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The duo escapes from the peloton in the finale and stays away to the finish, with Moinard taking the stage win and Betancur taking the overall win

Photo: BMC / Tim De Waele












23.02.2014 @ 19:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Amael Moinard (BMC) took a rare victory when the strong French domestique won today's final and very hilly stage of the Tour du Haut Var. The Frenchman escaped with overall leader Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) in the final and the pair combined forces to keep the peloton at bay, with Moinard taking the stage win and Betancur the overall victory ahead of his teammate Samuel Dumoulin and his breakaway companion.


Amael Moinard is known as a hard-working domestique at the BMC team but the Frenchman very rarely gets the chance to chase personal success. Today he enjoyed some time in the spotlight when he became a surprise winner of the final and very difficult stage of the two-day Tour du Haut-Var.


Moinard made it into a breakaway that escaped on the day's final climb after his teammate Thor Hushovd had been caught by the peloton following an impressive solo break. With the peloton breathing down their neck, Moinard took off on his own and was joined from behind by race leader Carlos Betancur.


With no bonus seconds in the race, it was imperative for Betancur to finish the stage ahead of John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) who was equal on time with the Colombian and so he had a genuine interest in keeping the break alive in a quest to take the overall win. Moinard was eager to take a rare victory, making the duo a perfect fit.


They combined well together and managed to keep the peloton at bay. Unsurprisingly, they shared the spoils after their good cooperation, with Moinard taking the stage win and Betancur the overall victory.


Emilien Viennet (FDJ) made a late counterattack to take 3rd, 10 seconds behind the leaders, while Moinard's teammate Cadel Evans showed good condition by leading the peloton across the line 2 seconds later. Having already won the first stage, Betancur to a convincing overall win ahead of his teammate Dumoulin in an Ag2r 1-2 while Moinard took the final spot on the podium.


With the Tour du Haut-Var done and dusted, the French season continues next weekend with a pair of one-day races. On Saturday, the Boucles du Sud-Ardeche is held on a hilly course while the sprinters are expected to come to the fore in Sunday's Drome Classic.


A hilly race

After yesterday's tricky opening stage, the 203.4km second and final stage starting and finishing in Draguignan was simply a brutal affair. In addition to the long distance, the riders were challenged by a constantly rolling terrain that sent the riders up several short, very steep climbs, with the 23% Mur de Montaouroux and the Mur de Tourrettes-Fayences featuring several times on the course. The riders ended the stage by doing a 23.5km finishing circuit that included the Cote des Tuillieres 20.5km from the finish.


The hard terrain invited to attacks and as the riders started to climb the Col de st Andrieu almost right from the beginning, the start was a tough one. Attacks were came thick and fast and it took a long time for the break to be established.


The first break

Initially, it seemed that Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme Marseille 13), Pierre Gouault (BigMat - Auber 93), Julien Duval (Roubaix - Lille Métropôle) and an unidentified rider had escaped the peloton but Colombia and Europcar brought it back together after a few kilometres. New attacks were launched, the pace was furious, and shortly into the race, more than 20 riders had already been dropped, including an ill defending champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ).


A 13-rider group escaped from which Antoine Lavieu (La Pomme Marseille), Clement Koretzky (Bretagne) and Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ) emerged. The trio were quickly swallowed up, opening the door for new attacks.


Big groups take off

Some rather big groups went up the road as at certain points 15- and 20-rider groups formed but none of them were allowed to go clear. Things were more promising for Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Joshua Edmondson (Sky), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix) and Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) who appeared to have made it but at the 25km mark, it was back together.


The next attack was the right one and again Molard and Cousin were part of the action. They were joined by Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Florian Vacon (Bretagne), and Floris Smeyers (Verandas Willems) in a strong 7-rider break Marcel Wyss (IAM) set off in pursuit when the gap was less than 25 seconds  but when the escape was 1.45 ahead of the peloton, he had lost time, sitting 45 seconds behind the leaders.


Wyss joins the leaders

With the gap to the peloton up to 3.30, the riders hit the first categorized climb and at this point Wyss was 1.05 behind. However, the Swiss proved his great climbing skills when he closed the gap on the ascent, making it an 8-rider break.


At the top, the gap was 4.20 when Hardy beat Le Bon, Cousin and his teammate Molard to take maximum points. At the 53km mark, the advantage was 5 minutes and this was when Betancur's Ag2r teammates decided to start to control the race.


A battle for points

The French team kept the gap stable at around 5 minutes for a very long time. Up ahead, Wyss beat Molard and Smeyers in the first intermediate sprint while Molard beat Hushovd and Wyss at the first passage of the Mur de Montauroux.


Molard was also first at the Mur de Tourettes-Fayence, this time ahead of Smeyers and Hardy while Cousin was first across the line at the second intermediate sprint, with Hardy and Wyss being 2nd and 3rd. The next time of the Montauroux, it was again Molard ahead of Smeyers and Wyss and it was the same order the second time up the Tourettes-Fayence.


IAM accelerate

All the time, Ag2r had kept the gap between 4 and 5 minutes but now IAM saw a chance to split things up in a windy section. The Swiss team made an unsuccessful attack but their acceleration brought the gap down to 3.45.


Ag2r was back in control and kept the gap stable at around that mark for the next several kilometres. Up ahead, Le Bon beat Hardy and Hushovd in the day's final intermediate sprint but shortly after Hushovd decided that it was time to take things into his own hands.


Hushovd attacks on his own

The Norwegian attacked on an uncategorized climb and quickly built up a gap. For a long time, he stayed around 20 seconds ahead but he gradually won the battle and started to slip clear.


With 43km to go, he was 1.10 ahead of the chasers while the peloton was at 3.40. Hardy could not sustain the pace and fell back to the peloton.


The chasers are caught

Ag2r still set the pace in the peloton and while the gap to the main group remained stable at around 3.45, the chasers kept losing ground to both Hushovd and the bunch. 28km from the finish, it was over, leaving just Hushovd ahead of the main group.


La Pomme Marseille started to chase hard in the peloton and now Hushovd started to pay for a long day in the saddle. 38km from the finish, his advantage was down to 1.05 and it didn't get any easier when Giant-Shimano started to chase behind.


Hushovd is caught

Hushovd was still clear at the first passage of the line while Bert De Backer and Tom Stamsnijder led Giant-Shimano across the line a little later. As they hit the Cote de Tuillieres a few moments later, Hushovd could no longer stay away and was absorbed by the peloton.


Fabio Duarte (Colombia) attacked on the ascent and after a short chase, he was joined by Remy Di Gregorio (La Pomme Marseille). Igor Anton (Movistar), Nathan Earle (Sky), Amael Moinard (BMC), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM), Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne), and Emilien Viennet (FDJ) set off in pursuit but the latter quickly fell off the pace.


Di Gregorio first at the top

Duarte could not keep up with Di Gregorio and was absorbed by the chasers. Di Gregorio was first at the top ahead of Moinard, Earle, Anton, and Duarte and Di Gregorio was caught a few moments later.


A reshuffling took place as only Moinard could stay away and he was joined from behind by Betancur. With 5km to go, they were 15 seconds ahead of the peloton where Bretagne had taken responsibility for the chase.


Solid cooperation

With 3km to go, they were still 20 seconds ahead and 1km further up the road, the gap was still the same. With both riders being committed to the work and a clear share of interests, the peloton had no chance against the front duo and they managed to stay away to the finish.


As expected, Moinard took the stage win and Betancur the overall victory while Viennet made a late attack to take 3rd before Evans led the peloton across the line.



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