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“This is my first pro win in a sprint. We have a strong team, we all have our role to play. We will try to win again tomorrow. This win will give me confidence for the future. My goals are the Ardennes, and I...

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ARTHUR VICHOT

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BRICE FEILLU

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CLASSIC DE L’ARDECHE

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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IAM CYCLING

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JAN BAKELANTS

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JEROME COPPEL

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JULIEN SIMON

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MIKAEL CHEREL

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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OLIVIER PARDINI

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PETR VAKOC

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOBIAS LUDVIGSSON

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27.02.2016 @ 23:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) finally ended his string of near-misses by taking an impressive victory in the hilly Classic Sud-Ardeche. After having been on the attack in the finale, he came out on top when 20 riders sprinted for the win, holding off Julien Simon (Cofidis) and Olivier Pardini (Wallonie-Bruxelles).

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

In-form Petr Vakoc targets Tour de France selection after first 2016 win

The writing was on the wall for some time now, more exactly in the past two weeks, which saw Petr Vakoč put on a strong ride in both Tour du Haut Var and Tour La Provence, races which he finished each time in the top five, taking home the best young riders jersey. Day after day, he improved his condition and came closer to the win, missing out on his maiden victory of the season for just a handful of seconds in La Provence. Fortunately, the 23-year-old he didn't have to wait too much until breaking the ice, the 182.7-km long Classic Sud-Ardèche providing him the ideal opportunity to do that.

 

The day has started with a five-man break which stayed at the front until the final 20 kilometers, the last rider to be caught being Odd Christian Eiking (FDJ) under the impetuous pace of Etixx – Quick-Step. While many were left behind, other cyclists attacked and forced a selection, among the ones to make it to the front being Petr Vakoč and Pieter Serry. First who tried to get clear from that reduced group was Serry, the 27-year-old Belgian being joined by three men. That move was a short-lived one, as they were reeled in on the last climb of the race.

 

On the descent, with just a few kilometers left to the finish, new attacks came, and one of these had Vakoč as protagonist. The Czech champion couldn't get a gap, but that didn't matter in the end, as in the run-in of Guilherand-Granges he proved to be the fastest and won ahead of Julien Simon (Cofidis) and Olivier Pardini (Wallonie Bruxelles), notching his first victory of the season and the team's 14th since January.

 

"It was a hard and demanding race, all the time up and down on narrow roads. The team did an absolutely amazing job controlling the escape, which allowed me to save energy until the real action began, with 16 kilometers to go. After Pieter was caught, I attacked inside the final 5 kilometers, but it came up to a bunch sprint, which I started early, with 300 meters to go, and managed to hold the others off", said Vakoc right after the finish.

 

Following his fifth victory in the pro ranks, the young Czech looks with confidence to the second French race of the week-end, Drôme Classic, scheduled on Sunday: "I feel great now and I'm very happy for finally taking a win, after being so close a couple of days ago. It's a special moment also because this is the first time I have won as pro in a sprint, which was something regular for me as an U23 rider. Tomorrow will be a race more or less similar. The terrain is hilly and this suits me, but also my teammates can have a go there. We have many riders in good condition, and this gives us many options."

 

"It took a long time for the first real breakaway to leave,” he told Directvelo. “We put a rider up front early to ride tempo so that the break did not get too much of an advantage. We accelerated 50 kilometers from the finish. 

 

”There were a lot of attacks in the last fifteen kilometers. Several small groups emerged but none could really get ahead. I tried my luck in the last descent but we stayed together. Then in the final kilometers, Pieter Serry rode on the front to prevent attacks. I launched from afar but I had enough energy to win. 

 

“It was a great job from the team. I am delighted to ride in a strong team. I was a little disappointed to finish 2nd in the Tour La Provence but we did everything to win the GC, and we still won two stages. I knew coming here that I had a chance of success. 

 

“This is my first pro win in a sprint. We have a strong team, we all have our role to play. We will try to win again tomorrow. This win will give me confidence for the future. My goals are the Ardennes, and I want to be in the selection for the Tour de France." 

 

Julien Simon: Now I can go to Paris-Nice and the classics with confidence

"My only regret was being passed on the left in the sprint,” Julien Simon told Directvelo. “I suddenly got out in the wind. I was protected in this race. We did what was planned. I anticipated with Coppel and Bakelants on the Cote de la Corniche. But they returned. I found a second wind on the last two climbs. 

 

“I made ​​up my mind on the last climb. Nicolas Edet then rode to make it a sprint. I had checked the last kilometers. I was careful on the last descent and I had to stay put. We quickly came to the last kilometer.

