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Having been part of a 3-rider break that made it to the finish, Gougeard beat Antomarchi and Ramirez in the sprint to win stage 3 of the 4 Days of Dunkirk; Coquard finished 5th and defended his lead

Photo: Sirotti












08.05.2015 @ 17:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) continued what has been an impressive start to his short professional career when he took his fourth victory in less than 18 months by winning the third stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk. Having joined the right 3-rider break, the Frenchman beat Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) and Brayan Ramirez (Colombia) in the sprint while Bryan Coquard (Europcar) finished 5th and defnded his overall lead.


To be a prolific winner in the pro peloton, one usually has to be a good sprinter, a strong climber or a great time triallist. If you don’t possess one of those qualities, it is often very hard to build a palmares with lots of victories.


Alexis Gougeard is a brutally strong rouleur but he doesn’t possess any of those three skills. Nonetheless, he seems to have the right winning mentality as he went into the 4 Days of Dunkirk with 3 pro wins in less than 18 months at the pro level.


Today the strong Frenchman confirmed his ability to win when he came out on top on the third stage of the windy, hilly French race. As it has been the case in his first three triumphs, he again used his aggressiveness to hold off the sprinters on a day that was expected to be for the fast men.


Gougeard joined forces with Brayan Ramirez (Colombia) and Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) to form the day’s early 3-rider break but they didn’t seem to have much of a chance on a mostly flat stage. However, the Cofidis team started to chase too late and as they only got a bit of help from the Wanty team, they never caught the trio.


With 10km to go, the French team threw in the towel as they were still 2.55 and instead Armee de Terre took over, bringing back a solo attack from a Roubaix rider. Topsport Vlaanderen also briefly rode on the front and those two teams traded pulls to also bring back a solo move from Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural). However, they were not in full chase mode and it was clear that the escapees would stay away.


The front trio worked well together until the 7km to go mark when Gougeard launched the first attack. However, Antomarchi was glued to his wheel and Ramirez also made it back when the Frenchman slowed down.


The cooperation was now gone and it was Ramirez who made the next move with 4km to go. Gougeard shut it down immediately while Antomarchi was quick to react when the Ag2r rider tried to make a counterattack.


Ramirez tried again but Gougeard was very attentive. When the Colombian made his next attack woth 3km to go, however, he refused to react. This time he left it to Antomarchi but the Roubaix rider had no trouble bringing the Colombian back.


Antomarchi was now riding slowly on the front, constantly looking back in what looked like a sprint match on the track. As a consequence, the gap was coming down quickly as Cult had started to chase with Russell Downing and as Antomarchi passed the flamme rouge, the advantage was only 1.10.


Antomarchi rode on the front until 300m remained when Ramirez accelerated to get into the late turns in first position. Gougeard reacted quickly to move into second while Antomarchi lost a few metres. That proved to be decisive when Gougeard dropped the hammer and easily passed Ramirez. Antomarchi came fast from behind but ran out of metres and had to settle for second.


The slow pace meant that the peloton got very close in the end and Edward Theuns (Topsport) beat Bryan Coquard in the sprint for fourth just 14 seconds later. However, that was enough for Coquard to defend his 12-second lead over Theuns as he goes into the queen stage.


Here he can expect to come under a lot of pressure from the Belgian. After a flat start, the riders end the race by doing 9 laps of a 14.6km finishing circuit that includes two small climbs. One of them is the cobbled Mont Cassel and the finish line is located at its top after the 10th passage.


A flat stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the fast riders were again expected to come to the fore in stage 3 which brought the peloton over 175.8km from Barlin to Saint-Omer. After a moderately hilly first two thirds with four categorized climbs, the riders got to a completely flat finale where they ended the race by doing two laps of a 14.3km finishing circuit. Like yesterday there was a pretty technical final section with two roundabouts inside the final kilometre.


The riders had sunny and warm conditions when they gathered for the start in Barlin and ullike in the previous stages, they got the race off to a slow start. Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Carlos Mario Ramirez (Colombia) attacked almost straight from the gun and they already had a small advantage when Ramirez won the first KOM sprint. Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) even tested race leader Bryan Coquard (Europcar) on the climb to take third but things quickly calmed down. Gougeard won the first sprint ahead of Ramirez while Laurent Pichon (FDJ) picked up the final bonus second.


Antomarchi joins the leaders

After a short chase, the leaders were joined by Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) who was already on the attack yesterday. The peloton showed no interest in initiating a chase and so the escapees managed to build an advantage of 8.40 at the 65km mark.


Ramirez beat Antomarchi and Gougeard in the second KOM sprint while the order of the first two riders was reversed on the third ascent. Gougeard led Ramirez and Antomarchi across the line in the second sprint while Julien Morice and Alexandre Pichot kept the gap stable for Europcar.


Le Gac tries to bridge across

With 75km to go, Olivier Le Gac (FDJ) attacked and he brought his deficit down to 4.50 before he again lost ground. Meanwhile Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) had started to work with Morice and Pichot but the gap just hovered between 6.45. and 7.15 as they approached the final climb with 57km to go. Here Gougeard set the pace before Ramirez and Antomarchi sprinted for the points, with the latter coming out on top.


With 51km to go, Cofidis realized that they would get no help and at a point when the gap was still 7.15, they put Joeaar, Rudy Molard and Kenneth Vanbilsen on the front. They upped the pace significantly and brought Le Gac back.


Cofidis chase hard

With 45km to go, the wind created a few splits in the peloton and so Cult tried to help with Martin Mortensen and Michael Reihs. However, they quickly stopped their effort and the peloton came back together.


Antomarchi led Ramirez and Gougeard across the line in the final intermediate sprint with 41km to go and at this point the gap was still 5.35. Cofidis realized that they had to do more and so Clement Venturini also started to work.


Wanty lend a hand

With 35km to go, Wanty put Tim De Troyer and Danilo Napolitano on the front at a time when the gap was still 5.10. Despite the hard work, however, it was still 4.20 when the escapees started their two laps of the 14.4km finishing circuit.


De Troyer, Venturini and Napolitano blew up and so it was left to Joeaar, Molard and Vanbilsen to chase as they entered the final 18km with a 3.50 deficit. As they started the final lap, the gap was still 3.20 and moments later Cofidis threw in the towel, allowing the escapees to start the fight for the stage win.



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