated for irregular sprinting and so Pierre Latour was moved into third place.


Sam Oomen crossed the line in seventh and that was enough to take the overall win. With his second place, De Clercq got six bonus seconds and so moved into second, just 1 second behind the Dutchman. Latour slipped to third, also 1 second behind the race winner.


Matteo Trentin won the points jersey and De Clercq was the best climber. Oomen was of course the best young rider and Cofidis was the best team.


With the Tour de l’Ain done and dusted, the series of short stage races in France will continue next week when the Tour du Limousin will be held from Tuesday to Friday.



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