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One day after his win in Classic Sud-Ardeche, Vakoc took his second victory in a row by beating Bakelants in a two-rider sprint at the Drome Classic; Vichot won the sprint for third

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele










28.02.2016 @ 18:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) proved his status as the in-form rider of the moment by claiming another impressive win at the Drome Classic just 24 hours after his victory at the Classic Sud-Ardeche. The Czech managed to follow Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) on the short 500m climb inside the final 2km and then beat the Belgian in a 2-rider sprint. Arthur Vichot (FDJ) won the sprint for third.


After his top results in Tour du Haut Var and Tour La Provence, Petr Vakoc had clearly shown that he was in great condition for this weekend’s hilly classics in the Drome department. However, few would have expected the huge talent to dominate the hilly races in the way he did.


Vakoc had left his first races in France with a bit of frustration as they were loaded with near-misses but this weekend he has not only opened his account and left his disappointments behind. With two victories, he has made it a clean sweep of the tough classics and marked himself out as one to watch in the Ardenns in the spring.


Yesterday Vakoc proved his sprinting skills by winning a sprint from a small group at Classic Sud-Ardeche. Today he showed his skills as a puncheur to make it two in a row at the Drome Classic.


The race ended with a lap of a hilly circuit before the riders tackled the two short climbs of Mur d’Allex and Cote de Livron inside the final 10km. The race really came to life on a tough climb with 32km to go when Guillaume Levarlet (Ag2r) was the lone leader and being chased by Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r).


Here Ag2r played their next card as Pierre Latour attacked. H was joined by two Cofidis riders, Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Brambilla and David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) before Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) brought it back together. In the process, they had passed the fading Bille.


Latour attacked again and this time he was joined by de la Cruz and Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis). They joined Bonnafond who took one big turn for his teammate before being distanced.


Lilian Calmejane (Driecto Energie) launched the next attack and was joined by Nicolas Edet (Cofidis). Jerome Coppel (IAM) also made the junction and they entered the final 30km with a 10-second deficit to Latour, Jeannesson and de la Cruz that had caught Levarley. The peloton was at 25 seconds.


De La Cruz tried to distance his companions on the descent but had no success while Delko and FDJ were chasing hard in the splintering peloton from which Anthony Perez, Julien Guay, Julien Bernard , Clément Chevrier, Armindo Fonseca were dropped. FDJ were mainly responsible for the work and kept the gap at around 20 seconds.


Calmejane briefly tried to bridge across on his own but it was the entire trio that made the junction with 20km to go. At this point, the gap was still 20 seconds as Pierre-Henri Lecuisiner did a great job for FDJ in the peloton.


As they hit the next climb, Cyril Gautier launched an attack that was followed by Tobias Ludvigsson and Amael Moinard. Romain Bardet, Gianluca Brambilla and Adam Yates countered the move  and they quickly passed Levarlet who had been dropped from the break.


Edet attacked on the descent and Calmejane took off in pursuit. The latter was brought back by the chase group that now included Bardet, Jeannesson, Yates, Calmejane, Latour, de la Cruz and Brambilla. With 12km to go, they were 13 seconds behind while Pierrick Fedrigo was at 26 second and the peloton at 33 seconds.


BMC started to chase hard in the peloton and reduced the deficit as they approached the Mur d’Allex with 10km to go. Bardet, Coppel and Jeannesson were left behind on the descent.


As they hit the climb, Calmejane, Latour, Brambilla and Yates dropped De La Cruz and caught Edet. Behind, Bardet tried to get back with a big attack but he crested the summit with a 7-second deficit and was still with Coppel and Jeannesson. Meanwhile, Vakoc and Bakelants had joined from behind.


The peloton was at 17 seconds and now Cofidis had started to chase hard with a bit of help from Auber 93. They approached quickly as did the chasers who caught the leaders with 6km to go.


Latour sacrificed himself for Bardet and Bakelants but as he did not get any help, Cofidis brought a small field back together with 3.5km to go. Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) tried an immediate counterattack but Michael Albasini brought him back for Orica-GreenEDGE.


Bardet was the first rider to hit the 500m Cote de Livron with 2km to go and he tried to attack hard. However, it was his teammate Bakelants who had success as he countered the move. Only Vakoc and Yates could keep up with him and as the latter quickly had to surrender, only two riders were left.


Bakelants rode hard all the way to the top but he was unable to get rid of Vakoc. The Belgian also led all the way down the descent before Vakoc tried to pass him just before the final turn. Bakelants won the battle and launched his sprint but Vakoc turned out to be the fastest for the second day in a row before Arthur Vichot narrowly beat Julien Simon in the sprint for third from a small group.


