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Latour and Geniez share the spoils on final day in Ain

In a thrilling finale, Latour and Jeandesboz held off a small group of climbers before the Ag2r rider sprinted to the win in the uphill finale of the Tour de l’Ain queen stage; Geniez won the race overall

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ALEXANDRE GENIEZ

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FLORIAN VACHON

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TOUR DE L'AIN

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15.08.2015 @ 19:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r) finally took a long overdue first professional win when he came out on top in the queen stage of the Tour de l’Ain. Having joined forces with Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) on the hardest climb, he finally beat his companion in a two-rider sprint on the final climb after they had managed to hold off a select group of favourites. Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) limited his losses sufficiently to take the overall win.

 

Being one of the best climbers at the U23 level, Pierre-Roger Latour has always stood out as one of the biggest talents and he has had a remarkable debut season on the professional scene. He first caught the attention when he finished third behind Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana in the Route du Sud and last week he impressed by taking fifth in the Vuelta a Burgos.

 

This year he was expecting to take it a bit easier in the Tour de l’Ain where he planned to work for Domenico Pozzovivo and Jean-Christophe Peraud but apparently his legs were too good to resist the temptation to go for victory. Already yesterday he got close when he was part of the four-rider group that sprinted for the win and today he finally took his first pro win by conquering the final stage which was also the queen stage.

 

Latour made his move on the hardest climb of the race which summited just 21km from the finish. With Fabrice Jeandsboz for company, he made it back to teammate Hubert Dupont who had been in the early break and did a great job for his leader before he swung off.

 

The pair crested the summit with a 28-second advantage over a 10-rider group that included race leader Alexandre Geniez. Having started the stage just 19 seconds behind, the Ag2r rider was the virtual leader and this forced Geniez into a desperate chase.

 

Geniez made use of his good descending skills to bring the gap down to 10 seconds at the bottom of the descent where the riders hit a 10km uphill drag to the line. Behind, Pozzovivo, Geniez and Stevne Kruijswijk (LottoNL) were attacking each other but Latour and Jeandesboz worked excellently together to maintain their lead.

 

At the flamme rouge, they were just 7 seconds behind and it seemed like they would be caught. However, they had one extra dig left and it was Latour who beat Jeandesboz in the sprint after a thrilling finale. Florian Vachon (Bretagne) won the sprint for third.

 

Geniez limited his losses sufficiently to take the overall victory with a five-second advantage over Vachon. Latour has to settle for third, four seconds further adrift. Nacer Bouhanni won the points jersey while Brice Feillu was the best climber. Latour was obviously the best young rider.

 

With the Tour de l’Ain done and dusted, attention turns to the Tour de Limousin which starts on Tuesday and is traditionally suited to puncheurs who use it to prepare for the GP Plouay which is the next WorldTour race on French soil.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s first mountain stage, more climbing was on the menu on the final day when the riders tacled 140.5km from Nantua to Lelex Monts-Jura. After a short flat section, the riders tackled two category 3 and one category 2 climb in the first half before the hit the category 1 Cote de Giron at the midpoint. However, the main challenge was the category 1 Col de Menthieres which summited just 21km from the finish and from there it was a descent and 10km of gradual uphill to the finish.

 

After the first very hot days, it was significantly colder with a 16-deree temperature when the riders gathered for the start. Elie Gesbert (France) who crashed yesterday was the only absent rider when they rolled out for their neutral ride.

 

A break takes off

Like yesterday, the race got off to a fast start with numerous attacks but this time, the break was established a lot earlier. Already after a few kilometres of attacking, Hubert Dupont (Ag2r), Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Brice Feillu (Bretagne), Quentin Pacher (Armee), Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93), Yoann Paillot (Marseille) and Fabien Grellier (France) established a 7-rider breakaway that managed to build a 20-second advantage before Jerome Cousin (Eurcopar) bridged the gap. Meanwhile, the first riders were already getting dropped from the peloton as Alexandre Blain (Marseille), Alexis Bodiot (Armee) and Alo Jakin (Auber 93) lost contact.

