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Having entered the final turn in the first two positions, Martinelli and Gaviria avoided a late crash and so made it a 1-2 for Etixx-QuickStep on the second stage of Tour La Provence; Voeckler retained the lead

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele












24.02.2016 @ 17:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Davide Martinelli surprisingly took his first professional win on the second stage of Tour La Provence as he led his teammate Fernando Gaviria across the line in a 1-2 for Etixx-QuickStep. The pair were the first two riders in the final turn and when Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ) crashed out from third position, they had plenty of time to celebrate the victory while Daniele Ratto (Androni) could only sprint to a distant third place. Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) defended the lead.


Mainly known as a time trial specialist, Davide Martinelli probably didn’t enter the Tour La Provence expecting to take his first pro win in the new French race. After all, he was mainly set to work as the final lead-out man for Fernando Gaviria who was the big favourite for the bunch sprints that were predicted for stages 2 and 3.


However, in the chaos of sprinting, unexpected opportunities sometimes turn up and that’s what happened for Martinelli in today’s second stage of the race. By doing his job excellently, he was the first rider through the final turn with 100m to go and as he had his Colombian captain on his wheel, he was ready to deliver Gaviria to another win.


However, Lorrenzo Manzin slid out in that final corner which came around 200m from the line. That allowed the Etixx-QuickStep pair to get an unexpected advantage and as Gaviria decided not to pass his teammate, Martinelli could raise his arms to celebrate a surprise win.


Etixx-QuickStep had been working hard for the bunch sprint and had brought the gap to Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) and Egor Silin (Katusha) down to 47 seconds at the start of the first lap of the 6.3km finishing circuit that would be done four times. Etixx-QuickStep and Direct Energie were now combining forces in the peloton, with Carlos Verona, Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep) and Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie) leading the bunch across the line for the first time.


Bagot and Silin did very well to keep an advantage of 31 seconds at the end of the first lap. They were helped by the fact that Etixx-QuickStep had stopped their work and it was now only Romain Sicard working on the front for Direct Energie.


While the first riders (Thomas Rostollan, Cesar Bihel, and Jan Ghyselinck) started to get dropped, Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) and Androni came to the fore to lend Direct Energie a hand and at the end of the second lap, there was only 10 seconds left of the advantage. Marco Frapporti (Androni), Verona, Velits and the Direct Energie pair of Yoann Gene and Sicard were leading the chase and they managed to bring the two escapees back moments after the passage of the line. The pair had already been distanced by 1.40 at the start of the final lap as they completely sat up.


Alo Jakin (Auber 93) and crossed the line at the start of the lap with a 3-second advantage over the peloton which was led by Direct Energie. However, he was soon brought.


Loic Vliegen (BMC) was the next rider to give it a go and he managed to get an advantage of 6 seconds with 2km to go. He did well to battle against the mighty field but it was all in vain as it was back together for the final kilometre.


Etixx-QuickStep proved their strength as they hit the front and in the crucial final turn with 300m to go, Martinelli and Gaviria were on the front. Riding in third wheel, Manzin slid out in dramatic fashion and while he crashed into the barriers, a gap opened behind the two riders from the Belgian team. Gaviria decided not to pass his teammate who could raise his arms to take his first pro win while Daniele Ratto (Androni) was the first rider to get around the carnage in the turn and sprinted to third place ahead of Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and Michael van Staeyen (Cofidis).


Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) stayed safe in the chaos and so defended his seven-second lead over Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep). He now just needs to survive the final stage which is very similar to today’s. It has a tough start with three hard climbs but the final 120km are mainly flat. There are a few small rises inside the final 30km but unless the wind comes into play, it will be hard to prevent another bunch sprint.


One for the sprinters

After the hilly opener, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in stage 2 which brought the riders over 185km from Miramas to Istres. The first part included the climbs of Cote des 4 Thermes, Cote de Rognes, Cote de Seze, Revers de Seze, Cote du Calvaire and Montee Val de Aurons but as the final 60km were flat, a bunch sprint was expected. The stage ended with four laps of a 6.3km circuit.


It was another sunny day in France when the riders gathered for the start. All the riders that finished yesterday, were present as they headed out for their short neutral ride.


An aggressive start

As soon as the flag was dropped, Maxime Renault (Auber 93) and Nans Peters (France) attacked and they were quickly joined by Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) and Nico Denz (Ag2r). Behind, lots of attacks were launched but everything was back together after 6km of racing.


Six riders managed to get clear but at the 11km mark, that move was also neutralized. As they approached the first climb, it was Marco Frapporti (Androni) and Jeremy Lecroq (France) taking off and they hit the ascent with a 10-second advantage.


Four riders get clear

On the climb, seven riders joined the leading two riders before a quartet emerged. Bagot was again present and he was joined by Egor Silin (Katusha), Jeremey Maison (FDJ) and Remy Di Gregorio (Delko). Clemet Penven (Armee) took off in pursuit and was 28 seconds behind after 26km of racing where the peloton had slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to a minute. Meanwhile, an ill Stephane Poulhies (Armee) managed to rejoin the bunch.


While the gap went out to 2.35 at the 33km mark, Penven was stuck at 30 seconds. He failed to get back in time for the first intermediate sprint where Maison beat Bagot and Di Gregorio.


Penven makes the junction

After 38km of racing, the gap was 3.20 and at this point, things were looking bad for Penven as he was 40 seconds behind. However, he managed to close the gap during the next five kilometres as the leaders waited for their chaser.


The peloton was in no hurry and the gap had gone out to four minutes after 50km of racing. However, that was the signal for Direct Energie to up the pace and they had reduced it to 3.30 at the bottom of the Cote de Seze with 118km to go.


The gap comes down

The front quartet only lost 10 seconds on the climb and the gap had gone back out to 3.30 with 111km to go after Di Gregorio had beaten Silin in the KOM sprint. Surprisingly, the escapees suddenly got the upper hand and the gap went out to 4.10 with 106km to go.


Silin beat Penven and Bagot in the second intermediate sprint with 97km to go where the peloton again started to reduce the gap. With 78km to go, it had already been reduced to 2.40.


Silin and Bagot take off

Penven was dropped as the escapees climbed the Cote d’Aurons with an advantage of just 2.20 and he had already been distanced by 25 seconds at the top. Hence, he waited for the peloton which was again losing ground and was now 3 minutes behind.


The attacking started in the breakaway and Silin and Bagot quickly put 20 seconds into Di Gregorio and Maison while also increasing their advantage over the peloton to 3.50. The two chasers quickly lost the motivation and with 58km to go, they were already 1.55 behind.


Etixx-QuickStep come to the fore

Etixx-QuickStep finally decided to chase and this had a big effect. With 53km to go, they were 3.20 behind the two leaders and moments later they brought the two chasers back. Entering the final 40km, it was already down to 2.10.


The gap was melting away and with 26km to go, there was only 47 seconds left of the advantage for Silin and Bagot. That was not enough and in the end it all came down to a bunch sprint.



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