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Having been part of the early break, Lindeman took the biggest win of his career when he held off a fierce pursuit by Bardet in the Tour de l’Ain queen stage; the Dutchman also takes the overall lead with just one stage remaining

Photo: Vacansoleil-DCM

BERT JAN LINDEMAN

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DANIEL MARTIN

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RABOBANK DEVELOPMENT TEAM

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TOUR DE L'AIN

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15.08.2014 @ 18:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bert-Jan Lindeman (Rabobank) proved that he deserves to return to the WorldTour when he took a fantastic solo win in the queen stage of the Tour de l’Ain. Having been part of the early break, he held off a fierce pursuit by defending champion Romain Bardet (Ag2r) to take the biggest victory of his career and take over the leader’s jersey with just one stage remaining.

 

At the end of the 2013 season, Bert-Jan Lindeman’s career was hit by a major setback when he failed to find a new professional team after Vacansoleil had folded. Hence, he had to step down to continental level with the Rabobank team but he has done nothing to hide his ambition to return to the highest level.

 

Today he recommended himself for the WorldTour teams when he took a fantastic solo victory in the Tour de l’Ain queen stage. Having been part of the early breakaway, he benefited from the fact that the favourites underestimated and were way too late in starting a chase.

 

On the day’s hardest climb, Ag2r tried to blow things to pieces before sending off defending champion Romain Bardet in pursuit but it was too late for the climbing star. Lindeman had dropped his rivals and despite Bardet’s hard effort, he managed to hold off the favourite to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.

 

After two stages for the sprinters, it was time for the queen stage in the Tour de l’Ain. The riders travelled over 142.8km from Lagnieu to Lelex-Mont Jura and it was a very undulating affair. After a flat start, the riders hit the first of five categorized climbs and from there it was up or down all day. The hardest ascent was the Col de Menthieres which summited with 21km to go and from there it was first a long descent and a gradual 10km climb to the finish.

 

All riders who finished yesterday’s stage took the start under torrential rain but the bad weather didn’t dampen their spirits. The start was very fast as lots of attacks were launched.

 

The first to get a significant gap were Brice Feillu (Bretagne), Higinio Fernandez (Ecuador) and Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) who attacked on the first climb but they were brought back before the top. Here KOM leader Artur Fedosseyev (CT Astana) led Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Guillaume Levarlet (Cofidis), Lindeman and Sam Oomen (Rabobank) over the top.

 

The attacking continued with Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) being one of the riders to give it a go but at the 38km mark, things were still together. After 50km of racing, the elastic finally snapped when Julien El Fares (Marseille), Lindeman and Jordi Simon (Ecuador) got an advantage.

 

El Fares led Lindeman over the top of the second climb while Frederik Brun (BigMat) picked up the final point on offer. At this point, the gap was only 40 seconds but the advantage started to grow and reached  3.35 with 75km to go.

 

The peloton slowed completely down and when El Fares led Simon over the top of the next climb, the gap was 6.15. Cedric Pineau (FDJ) had taken off in pursuit and was now 2.50 back.

 

The gap even reached 7.20 before the peloton finally upped the pace and started to stabilize the situation. With 50km to go, it was still 7.45 while Pineau was at 3.25.

 

On the next climb, Ag2r finally decided to tighten the screws and their fast pace made the peloton explode. As El Fares led Simon over the top, the gap had come down to 6.05 while Pineau was at 4.05.

 

With 30km to go, Pineau was caught just as the peloton hit the bottom of the day’s biggest climb. The bunch had split on the descent and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin) was among the riders to have been caught in the second group.

 

Simon fought his way back from an untimely puncture while the peloton regrouped on the lower slopes of the climb. However, Ag2r were now going full gas and race leader Gianni Meersman was one of several riders to get dropped.

 

El Fares was dropped from the front group which was now just 3.30 ahead of the 17-rider peloton that was led by Jean-Christophe Peraud. The Frenchman continued to ride hard and as they approached the summit, only Bardet, Péraud (AG2R), Bagot (Cofidis), Uran (Omega Pharma), Elissonde (FDJ.fr), Sicard (Europcar), Dan Martin (Garmin) and Di Gregorio (La Pomme Marseille 13) were left.

 

Lindeman attacked and left Simon behind while Bardet made his first attack from the peloton. While Lindeman gained ground on his former companion, Peraud and Martin set off in pursuit of Bardet.

 

At the top of the climb, Lindeman was 45 seconds ahead of Simon while Bardet was at 2.00. Peraud and Martin had been caught by their chasers who had been joined by Pierre-Roger Latour (France)

 

Bardet caught Simon on the descent and as they started the final climb, they were 1.40 behind while their chasers were at 3.00. On the lowers slopes of the climb, Martin attacked an only Peraud and Di Gregorio could match him.

 

However, they failed to get back in contention and the rest of the stage was a fierce pursuit between Lindeman and Bardet who had dropped Simon. Bardet gradually edged closer but he ran out of metres. Lindeman held on to take the biggest win of his career with a 57-second advantage while Martin won the sprint for third 1.27 further adrift.

 

With the win, Lindeman also takes the leader’s jersey and he goes into the final stage with an advantage over Bardet of around 50 seconds. He faces another hilly day in terrain that is always up or down but the seven categorized climbs are all of the third or fourth category. The final one summits 13km from the finish and then it’s short descent to the bottom of a small climb to the finish.

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