 

”I often been close in recent months. I hope to find the way to victory. Today Vakoc was stronger. The result is encouraging. The condition is improving well. After the race tomorrow, I can go to Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. I also have ambitions in the Ardennes." 

 

Olivier Pardini surprises with podium spot in world class field

"I was hoping to do a good performance following a good Tour La Provence,” Olivier Pardini told Directvelo. “This is a very nice personal satisfaction. The job is completed for the team with a podium in a 1.1 race. I know I'm pretty fast in a small group. I did the sprint to not be surprised. The wind came from the front. Everybody remained in their place. The strongest won. 

 

”I won a prologue at the Sibiu Cycling Tour but this is my first big podium in .1 race. I am progressing slowly but surely. Our race program enables us to progress. We will do many French races this season. 

 

“I'm not scheduled for tomorrow because I'm focused on Samyn and 3 Days of West Flanders. I am 30, I still have many years ahead of me. If I can win a 1.1 race, it may allow me to get a better contract. "

 

Romain Bardet confirms great form with fifth place in Ardeche

After his second place in Oman, Romain Bardet was one of the most active riders in the finale and ended the race in fifth.

 

"It's a race that I like,” he said. “I made my third top five in four participations. It teminds me of my youth as it was a fight all day. 
 

”I'm very happy with the team. We took our responsibilities. I was not sure how I would react. I had spent a quiet week after Oman had made me tired. My legs responded well. 


”Today, there was no time to rest. This is essential in order to find the rhythm before Paris-Nice. On the last climb, I suffered a bit but apart from that, I'm happy. 
 

”I was a small climber amid punchers and sprinters. It was not necessarily easy to express myself but I do not want to specialize too much.”

 

Jan Bakelants after ninth place in Ardeche: More was possible

Jan Bakelants attacked in the finale but had to settle for ninth.

 

"This is again a place of honor,” he said. “It's been two races where I think I could have done more than the places I got. I am quite frustrated. In the last roundabout, there was not much left and I had the legs to do better. It was a day with a lot of elevation gain(about 3,000 meters) and I could compete with the best on this type of course. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope to do better.”

 

"Today, the team did its maximum to support Jan Bakelants and Romain Bardet,” his teammate Mikael Cherel told Directvelo. “We had to give everything for them and we rode on the front all day. Personally, I was dropped on the last climb. On the final climb up the Côte de la Corniche, I did a big effort, and then Jan attacked. Unfortunately, he could not stay away. The team was very strong and the objective was to win. Tomorrow, I do not ride and my next race will be Paris-Nice." 

 

Solid start to 2016 season for Adam Yates in Ardeche hills

Adam Yates of ORICA-GreenEDGE has finished seventh at La Classic Sud Ardechein Guilherand-Granges today, after a fast, undulating race, which saw Petr Vakoc (Etixx-Quickstep) take the win.

 

Sports director Dave McPartland was happy with the team’s overall performance today.

 

“It was a really strong ride from Adam today, despite suffering from cramp in the closing stages of the race.

 

“He was away with a group of five riders in a move which looked promising but then got brought back. To stay up there and finish strongly in the sprint is very promising.”

 

Both Adam and Simon Yates were together with Esteban Chaves and Amets Txurruka going into the final third of the race.

 

“The team went really deep into the race together today and all round I’m very happy about that,” continued McPartland

 

“It was pretty lumpy and tense at times out there today, we rode a really controlled race throughout.

 

“Tomorrow is going to be three relatively flat and fast laps of 50 kilometres with the last circuit the business end of the race. We need to be attentive and race with intelligence without being too defensive. After today’s positive experience I think we’ll be ok.”

 

Jérôme Coppel confirms his good form with aggressive ride in Ardeche

"Jan Bakelants attacked on the last climb,” Jerome Coppel told Directvelo after taking 8th. “Then I took a big turn and we ended up 5. One or two ridersm including Romain Bardet, came back to us 5 km from the finish and then the rest of the group caught us. 

 

“It was not easy to get along so close to the finish, knowing that there was also some fast riders like Jan Bakelants and Julien Simon and Pieter Serry working for Petr Vakoč. For tomorrow, we have a good card in case of bunch sprint with Vicente Reynes and for my part, I'll see how I recover." 

 

Young Norwegian shines on hilly roads in Ardeche

Neo-pro Odd Christian Eiking was the last rider to be caught from the break and still managed to take 11th.

