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Having made it into an 18-rider front group in the hilly finale, Petit beat Jarrier and Palini in the uphill sprint on the third stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo; Palini defended his lead

ADRIEN PETIT

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ANDREA PALINI

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BENOIT JARRIER

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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LA TROPICALE AMISSA BONGO ONDIMBA

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20.01.2016 @ 19:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Adrien Petit got his Direct Energie career off to the best possible start as he took his first win on the third day in his new jersey. In the hilly finale of the third stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, he made it into an 18-rider front group and managed to beat Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Andrea Palini (Skydive Dubai) in the sprint. Palini defended his overall lead.

 

After spending the first years of his pro career at Cofidis, Adrien Petit was signed by Direct Energie that want to turn him into a key lead-out man for Bryan Coquard. However, in his first outing for his new team at Africa’s biggest race, Tropicale Amissa Bongo, he has been given the chance to ride for himself.

 

Petit showed that he is in good form by sprinting to third in the opening stage but on the first two stages he has been up against an unstoppable Andrea Palini. However, when the race entered hillier terrain in today’s third stage, he showed his new employers that they have made the right decision as he came out on top in a tough finale.

 

After two days in relatively flat terrain, the riders entered hillier terrain on stage 3 which brought them over 130km from Lambaréné to Ndjolé. The first part was mainly flat and only included one smaller climb but things got significantly more difficult in the finale. The final 30km included several short climbs of which two were categorized and they were located just 16.5km and 5.1km from the finish. From the final summit, it was a downhill run to the final 500m that were slightly uphill.

 

The early break was established very early as Essaid Abelouache (Morocco), Janvier Hadi (Rwanda), Michael Habtom (Eritrea) and Abdelkader Hanachi (Algeria) attacked in the first kilometre and they had built an advantage of 40 seconds at the 8km mark. The gap had gone out to 2 minutes nine kilometres later when Thomas Voeckler started to work in the peloton for Direct Energie.

 

Hanachi beat Habtom and Hadi in the first KOM sprint at a time when the escapees could see Voeckler’s hard work pay off. At the 26km mark, the gap was already down to 45 seconds and this prompted Hanachi to make a solo move. He stayed clear for two kilometres but at the 30km mark, it was all back together.

 

Hence, the GC riders could go for bonus seconds in the first intermediate sprint but a late move allowed Yannick Lontsi (Cameroun) to cross the line in first position ahead of Yauheni Hutarovich (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Tesfom Okubamariam (Eritrea). He was brought back after the sprint but that didn’t dampen the attacking spirit. French champion Steven Tronet (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) was very active but unable to get clear.

 

Finally, the elastic snapped when Hadi again took off. This time he was joined by Okubariam, Jean Bosco Nsengimana (Stradall) and Mohmed Amine Er-Rafai (Morocco) and that quartet had a 40-second lead at the 75km mark. The gap went out to 1 minute just 8km later after Okubamairam had beaten Nsengimana and Hadi in the second sprint

 

Just before the final sprint, Er-Rafai made a solo move which allowed him to take maximum points ahead of Hadi and Okubamariam. He managed to increase his advantage over his chaser to a minute while the peloton was 30 seconds further adrift.

 

The chasers were caught but Er-Rafai rode strongly and could enter the final 30km with an advantage of 1.20. However, as the climbing started, he suffered and 20km from the finish, he was back in the bunch.

 

The fast pace meant that the peloton split to pieces as Temesgen Buru (Ethiopia) won the second KOM sprint ahead of Voeckler and Francisco Mancebo (Skydive). Lots of riders tried to escape and it was an 18-rider front group that emerged. Petit, Bryan Nauleau, Yohann Gene and Tony Hurel were there for Direct Energie, Jarrier, Armindo Fonseca, Anthony Delaplace and Brice Feillu for Fortuneo-Vital Concept, Palini, Saoufiane Haddi, Ivan Santaromita and Adil Jelloul for Skydive Dubai and Nikodemus Holler had made it into the group for Stradalli. Elia Afewerki, Okubamariam made sure that Eritrea had two riders in the group, Rwanda was represented by Jean-Claude Uwizeye, Ethiopia had Weldu Hafetab while Abderrahmane Bechlagheme was there for Algeria.

 

Naulead led Delaplace and Okubamariam over the top of the final climb with 5km to go but it all came down to a sprint from the front group. Here Petit emerged as the strongest as he held off Jarrier and Palini while a few splits in the finale created the first important time gaps.

 

Palini’s third place meant that he defended his overall lead with a 10-second advantage over Petit. He will try to defend that position in tomorrow’s stage which is up or down almost all day but only includes three small categorized climbs. The final challenge is located 9.4km from the finish but the finale is a tough one as the final 600m are uphill at an average gradient of around 5%.

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