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Having been part of a seven-rider break, Madrazo and five of his companions narrowly held off the peloton on stage four of Etoile de Besseges, with the Spaniard taking the stage win; Chavanel defended the lead

ANGEL MADRAZO

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CAJA RURAL - SEGUROS RGA

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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ETOILE DE BESSÈGES

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EVALDAS SISKEVICIUS

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SYLVAIN CHAVANEL

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06.02.2016 @ 17:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Angel Madrazo opened Caja Rural’s 2016 account by taking a surprise win on stage 4 of the Etoile de Besseges. Having been part of a seven-rider break, the Spaniard and five of his companions narrowly held off the peloton and he came out on top in the uphill sprint by beating Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille) and Dieter Bouvry (Roubaix). Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) was second in the peloton’s sprint for seventh and defended the overall lead on the eve of the time trial.

 

The 2015 season was a magic one for Caja Rural as the Spanish team won far more races than ever before. Their huge amount of success made them admit that it would be hard for them to repeat the feat in 2016 and things have been off to a relatively slow start.

 

In fact, one of the key riders, Carlos Barbero, crashed out of the Etoile de Besseges on stage 2 and it looked like it would be hard for them to achieve much success in the Spanish race. However, their fortunes changed today when Angel Madrazo took a surprise win in stage four which was expected to end in an uphill sprint.

 

Madrazo was part of a breakaway that also included Frederic Brun (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille), Dieter Bouvry (Roubaix), Thomas Rostollan (Armee), Jacob Scott (An Post) and Roland Thalmann (Roth) and early in the stage nothing suggested that they would stay away, Direct Energie controlled things firmly but as it was the case in stage 2 where the break nearly stayed away, they didn’t get much help.

 

The stage ended with four laps of a 15.4km circuit and the finish line was located 300m up the short climb of the Mur de Laudun. With 66km to go, the clock still showed 4.25 and it even went out to 4.40 when they crossed the finish line to start their first lap of the circuit.

 

This was where the peloton slowly started to accelerate and when Justin Jules (Veranclassic) climbed off his bike with 58km to go, the gap was down to 4.15. The riders averaged 39.6km/h during the first two hours.

 

Madrazo beat Thalmann and Scott in the second sprint while it was Thalmann ahead of Madrazo and Scott in the second KOM sprint. Meanwhile, the peloton continued its slow comeback and the gap was down to 3.45 with 52km to go.

 

As the riders reached Mur de Laudun at the end of the first lap with an advantage of 3.18, Thalmann was dropped. Madrazo beat Scott and Siskevicius in the final intermediate sprint and Brun won the next KOM sprint ahead of Siskevicius and Brun.

 

In the peloton, Thomas Voeckler was doing the work for Direct Energie and he led the bunch across the line 2.58 behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Thalmann had cracked and was already trailing by a minute.

 

The escapees entered the final 40km with an advantage of 2.48 but as Direct Energie did not get any help, they managed to extend it to 3.00. With 33km to go, it was still 2.55 and as Thalmann was brought back, FDJ finally took over.

 

FDJ and Voeckler worked well together and this had a clear effect. The gap was down to 2.20 with 22km to go and at the start of the final 20km, it was just 2.12.

 

Lotto Soudal now took over the pace-setting and they quickly brought it down to 1.45. However, their progress stalled and it was again Direct Energie that hit the front.

 

As the break hit the Mur de Laudun for the penultimate time, Rostollan was clearly suffering. Meanwhile, Sylvain Chavanel launched a surprise attack and was followed by Dimitri Claeys (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) but they were quickly brought back.

 

The fast pace meant that the peloton had split on the climb and this opened the door for Chavanel and Claeys to try again and this time they were joined by Jerome Cousin (Cofidis) and Jerome Baugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).

 

Chavanel quickly sat up and moments later the rest of the counterattack was also caught. The chase continued but the gap was still 1.23 with 10km to go.

 

Surprisingly, the peloton slowed down and so the gap had gone out to 1.36 with 6km to go. Cofidis finally decided to up the pace but they had only taken back four seconds with four kilometres to go.

 

The game of cat and mouse started in the breakaway and this was nearly costly. With 2km to go, it was down to 30 seconds and it was just 26 seconds with 1.5km to go.

 

As they hit the final 300m which were uphill, the escapees were just 15 seconds ahead but that turned out to be enough. Madrazo accelerated and won the uphill sprint, putting two seconds into Siskevicius in second and four seconds into Bouvry in third, before Timothy Dupont (Roubaix) beat Chavanel and Romain Feillu (Auber 93) in the sprint for seventh 13 seconds behind the winner.

 

Chavanel defended his overall lead and is still 2 seconds ahead of Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) while Arthur Vichot is nine second adrift in third. It will now all be decided in tomorrow’s final stage which is the crucial time trial in Ales. The 11.9km test has a flat start but suits riders with a punch on short climbs as it ends at the top of the 2km l’Hermitage climb where the overall winner of the race will be crowned.

 

A punchy finale

After yesterday’s queen stage, the riders were facing another challenging stage on day four which saw them tackle 148.46km from Tavel to Audun. After a lumpy first part with one passage of the Mur de Laudun, the riders ended the stage by doing four laps of a 15.4km circuit that included the Mur de Laudun. The finish line was located on the lower slopes, meaning that the scene was set for an uphill sprint.

 

After the sunny start to the race, things had changed for the final road stage as it was cloudy and windy when the riders rolled out for their neutral ride. Nicolas Baldo (Roth) was the only non-starter as they tackled the first uncategorized ascent.

 

Five riders get clear

After an aggressive start, five riders managed to get clear when Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Frederic Brun (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille), Dieter Bouvry (Roubaix) and Thomas Rostollan (Armee) took off. Jacob Scott (An Post) took off in pursuit and was dangling 15 seconds as the peloton slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to more than a minute.

 

Roland Thalmann (Roth) wanted to get back in the lead of the mountains classification and attacked from the peloton. Meanwhile, the peloton continued to lose ground and at the 22km mark, they were 2.15 behind. At this point, Scott was at 45 seconds and Thalmann at 1.10.

 

The chasers join forces

Madrazo beat Siskevicius and Bouvry in the first KOM sprint and the order of passage was the same in the first intermediate sprint. Meanwhile, Thalmann and Scott joined forces but they were 1.30 behind at the 32km mark where the peloton had been distanced by 4.36.

 

Thalmann and Scott started to get closer and nine kilometres later, they were just 25 seconds behind. The peloton was still in no hurry and were 5.00 behind at this point.

 

A septet is formed

After 42km of racing – the riders covered 41km in the first hour – the junction was made in the front and a septet was formed. However, the peloton was now responding and had brought the gap down to 4.25 at the 45km mark while it was 4.20 ten kilometres later.

 

It was the Direct Energie team setting the pace but they were in no hurry and kept the gap around 4.30 for a while. It was still 4.25 when they entered the final 80km and in the end it turned out that they had given the break too much of an advantage as Madrazo took the win.

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