 

Feillu beat Paillot, Hardy and Dupont in the first KOM sprint while Martijn Tusveld (LottoNL-Jumbo) tried to bridge the gap. He had to give up though and fell back to the peloton which was now 50 seconds behind.

 

FDJ in control

With Feillu in the group, FDJ hit the front immediately and kept the gap around 50 seconds while Levarlet beat Feilly and Grellier in the first intermediate sprint. At the bottom of the second climb, the gap was 1.00 Feillu beat Paillot, Levarlet, Dupont and the Cofidis rider in the KOM sprint whiler Hardy had to spend some energy to rejoin the group after a puncture on the descent.

 

While Julien Loubet was dropped and abandoned, the gap stayed around 1.00 as Marc Sarreau set the pace for FDJ. As they entered the final 100km, he had allowed it to go out to 1.25 while Hardy again had to work his way back to the front after another puncture.

 

Courteille and Reza ride strongly

As they hit the third climb, Sarreau ended his work after having kept the gap at 1.20 and more riders were getting dropped. At the top of the climb, Feilly beat Cousin, Levarlet and Dupont in the sprint while the peloton was still only 1.25 behind.

 

As they hit the first category 1 climb, the peloton exploded to pieces as Nacer Bouhanni was one of the riders to get dropped. In the front group, Feillu did most of the work while Kevin Reza and Arnaud Courteille set the pace for FDJ in the peloton.

 

Peters makes a big attack

Reza cracked and left it to Courteille to keep the situation under control before Feilly led Paillot, Pacher, Dupont, Hardy and Levarlet over the top. At this point the gap was 1.10.

 

Nans Peters (France) made a big attack on the descent and he did an impressive solo effort to bridge the gap. However, he spent more than 15km on his own before he got back to the front at a time when the peloton was still 1.10 behind.

 

Ag2r do some damage

As they approached the main climb, Ag2r hit the front and started to make things hard. Tthe peloton again exploded under the pressure of Samuel Dumoulin and Julien Berard and at the bottom of the ascent, the gap was only 30 seconds.

 

Pacher attacked from the front group which exploded to pieces. Hardy was the first to get caught while Dupont, Feillu and Peters were the nearest chasers.

 

Latour makes his move

The main group was down to 14 riders when Latour made his attack. His teammate Jean-Christophe Pearud was dropped while Dupont passed Pacher to become the lone leader.

 

He waited for Latour before Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) made the junction to make it a trio with an 8-second advantage over the peloton which was still led by Courteille. Dupont finished his job while the front duo extended their advantage to 28 seconds.

 

A small group of favourites

When Courteille swung off, only Geniez, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL), Sam Oomen (Rabobank), Patrick Konrad, Jose Mendes (Bora Argon 18), Theo Vimpere (Auber 93) and Guillaume Martin (France) were still left and moments later Kruijswijk attacked. Only Pozzovivo, Geniez, Konrad, Oomen and Martin could respond but Mendes made it back 4km from the top.

 

The group slowed down and this allowed Dupont, Vimpere and Peters to rejoin the bunch whis´ch was now 40 seconds behind the leaders. Moments later Pozzovivo and Kruijswijk attacked and they managed to briefly distance Geniez. However, the main group was back together when they reached the summit, 28 seconds behind Latour and Jeandesboz.

 

A thrilling finale

The gap was down to just 13 second at the bottom of the descent where a bigger group was about to catch the 10-rider main group. The junction was never made though even though Feillu and Courteille tried.

 

With 8km to go, Pozzovivo attacked but Geniez managed to join him. Oomen and Kruijswijk also made it back and the quartet were now 15 seconds behind the leaders. A regrouping took place though as the rest of the 10-rider group and Florian Vachon made it back.

 

With 4km to go, the gap was unchanged and it was down to 11 seconds with 1800m to go. At the flamme rouge, it was 7 seconds but Latour managed to hold on before taking a sprint win.

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