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In his first professional season, Gougeard takes his second win in a major French one-day race when he emerges as the strongest in the elimination race at the Boucles de l'Aulne 

Photo: AG2R LA MONDIALE / Kramon








01.06.2014 @ 23:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard
Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) confirmed that he has a huge potential for the future when he won today's big French one-day race, Boucles de l'Aulne. The young Frenchman survived the gradual elimation before escaping with Rudy Kowalski (Roubaix) in the finale and finally dropped his companion to take the second big victory in his first professional season.
In March, the cycling world learnt that Alexis Gougeard could develop into a future star when he beat several established professionals to win the Classique Loire Atlantique just a few weeks after his professional debut. Today he proved that the victory was no fluke as he won another hard French one-day race, Boucles de l'Aulne.
Already yesterday Gougeard had proved that he is in great condition when he was part of a front duo that was only caught 1.5km from the line in the Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan but apparently that effort had not left him fatigued for today's second leg of a big cycling weekend in Bretagne. When a big group escaped early in the race, he made sure to be one of several Ag2r riders to make the split and when the group was divided into two later in the race, he was again in the first group.
When it became clear that the winner would be one of the 16 riders in the first group, the cooperation ended and the riders started to attack each other. When Rudy Kowalski launched an attack 16km from the finish, Gougeard responded and the pair quickly built up a small gap.
Europcar and Cofidis both had several riders in the group of chasers but despite their collective efforts, they failed to bring back the front duo. On the uphill finishing straight, Gougeard proved his fantastic strength when he dropped Kowalski and held on to take a big solo win. Kowalski was passed by an accelerating Remy Di Gregorio (La Pomme Marseille) before the line but held onto third place.
The race took place on a 168km course around the city of Chauteaulin that was made up of 6 laps of a big 17.1km circuit and 8 laps of a smaller 8.1km circuit. The big circuit included a major climb while the small one was a lumpy affair with the final kilometre being all uphill.
The riders took off under beautiful sunshine and this may have inspired them to ride very aggressively from the start. In the early part, several attacks were launched and several splits occured in the peloton that sped along at avery rapid pace.
At the end of the second lap, a 19-rider group had formed and they managed to build a 30-second gap but as Wallonie had missed the move, they brought it back. After the first hour of racing, the break still hadn't formed but on the third lap, the group splut, allowing a big group to take off.
The group consisted of Fedrigo, Vaugrenard (, Chérel, Dumoulin, Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) Cousin, Nauleau, Pichot, Y. Martinez (Europcar),  Taaramae, Edet, Hardy, Le Mével, Maté, Navarro (Cofidis), Laborie, Laengen (Bretagne Séché), Sijmens (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Antomarchi, Di Gregorio (La Pomme Marseille 13), Rossetto (BigMat Auber 93), Kowalski, Duval (Roubaix Lille Métropole), Balloni (Nankgang Fondriest). Coupe de France leader and yesterday's winner Julien Simon (Cofidis) tried to bridge the gap but failed in his mission.
While Wallonie worked hard in the peloton, the gap remained below the one-minute mark for a long time and this allowed several riders to jump across during the next kilometres. The first rider to do so was Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and later Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) repeated that feat. Then it was the time for Kevin Reza (Europcar) and the La Pomme pair of Julien El Fares and Clement Saint-Martin to make the junction at a time when the gap was only 20 seconds.
Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (, Giovanni Bernaudeau (Europcar), Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne Séché), Yoann Paillot (La Pomme Marseille 13) and Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix Lille Métropole) were the next bridge across. The final riders to make it into the lead group were Geoffrey Soupe (, Alo Jakin (BigMat Auber 93), Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix Lille Métropole), Thomas Degand (Wanty Groupe Gobert) and Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie Bruxelles) who ended a long chase by making the junction.
As Wallonie now had a rider in the lead group, they stopped chasing and so the gap started to grow, quickly reachng more than 3 minutes. It was now clear that the winner would be one of the leader.
Gougeard launched the first move and he was quickly joined by Vaugrenard (, Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Cousin, Nauleau (Europcar), Edet, Hardy, Le Mével (Cofidis), Bideau, Laengen (Bretagne Séché), Sijmens (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Di Gregorio (La Pomme Marseille 13), Kowalski (Roubaix Lille Métropole). After a hard chase, Chérel, Y. Martinez and Antomarchi  also made the junction while the rest of the group started to lose ground to the 15-rider front group.
With 50km to go, the gap had reached one minute but Planckaert refused to give up. The Belgian took off on his own and unlike Voeckler who had no success with a similar move, he bridged the gap, reaching the front with 35km to go.
At this point, the front group was more than 3 minutes ahead of their former companions and it was now clear that the winner would be one of the leaders. Nonetheless, they kept riding together until Stake Laengen launched the first attack with 16km to go.
The Norwegian had no luck and instead Kowalski made his move. Gougeard joined him and from there, the race developed into a pursuit, with Europcar and Cofidis riding hard in the group of chasers.
The fron duo started the final lap with a 30-second advantage while Antomarchi tried to bridge the gap. As Kowalski and Gougeard started to lose ground, the chaser was brought back but the front duo dug deep and as they passed the flamme rouge, they were still 15 seconds ahead.
Gougeard proved immensely strong on the climb to the finish as he dropped Kowalski and held off a fast-moving Di Gregorio to take the win. Kowalski held onto third while Vaugrenard led the rest of the group across a little later.
After this hectic weekend of one-day racing in France, racing in France resumes on Thursday with the start of the four-day Boucles de la Mayenne while the WorldTour Citerium du Dauphiné kicks off next Sunday.



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