With the Drome Classic done and dusted, the attention in France turns to the first major event, Paris-Nice, which starts next Sunday.


A hilly course

The third edition of La Drome Classic was held on the same 203.6km course that was used last year. It consisted of three laps of a hilly circuit that included the Cote de Beauvallon, Cote de Montmeyran, Mur d’Allex and Cote du Haute Livron and then one lap of a much harder circuit with four tough climbs. In the end, the riders returned to the finish via the short climbs of Mur d’Allex and Cote du Haut-Livron before they descended the final 1.5km to the line.


It was cold and cloudy when the riders gathered for the start. Stef Clement (IAM) who had fallen ill, was not present as they rode out for their neutral ride.


The attacking starts

Unlike yesterday, it was a relatively quiet start until Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural) launched the first attack after 5km of racing. However, he was quickly brought back but his aggression spurred on other riders.


As lots of moves took off, the peloton split in two. Antoine Demoitie (Wanty) sued the opportunity to attack and was joined by Antwan Tolhoek (Roompot). Armee and Delko shut it down though and instead Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) got clear.


Four riders get clear

Gastauer was joined by his teammates Axel Domont and Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Anthony Perez and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Leonardo Duque (Delko Marseille), Huub Duijn (Roompot), Jérôme Mainard (Armee) and Gaetan Pons (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and they managed to put 20 seconds into the first peloton which was down to only 25 riders. However, it all came back together.


As the pace briefly went down, Bonnafond and Perez attacked again and this time they were joined by Jeremy Cornu (Direct Energie) and Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93). They quickly got a 40-second advantage but Levarlet was distanced. He has to work hard to get back and made the junction when the gap had gone out to 1.50.


IAM and FDJ take control

The peloton was in no hurry and after 35km of racing, the gap was already 3.10. It even went out to 4.57 at the 44km mark where IAM and FDJ decided that it was time to up the pace.


The riders covered 41.9km during the first hour which was enough for defending champion Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) who abandoned. At the end of the first lap, the gap had been reduced to 4.30.


Stable gap

IAM and FDJ were riding fast and after 54km of racing, they had already brought the gap down to 3.15. They kept it stable between 2.45 and 3.30 and only covered 37.3km during the second hour.


At the second passage of the line, the gap was 2.50 and now IAM and FDJ upped the pace. Entering the final 100km, the escapees were only 2.15 ahead and it quickly dropped to less than 2 minutes.


A fight for position

It was still too early to bring the break back so 10km later, it had again gone out to 2.50. IAM and FDJ were still sharing the pace-setting, covering 37.6km during the third hour.


The gap hovered between 2.15 and 2.50 for a while and was 2.35 as they entered the final 70km. Here the fight for position for the third passage Mur d’Allex started and this saw the gap drop to 2.00 with 61km to go.


Bille takes off

A Topsport rider led the peloton onto the climb before FDJ took over with Benoit Vaugrenard. He reduced the gap to 1.40 while Laurent Pichon, Fredrik Strand Galta, Loic Vliegen and Clement Penven were dropped and Gianluca Brambilla suffered a puncture.


As they approached the first climb on the harder second circuit, there was again a big fight for position but FDJ remained in control. AS they started to climb, Gaetan Bille (Wanty) took off and he quickly reduced his deficit to less than a minute.


Levarley makes his move

With 50km to go, he was just 40 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton was at 1.15 and stilled led by FDJ. Riders were still getting dropped as Fumiyuki Beppu, Davide Martinelli Jef van Meirhaeghe, Simon Pellaud, Cheng Jo and Yannis Yssaad were among the riders to lose contact.


Vaugrenard (FDJ) remained in control and allowed the gap to go out to 1.40 with 40km to go while Bille slowly reduced his deficit to 28 seconds at the end of a fourth hour during which 38.6km had been covered. However, as they approached the Col de Grande Limite, the peloton accelerated and this prompted Levarlet to attack. Bonnafond took off in pursuit while Perez and Cornu fell behind.


As thy hit the climb, the peloton exploded with Jérôme Mainard, Anthony Turgis, Yoann Bagot, Jeremy Maison, Benoît Vaugrenard, Otto Vergaerde, Carlos Barbero, Reinier Honig, Thierry Hupond, Pirmin Lang, Anthony Demoitié, Caleb Fairly, Olivier Pardini, Antoine Warnier, Ludwig De Winter, Stijn Steels, Fredrik Ludvigsson, Fabien Grellier, Thomas Deruette, Etienne Van Empel all losing contact. Moments later, Latour took off to start the exciting finale.



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