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By winning a hilly first stage of the race, Leukemans put himself in a great position to repeat his 2011 win in the Tour du Limousin

Photo: Vacansoleil-DCM

BJÖRN LEUKEMANS

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CIRCUS-WANTY GOBERT

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MAURO FINETTO

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STEPHANE ROSSETTO

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TOUR DU LIMOUSIN

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19.08.2014 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) bounced back from the illness that took him out of the Eneco Tour when he won today’s opening stage of the Tour de Limousin. Having joined a strong 19-rider group in the finale, the Belgian launched a late attack and managed to hold off his chasers to put himself in the first leader’s jersey of the four-day race.

 

One week ago Bjorn Leukemans was hit by a major setback when illness prevented him from taking the start in the Eneco Tour which was one of his major goals in the second part of the season. Today he bounced back from the disappointment when he won the opening stage of the Tour du Limousin.

 

Being the 2011 winner, Leukemans is perfectly suited to the hilly race which is made up of four stages that suit classics specialists and puncheurs and the Belgian made good use of his form to make it into a 19-rider group that escaped on the many climbs. With 3km to go, he made a solo attack and as no one made an immediate response he got a gap that allowed him to hold off lone chaser Stephane Rossetto (BigMat) to take his first win of the season.

 

The first stage took place on a 176.3km course from Limoges to Brive. The roads were up or down almost all day and the riders had to tackle three categorized climbs. The final of those, the Cote de Lissac came less than 10km from the finish before the riders descended down to a flat finish.

 

The race got off to a very bad start as Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was hit by a car before the race had even started and suffered what is believed to be a broken collarbone. While he was transported to the hospital, the race started very aggressively with lots of attacks.

 

One of the animators was Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) who joined an 8-rider group before taking off alone. However, he was brought back and Remy Di Gregorio (La Pomme) had no luck either.

 

Instead, Flavien Dassonville (BigMat) made an attack and he was joined by Frederik Backaert (Wanty), Florian Guillou (Bretagne) and Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) to form the day’s early break. The peloton allowed them to build an advantage of 5 minutes while FDJ set a steady pace in the peloton.

 

In a windy section, the peloton brought the gap down to 1.35 before they again slowed down. When the escapees were again 4.30 ahead and Guillou and Backaert had won the first two intermediate sprints respectively, another acceleration brought the gap down to a minute.

 

The gap dropped to just 20 seconds and while Madrazo fell back to the peloton, this allowed Anthony Geslin (FDJ) to bridge the gap. Jerome Pineau (IAM) was the next rider to make the junction before Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) also made it across.

 

Axel Domont (Ag2r) just managed to bridge the gap before the peloton brought it all back together after 82km of racing. This opened the door for new attacks and an 18-rider group emerged from the carnage

 

Vichot (FDJ.Fr), Gautier, Reza (Europcar), Seeldrayers, Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Finetto (Neri Sottoli), Taaramae (Cofidis), Rebellin (CCC Polsat Polkowice), Boem, Bongirono (Bardiani-CSF), Vachon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Parrinello (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), R. Fernandez (Caja Rural), Rossetto (BigMat-Auber 93), Turgis (Roubaix-Lille Métropole), Di Grégorio and J. Goncalves (La Pomme Marseille 13) fought hard to maintain an advantage of 30 seconds over a peloton that was led by Ag2r. When the gap was down to just 20 seconds, Chavanel tried to bridge across but he failed to make the junction.

 

While Reza was dropped from the front group and the peloton split in two, Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Christophe Kern (Europcar), Simone Ponzi (Neri Sottoli) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) made it across. At this point, Seeldraeyers punctured out of the lead group which was still 20m ahead.

 

Leukemans attacked just before the final intermediate sprint which he won ahead of Duque and Turgis while disaster struck for Dumoulin who flatted. The Frenchman fought hard to rejoin the front group but a crash definitely put an end to his ambitions.

 

Leukemans was joined by another four riders but the group was brought back with 30km to go. The front group was now 2 minutes ahead of the peloton and it was evident that the stage winner would be one of the escapees.

 

Kern attacked just before the final climbs and he managed to crest the summit in first position, with Taaramae and Rebellin taking the minor points out of a four-rider chase group.

 

With 7km to go, however, 17 riders were back together after Duque and Boem had been dropped. Inside the final 5km, Leukemans made his move and he quickly got a decent gap. Rossette took off in pursuit and even though he got close in the finale, he had to settle for second behind the Wanty captain. Finetto beat Kern and Di Gregorio in the sprint for third.

 

With the win Leukemans takes the first leader’s jersey which he will try to defend in tomorrow’s second stage. It’s another very hilly affair with three categorized climbs and a tough uncategorized rise to the finish.

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