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With a late surge on the final climb of Mont Cassel, Fraile managed to pass lone attacker Lammertink less than 500m from the line to win the Four Days of Dunkirk queen stage; Konovalovas took the overall lead

4 JOURS DE DUNKERQUE

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CAJA RURAL - SEGUROS RGA

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IGNATAS KONOVALOVAS

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LA POMME MARSEILLE

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09.05.2015 @ 18:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two weeks after his first professional victory at the Giro dell’Appennino, Omar Fraile continued his and Caja Rural’s excellent string of successes by winning the queen stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk. Having been on the attack earlier in the race, the Spaniard proved his impressive strength on the final climb of Mont Cassel where he passed lone leader Maurits Lammertink (Roompot) less than 500m from the line to take the victory. Ignatas Konovalovas completed a great performance by the Marseille team by taking the overall lead from Bryan Coquard (Europcar) who suffered on the final lap of the hilly circuit.

 

Crashes, illness and injuries made the early part of the 2015 season one to forget for the Caja Rural team who was left frustrated on numerous occasions during the months of February and March. In recent weeks, however, they have managed to turn things around and has taken a number of victories.

 

It all started in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco where they delivered an aggressive performance that saw Omar Fraile win the mountains jersey. A few weeks later David Arroyo got very close to the first win in the final stage of the Giro del Trentino but it was Pello Bilbao who finally broke the drought when he won the first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon on April 17.

 

Since then the Spanish team have been unstoppable. One week later Fraile took his first professional victory when he won the Giro dell’Appennino and the team had a magical Tour of Turkey where both Bilbao and Lluis Mas managed to win a stage, Mas took the sprints jersey and the team took the collective title. That made them one to watch in this week’s 4 Days of Dunkirk where they aimed at continuing their success.

 

However, nothing went according to plan in the first part of the race where they struggled on the cobbles and in the sprints. Instead, they waited for today’s queen stage where the hilly terrain should make their many climbers more comfortable.

 

That turned out to be a wise decision as Fraile confirmed his good condition by taking his second professional victory. With an impressive late surge during the 10th and final passage of the Mont Cassel, he passed Maurits Lammertink to cross the line in first position.

 

Fraile had already been on the attack earlier in the race but when the peloton started the final lap of the 14.6km circuit that included two climbs and would be covered 9 times, he found himself in a small lead group of around 12 riders. Race leader Bryan Coquard (Europcar) was still there while his key rival Edward Theuns (Topsport) found himself in a group further back.

 

Alo Jakin (Auber 93) used the confusion after the Mont Cassel to attack and he managed to get a small gap before the chase got organized. Marseille had been aggressive all day and they still had Julien Loubet at the side of team captain Ignatas Konovalovas. The Frenchman went to the front and started to rider tempo.

 

Coquard was clearly suffering as they started the first of the two climbs on the circuit and while he got distanced, Lammertink took off. The Dutchman flew past Jakin while Damien Gaudin (Ag2r) went to the front of the main group that exploded to pieces.

 

Gaudin bridged the gap to Jakin while the rest of the group was gradually swallowed up by the Theuns group. Here Loubet again took control and they entered the final 5km with a 14-second deficit to the lone Lammertink.

 

As they hit the bottom of the final climb of Mont Cassel, Jakin and Gaudin were swallowed up and Loubet just continued to ride hard on the front. That made the group explode to pieces but Lammertink still had 18 seconds in hand when he started the final 2km.

 

Lammertink seemed to be destined to take the win but behind him Fraile still had something left in the tank. The Spaniard attacked strongly and in a nail-biting finish, he passed the fading Dutchman less than 500m from the line to take the win.

 

Behind, Coquard had been distanced and it was Jakin that led a 3-rider group across the line to take third, 7 seconds behind Fraile. Konovalovas had made it into that group and as Coquard could only manage 11th 38 seconds later, the Lithuanian takes the overall lead.