 

"Christian had been appointed before the start to be in a breakaway if it was strong,” explains sports director Thierry Bricaud (FDJ), “and after an hour of a great battle and a first attempt of Alexandre Geniez, he slipped into the group with Feillu (Fortuneo Vital Concept), Turgis (Cofidis), Lebreton (Armee) and Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo). Christian did ​​a big race, being the last to be caught 22 kilometers from the finish and still finding the resources to keep up with the best and finish in eleventh place.”
 

Bad luck costly for favourite Arthur Vichot in Ardeche

Eiking’s attack served the interests of Arthur Vichot but he suffered a mechanical problem at the bottom of the last climb. Quickly back on his bike, he was caught out and could not return to the front of the pack. 

 

"It was a difficult day,” he told Directvelo. “It was not easy to get into the rhythm with such a circuit. The sensations were not great, but the legs are still there after Tour du Haut Var. Nevertheless, I was still in the lead. Unfortunately, I had a mechanical problem 5km from the finish, so I was not able to do the sprint. Odd Christian Eiking was stillwith me. He worked very hard today, we had to put a guy in the break and he still had some energy on to stay with me to the finish. However, we hoped for more with the team. Tomorrow we will try to make up for it.” 

 

Tough day for Giant-Alpecin climbers in Classic Sud-Ardeche

It proved to be a tough day for Team Giant-Alpecin in its first race of the season on French soil as Sam Oomen raced to 21st and Tobias Ludvigsson to 25th, respectively.

The plan from the top of the day was to get a rider in the main attack on the race, and then to make sure in getting key riders into good positions at the important points of the race.

The race got off to a really fast start and five riders jumped away from the peloton, without any Team Giant-Alpecin riders. In the group of about 50 riders in the finale, Sam Oomen and Tobias Ludvigsson were present for Team Giant-Alpecin.

 

Coach Arthur van Dongen said after the race: “It was a hectic race today, the race was always up and down with no respite for the riders who had to stay concentrated all the time.

 

“From the start it was a tough and very fast stage and eventually  Cheng [Ji], Caleb [Fairly] and Sindre [Lunke] got dropped after 120km of racing.

 

“In the last 40km, a group of 50 riders were left before the last two difficulties of the day. The plan was to bring Sam and Tobias in good positions into the last five kilometers, but they lost contact with the 1st group in the finale as the pace was too high.

 

“It was a tough day but we are working on getting better and stronger here so we can take the positives out of the race and move forward to tomorrow’s race.”

 

Brice Feillu improves his condition on tough day in Ardeche

Brice Feillu (Fortuneo Vital Concept) spent the day in the breakaway. 

 

"I really wanted to be in the break. I joined a lot of attacks that were caught,” he told Directvelo. “I insisted. First Odd Christian Eiking left alone and two other riders joined him. As for me, I got back with Kevin Lebreton.

 

“So we were 5 and we got along well. If we had had a little more of a gap, we would have been more comfortable and hopefully done something else. Anyway, on a demanding circuit, it does not cost much more energy to be in front than to in the bunch. It is necessary to constantly move into position and the risk of crashing is there. There was always a wind of 30-40 km/h.

 

“It is important to move forward, I reassured myself. I have had back pain since the Tour du Haut Var. Now I will go home. Then, I will go to GP Samyn and 3 Days of West Flanders so I will not do Paris-Nice. I have already done it 3-4 times and I know that you must be very fit which I am not.”

 

His teammate, defending champion Eduardo Sepulveda, had to settle for 28th.
 

Armee de Terre rider improves his engine in Ardeche breakaway

Kevin Lebreton was in the early break.

 

"I joined the three leaders with Brice Feillu as we saw the peloton was riding tempo,” he told Directvelo. “We attacked to join the leaders as soon as possible. I already had a little fatigue in the legs as the battle was tough in the first hour.

 

“The gap was never very big and we had to manage our lead. When Romain Sicard joined us, the race was really launched. We were not able to make it. Behind Etixx chased really hard.

 

“This is the first time I managed to join a long breakaway. I did not have this opportunity during my three previous races at the Marseillaise, the Mediterranean and the Tour du Haut Var. These efforts allow me to improbe the engine, it is a good workload. Anyway we are forced to make anticipate because we have virtually no chance against the big teams.

 

“For tomorrow, I'll see how I recover, the counters are reset. After the Drôme-Ardèche classics, my program is as follows: Manche-Atlantique, Trofeu Alpendre (qualifying race for the Tour of Portugal), Cholet-Pays de Loire and Criterium International. "

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