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Guardini survived a short, steep climb with just 2.5km to go before powering clear to beat Boeckmans and Coquard in the sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de Picardie; Boeckmans defended the lead

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2015

ANDREA GUARDINI

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BRYAN COQUARD

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KRIS BOECKMANS

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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TOUR DE PICARDIE

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16.05.2015 @ 17:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Guardini (Astana) proved that he has improved his climbing skills a lot when he came out on top in the hardest stage of the Tour de Picardie. The Italian survived a late climb that summited just 2.5km from the finish and then powered clear to beat Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) in the sprint. Boeckmans extended his overall lead.

 

In the past, Andrea Guardini has always been known as a pure sprinter who had troubles surviving even the smallest bump but things have clearly changed. Already in the early part of the 2015 season, the Italian showed significant signs on improvements and today it was more evident than ever before.

 

The hardest stage of the Tour de Picardie was expected to be a day for the strong sprinters who could survive a pretty steep climb that summited just 2.5km from the finish. Most expected that it would be too hard for Guardini but the Italian defied expectations by making it to the top with the best after an early break had been caught.

 

Guardini had hoped to be at the start of the Giro d’Italia but with the Astana team being fully built around Fabio Aru, there was no spot for him. That may have helped him dig a bit deeper in today’s tough finale and his efforts paid off.

 

After the final climb, the sprint teams were fighting for control and Guardini was always in a good position. On paper, he was the fastest rider in the group and he fully lived up to expectations when he powered clear to beat overall leader Kris Boeckmans and Bryan Coquard who had both fancied their chances in this tough finale.

 

The result helped make up for yesterday’s disappointment where Guardini had been held up behind a crash and never got the chance to sprint. It also put him back into GC contention as he moved into second, just 6 seconds behind Boeckmans who defended his lead.

 

Those two riders are likely to battle for the overall victory in the final stage which should be another one for the fast riders. After a flat start, there are four small climbs in the second half but they are not expected to be hard enough to prevent the third consecutive bunch sprint.

 

The hardest stage

After the opening sprint stage, it was time for the hardest stage of the three-day race as the riders tackled a lumpy 168.1km course on stage 2. It brought them from Villers-Saint-Paul to Fleurines and was a mostly flat affair with just three smaller climbs in the first two-thirds of the race. However, the stage had a nasty sting in its tail as the riders ended the day by doing one lap of a 17.8km circuit that included a short climb which summited just 2km from the finish.

 

David Cherbonnet (Armee) who abandoned yesterday, was the only rider who was missing when the peloton headed out on their neutral ride on a rainy day in Picardie. They got the race off to a very fast opening phase with lots of attacks.

 

The break is formed

A 10-rider group got clear and quickly swelled to 20-riders before four riders escaped from that group. However, it all came back together opening the door for new attacks.

 

The fast pace meant that several riders were dropped, including Morgan Lamoisson (Europcar) and Yannick Eijssen (Wanty). Moments later, Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r) and Ralf Matzka (Bora-Argon 18) attacked and they were quickly joined by Evaldas Siskevicius (La Pomme) and Alexis Bodiot (Armee).

 

Lotto Soudal set the pace

The peloton slowed down and when Bodiot beat Latour and Matzka in the first KOM sprint after 25km of racing, the gap was already 4.40. It even went out to 7.00 before the peloton finally started to chase.

 

The peloton was riding surprisingly fast and riding single-file, they quickly brought the gap down to 4.40. It was Lotto Soudal who were setting the pace and when Siskevicius beat Bodiot and Matzka in the first intermediate sprint, they were just 3.25 behind.

 

More points for Bodiot

The gap went back out to 3.45 and for a while it stayed around that mark. Meanwhile, Bodiot beat Matzka and Latour in the second KOM sprint.

 

At the top, the gap was 4.00 and when the escapees stopped for a natural break, it dropped to 3.35. However, the peloton also slowed down and so it was back up to 4.50 as they entered the final 60km.

 

Jakin and Rossetto attack

Bodiot beat Matzka and Latour in the final KOM sprint where the peloton clearly accelerated. At the top, they had reduced their deficit to 3.30.

 

Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) and Alo Jakin (Auber 93) attacked and they quickly started to reduce their deficit. With 40km to go, they were just 45 seconds behind while the peloton had lost 1.50.

 

The junction is made

Rossetto and Jakin made the junction just a few kilometres later and the front sextet immediately started to work well together. With 28km to go, they still had an advantage of 1.20.

 

At the first passage of the finish line, Bodiot won the intermediate sprint ahead of Siskevicius and Latour. At this point, the peloton had accelerated a lot and with Europcar, Lotto Soudal and Roubaix setting the pace the gap was reduced to just 25 seconds with 10km to go.

 

It wasn’t to be for the escapees who were caught with 5km to go and from there it was a battle between the sprint trains. The final climb failed to distance the sprinters and so it was Guardini who powered clear to take the win.

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