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The Giant-Shimano duo makes an attack after the top of the final climb and bridges across to the early break from which Hupond launches a solo move to take the stage win; Demare defends the overall lead

Photo: Team Giant-Shimano












10.05.2014 @ 18:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Just moments after Marcel Kittel had won the second stage of the Giro d'Italia, Thierry Hupond and Nikias Arndt put in a real Giant-Shimano show in the hilly fourth stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk. The pair attacked after the top of the final climb to time trial their way across to the remnants of the early break which set up Hupond for a solo move that allowed him to take his first professional victory ahead of his teammate. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) survived a dangerous attack form Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) to defend his overall lead with just one flat stage to go.


Usually, Thierry Hupond is the loyal domestique who helps his Giant-Shimano sprinters by chasing down early attacks but today the Frenchman got a rare chance to go for glory in the hilly fourth stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands as his Dutch team put in an excellent performance to come away with a 1-2.


The stage was the final realistic chance to deny Arnaud Demare a second overall victory and so Sylvain Chavanel's IAM team and Michael Valgren's Tinkoff-Saxo squad put the peloton under pressure on the hilly finishing circuit. The two teams set a hard tempo that made the peloton splinter in the very windy conditions.


However, it seemed that the stage win had already slipped away from the race favourites on this very windy day in Northern France as a strong 10-rider break was 9.10 ahead when they headed into the final 65km. However, the combination of fatigue and hard riding from IAM and Tinkoff-Saxo saw the gap come down quickly and it soon became clear that it would be a close battle between the peloton and the escapees.


Everybody waited for Chavanel to launch his move and he did so earlier than most had expected. Already 30km from the finish, he attacked on a descent and quickly bridged across to Steven Tronet (BigMat) from the early break.


Chavanel dug really deep while behind, Demare only had Anthony Geslin and Pierrick Fedrigo left to sipport him. However, they got some assistance from several other teams and on the final climbs inside the final 20km, the very small group of favourites managed to catch the IAM leader.


However, the chase had cost a lot of energy and this opened the door for new attacks. This was when the Giant-Shimano duo of Arndt and Hupond made a gutsy double attack and quickly benefited from the lack of domestiques to open up a big gap.


The duo did a fabulous job to close a 1-minute gap to the four remaining escapees in less than 5km and made the junction 2.7km from the line. They tried to go straight past the leaders but they failed in their mission.


Instead, Hupon launched a solo attack and this time nobody had any response. He quickly got a big gap and as their chasers had been on the attack all day, it was clear that he would not come back.


The Frenchman crossed the line to take the first victory of his career while Arndt won the sprint to make it a Giant 1-2.


A little later, Demare easily won the sprint from the group of favourites and so defended his lead on the final hilly day of the race. He heads into tomorrow's final stage with a 6-second gap over Chavanel and Valgren and with the stage ending with several laps on a flat finishing circuit in Dunkerque, only disaster will prevent him from taking a second consecutive victory in the prestigious race.


A hilly course

For the second day in arow, the riders in the 4 Days of Dunkirk were challenged by a very hilly course that brought them over 189km from Ardres to Licques. After a lumpy start to the stage, they would hit the 20.6km finishing circuit that they would cover 6 times. Each time, they had to go up two big climbs, with the latter summiting just 10km from the line.


The poor weather that has dominated the race continued as the riders took off in very windy and rainy conditions. However, the sun soon came out but the wind continued to be a factor the entire day.


A strong break

With many riders already far back in the overall standings, there was a big chance that a break would stay way to the finish and so it was no surprise to see that the start was very fast. At the 20km mark, 9 riders finally managed to get clear as Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Rudy Kowalski (Roubaix), Hugo Houle (Ag2r), Frederic Amorison (Wallonie), Stephane Rossetto (BigMat), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Marko Kump (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) and Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) took off.


The 9 riders managed to build up a gap that reached more than 10 minutes and as they were all far back on GC, Demare and FDJ were pleased to let them swallow up the bonus seconds. Hence, they left it to IAM to do the early work but the Swiss team had only brought the gap down to 9.10 with 65km to go.


IAM and Tinkoff apply the pressure

While Kowalski benefited from the break to pick up a lot of KOM points, Tinkoff-Saxo took over the pace-setting on the hilly finishing circuit and with momentary assistance from IAM that applied the pressure on the climbs, the gap started to come down. 56km from the finish, the escapees had already lost 2 minutes of their advantage.


Several riders had used the hilly circuit and the slow pace in the peloton to take off and a lot of riders were not sitting in between the escapees and the peloton in different groups. The situation was complicated but riders started to get swallowed up as IAM and Tinkoff-Saxo continued their hard riding, with IAM even trying to attack in the crosswinds.


Pineau ups the pace

With 44km to go, the gap was down to 4.50 and as they headed onto the penultimate lap, it seemed that the break would get caught. On the two climbs, IAM applied the pressure even more when Jerome Pineau set a hard pace that saw the peloton splinter to pieces.


Chavanel even took a few turns himself to bring the main group down to just around 40 riders while up ahead Rossetto attacked on his own. Houle tried to follow him but had to surrender and the BigMat rider quickly opened up a 20-second gap over his former companions.


Chavanel makes his move

Behind, the BigMat duo of Steven Tronet and Flavien Dassonville attacked while Chavanel and Pineau continued to apply the pressure. On the descent, Chavanel made a surprisingly early move and quicjly bridged across to Tronet and Dassonville.


Rossetto was now 50 seconds ahead of his chasers while the peloton was three minutes behind. In the main group, Pierrick Fedrigo and Anthony Geslin were chasing hard for FDJ while Dassonville got dropped by Chavanel and Tronet.


Valgren makes an attack

With Rossetto up the road, Tronet was just following wheels while behind, FDJ got assistance from Giant-Shimano, Tinkoff-Saxo and Wallonie. Rossetto headed onto the final lap with a 2.19 gap over Chavanel and Tronet while Pichot and Kowalski were now the nearest chasers of the leader.


On the climb, Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne) tried to bridge the gap to Chavanel and Tronet but he failed in his quest. Instead, Valgren tried to attack Demare but the race leader managed to respond to the acceleration.


Chavanel is caught

Up ahead, Veuchelen had joined Kowalski and Pichot and those three riders were now just 20 seconds behind the leader. Meanwhile, the peloton caught Chavanel and Tronet, thus neutralizing the dangerous attack.


Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) made a good attack on the final climb but was joined by Florian Senechal (Cofidis) who had the rest of the small group of favourites in tow. Demare now had no more teammats to support him and as they headed down the descent, the door was open for attacks.


Hupond and Arndt make their move

Sebastien Minard (Ag2r) was the first to give it a try and when he was caught, Hupond and Arndt made their move. While Rossetto was caught by his three chasers, the Giant duo picked up Houle and with 2.7km, they joined the leaders.


After a failed attempt to straight past, Hupond launched the decisive attack to take a solo win while Arndt easily won the sprint for second ahead of Pichot. Behind, Demare was so superior in the sprint that he even put one second into the rest and heads into the final stage in a very comfortable position.



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