 

He now leads Coquard by 20 seconds and so finds himself in a very comfortable position as the race heads into the final stage. The almost completely flat course ends with 10 laps of a flay 6.9km circuit in Dunkerque where the sprinters are expected to shine.

 

The queen stage

After three days in mostly flat terrain, it was time for the queen stage in the Four Days of Dunkirk which brought the riders over 178.7km from Base de Loisirs Eolys to Cassel. After a flat start, the riders reached the 14.6km finishing circuit which they would cover 9 times. It included two climbs, including Mont Cassel whose summit was located just 1km from the finish.

 

The riders had nice dry condition when they gathered for the start. As expected, they got the race off to a very fast start with lots of attacks as many riders knew that a break could have a chance on the hilly course.

 

The break takes off

When the dust had settled, a four-rider break had gone clear and Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r), Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne), Alexandre Blain (Marseille), Julien Duval (Armee) and Tim De Troyer (Wanty) headed up the road and it was Blain who beat Jauregii and Duval in in the first intermediate sprint.

 

In the peloton, Europcar took control and they never allowed the break much of an advantage. Meanwhile, the escapees hit the finishing circuit where Duval was quickly distanced. Here they shared the KOM points on the first climbs. Blain beat De Troyer and Jauregui in the first KOM sprint while Jauregui was faster than Jarrier and Blain in the second one.

 

The break splits up

With 60km to go, the gap was down to just 30 seconds as Antoine Duchesne was again doing an amazing job for Coquard in the peloton that had been significantly whittled down. This prompted De Troyer to attack and after he briefly got clear, Jauregui and Blain managed to rejoin him.

 

In the peloton, Quentin Pacher (Armee) attacked and as they again hit the Mont Cassel, he flew past the fading Jarrier and made it up to the leaders. Here only Jauregui could keep up with him while De Troyer fell back to the peloton and Blain joined forces with Jarrier a little further back. Jauregui won the KOM sprint ahead of Pacher and Blain.

 

Jauregui and Pacher take off

As they entered the final 50km, the chasers were 20 seconds behind while the peloton was at 50 seconds. Thomas Voeckler was now working with his teammate Duchesne but they continued to lose group. With 45km to go, the gaps were 40 seconds and 1.07 respectively.

 

Jauregui was still riding strongly and he launched a solo attack on one of the climbs. After a short stint as the lone leader, he was again rejoined by Pacher.

 

Lots of attacks

In the peloton Christian Mager (Cult) and Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) attacked and they quickly joined Jarrier and Blain at the 38km mark. 3km later they were still 20 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton was at 1.05 but at the 33km later the junction was made and a 6-rider group was formed.

 

Anthony Geslin (FDJ) made a solo attack and he dangled a few seconds ahead of the peloton before he was swallowed up. Meanwhile, Madrazo attacked from the breakaway and only Jauregui could follow his pace.

 

Marseille make their first attack

With 30km to go, Marseille made their first big attack when Konovalovas and one his teammates made a big surge. Only Coquard could stay with them and the trio quickly passed Pacher. Moments later they caught Blain and Jarrier but as they made it up to the leaders, it all came back together with 26km to go.

 

Marseille continued their fast riding but they were unable to prevent Cesare Benedetti (Bora) and Mads Pedersen (Cult) from attacking. The duo got a small advantage before more riders joined from behind. Brice Feillu (Bretagne) was the first rider to make the junction, Fraile was next, later Julien El Fares (Marseille) made it and finally Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93) made it a 6-rider group.

 

Torres tries his hand

With 20km to go, they were 20 seconds ahead of the peloton which had now hit the next climb. Here Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) made a big attack that quickly saw him reach the leaders while Voeckler swung off after a long day.

 

With 16km to go, it all came back together and Marseille again hit the front. The French team significantly whittled down the peloton as they went up the Mont Cassel for the penultimate time before Jakin took off to start the exciting finale.

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