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Covering the 4km course in 5.15, Petit took his third stage win at the Tropical Amissa Bongo, winning the time trial by putting 2 seconds into Delaplace; the Frenhcman also took the overall lead

ADRIEN PETIT

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ANTHONY DELAPLACE

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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LA TROPICALE AMISSA BONGO ONDIMBA

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23.01.2016 @ 19:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Adrien Petit continued his dream start to his career at Direct Energie when he came out on top in the 4km time trial on the penultimate day of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. The Frenchman put 2 seconds into Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and 7 seconds into his teammate Tony Hurel which was enough to take his third stage win and the overall lead on the eve of the final sprint stage.

 

With two stage wins already in his pocket, Adrien Petit could not have wished for a better start to his time as Direct Energie that have mainly signed him as a lead-out man for Bryan Coquard. However, sitting just one second off the overall lead of surprise leader Tesfom Okumbamariam and a short 4km time trial coming up, the Frenchman had his eyes on the overall win in Africa’s biggest.

 

Petit is a prologue specialist and won last year’s Tour de Luxembourg prologue and was one of the favourites for the race against the clock which was expected to be decisive in Gabon. Prior to the race, most expected it to come down to a battle between Petit and TT specialist Anthony Delaplace and that prediction turned out to be true.

 

The pair of Frenchmen were a class above the rest and it was the in-form Petit who came out on top. The Direct Energie rider put 2 seconds into his rival to take his third win in just six days of racing with his new team.

 

After yesterday’s hilly stage, it was time for the key stage in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo when the riders tackled a flat 4km time trial in Akanda. There were several corners on the course which made it suited to explosive prologue specialists.

 

The first rider down the ramp was Abdelkader Belmokhtar (Algeria) who set an early best time of 5.43 and he would spend some time in the hot seat. The first rider to get close was Meher Hasnaoui (Skydive Dubai) but he missed out on the lead by two seconds.

 

It was a teammate that finally managed to beat Belmokhtar as Abdelbasat Hanachi (Algeria) stopped the clock in 5.34 to go 9 seconds faster. Mohamed Amine Er-Rafai (Morocco) slotted into second as he was fractions of a second faster than Belmokhtar.

 

The first European to hit the course was Joschka Beck (Stradalli) and his time of 5.37 saw him slot into second. That was better than Alexandre Pichot (Direct Energie) who was the first professional to start the stage and had to settle for third with 5.40.

 

Brazilian time trial champion Magno Nazaret (Funvic) was expected to set an early mark but he could only manage second, 2 seconds behind Hanachi. His teammate Murilo Affonso was just second slower as he slotted into third.

 

Antonio Piedra made it three Funvic riders in the top four when he posted the fourth best time but most had their eyes on Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energ) who had started his ride. The star lived up to expectations as he stopped the clock 5.27 to take a clear lead.

 

Francisco Mancebo (Skydive) was expected to challenge Voeckler but he was two seconds slower and had to settle for second. French champion Steven Tronet (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) could only manage seventh.

 

Instead, it was his teammate Brice Feillu that knocked Voeckler out of the hot seat as he was fractions of a second faster than the veteran. Azzedine Lagab continued the good Algerian showing as he posted the seventh best time.

 

Yauheni Hutarovich (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) got close as he slotted into fourth with a time that was three seconds off the mark before Jean Bosco Nsengimana (Stradalli) became the best African with a provisional fifth place. He was fractions of a second faster than Meron Teshome (Stradalli) who slotted into fifth.

 

It was Flavio Cardoso (Funvic) who beat Feillu as he stopped the clock in 5.24 to go three seconds faster than the Frenchman but he had barely reached the finish before Tony Hurel (Direct Energie) went two second faster. Yohann Gene (Direct Energie) was unable to beat his teammate and had to settle for sixth.

 

Abderrahmane Bechlaghem (Algeria) took over the position as best African when he posted the 8th best time before Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) challenged his teammate Hurel. However, he was two seconds off the pace in second while the Fortuneo pair of Armindo Fonseca and Benoit Jarrier had disappointing rides.

 

Everybody now had their eyes on the two pre-race favourites Delaplace and Petit and the former lived up to expectations as he stopped the clock in 5.17 to go a massive five seconds faster than Hurel. However, Petit was even faster, posting a time of 5.15 and taking the lead.

 

Former leader Andrea Palini (Skydive) had a good ride but came up short with a time of 5.27 that was only good enough for sixth. Surprise leader Tesfom Okubamariam (Eritrea) did his best to limit his losses but could only manage 21st with a time loss of 21 seconds.

 

Petit had started the stage just 1 second behind Okubamariam and so took over the race lead with a 12-second advantage over Palini while Delaplace is 2 seconds further adrift in third. Oubamariam slips to fourth, 20 seconds behind the new leader.

 

Petit now just has to get safely through the final stage which mainly consists of 16 laps of an almost completely flat circuit in the capital of Libreville and with just 10 seconds time bonus for the stage winner, it seems that only disaster can prevent him from winning the race overall.

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