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”This is both a relief and an opportunity to prove that I was still able to win, to take responsibility as a leader. It also showed the team that they had reason to trust me.” 

Photo: A.S.O.

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ALEXEI TSATEVICH

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ALEXIS VUILLERMOZ

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ARTHUR VICHOT

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BEN GASTAUER

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CIRCUS-WANTY GOBERT

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DIEGO ULISSI

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EF PRO CYCLING

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GIOVANNI VISCONTI

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JESUS HERRADA

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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MAXIME BOUET

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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PATRICK BEVIN

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SIMON SPILAK

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TOM-JELTE SLAGTER

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TOUR DU HAUT VAR

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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22.02.2016 @ 00:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) put a year of suffering behind when he finally returned to his winning ways by claiming victory on the final stage of the Tour du Haut Var. The Frenchman came out on top in a 25-rider sprint as he held off Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) and that was enough to take overall victory on a countback, with Herrada and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) completing the podium.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Arthur Vichot: It’s a relief to prove that I am still able to win

It is a date that will stand for Arthur Vichot and for his team. Winner of the second stage and the Tour du Haut Var, Vichot has finally left behind a 2015 season ruined by a virus. He also gave the 400th victory to the FDJ team.

 

"We found the real Arthur,” said sports director Thierry Bricaud who was in control of the FDJ team in the Tour du Haut Var. “He has acted as leader, has talked to his teammates, assumed his responsibilities and he won! And each guy has brought his stone to the building. We found the right state of mind.”
 

In a difficult race, the team maneuvered perfectly. On Saturday, after the double ascent of Blavet, they made the race hard. "And we had to try to win the stage but also to be placed in GC to manage this second stage,” Bricaud said.

 

"As expected, it was a sprint in a small group,” Vichot told Directvelo. “This is the usual outcome of that stage. The team began to ride with 20km to go. I thought Mathieu Ladagnous would be able to hold on a little longer but Alexandre Geniez and Anthony Roux were there to help me. Alexandre has done a great job in the last ten kilometers to get Gorka Izaguirre back. Then Anthony Roux positioned me perfectly. It was a quite special finale, with a false flat downhill. I knew the position was paramount. 

 

“On the last climb, the tempo was hard, just enough to prevent possible attacks, but not to put me in the red. Since the beginning of the year I have been getting a lot of good small results. Today I finally capped them off with the win. This is what I hoped for the early season. 

 

”This is both a relief and an opportunity to prove that I was still able to win, to take responsibility as a leader. It also showed the team that they had reason to trust me. Today, everything worked out.

 

”I feel much better than last year at this time when I was sick. This is a good omen before the big goals that will be Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. Meanwhile, I'll do the Drôme-Ardèche classics.”

 

Jesus Herrada left frustrated by two near-missed in Haut Var

As devoted to overall success or even more than their team-mates I Algarve were again the Movistar riders directed by Chente García Acosta in the Tour du Haut Var, where all the riders worked for glory in a demanding loop around Draguignan during stage two (207km).

 

After an acceleration by Giovanni Visconti on the decisive climb of Tuilières, Gorka Izagirre tried a move from the reduced elite group and was close to victory, so close that the bunch could only catch him inside the final kilometer, with all squads leading out the sprint. Vichot (FDJ) claimed the stage win and the overall as Jesús Herrada finished a close 2nd, ending as runner-up overall and matching his result from the recent Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (stage 2).

 

"Our intention was to make the race harder at the end. We attacked then with Giovanni and Gorka, and the latter came really, really close", explained Herrada. "FDJ was pushing in the run-in to the finish, but it was the last pull from AG2R and Etixx which made it impossible for him to reach the line. I was having good legs and we had to stay attentive for the sprint, but I also lacked a bit to claim the win.

 

“We knew we had a strong team for this race and had to fight on all fronts. We already made the attacks with Giovanni yesterday and a split prevented me from contesting the win... we all did what we could. It seems like the whole team was missing a bit to fight for victories, and this week it all went great for us. However, I'm still lacking some fortune, with these three second places - let's hope I can bounce back and win at last in Paris-Nice.”

 

Giovanni Visconti shows form in Haut Var

"I had planned to attack on the last climb,” Visconti told Directvelo. “It was decided this morning at the briefing. With age, I climb better and better but I lose speed in the sprints. That's why I did not hesitate to launch attacks before the sprint. Jesús Herrada then attacked after the climb and Gorka Izaguirre in the final. I tried to do the sprint but I was a bit tired. The finale was a bit strange. 

 

”I feel good right now. Before this I did the Challenge de Mallorca and the Dubai Tower while taking antibiotics. The Tour du Haut Var was the first race where I really was in good condition. I will next be at the Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, the Tour of the Basque Country and finally the Ardennes classics. "

 

Another near-miss for Diego Ulissi in Haut Var

Diego Ulissi was fifth in the final stage and ended third overall.

 

Ulissi demonstrated good condition, but he started the sprint too early.

 

"Today's result is quite good, the whole team worked well to bring Ulissi to the final climb Ulissi,” explained sports director Simone Pedrazzini. “Unfortunately, Diego did not have success in the sprint because he started too early, ending in 5th place. However, the third place in the final overall standings is a good sign. I am convinced that victory will come in the next races.

 

Alexis Vuillermoz puts knee pain behind him with third place in Haut Var

Alexis Vuillermoz finished third for Ag2r.

 

"After my abandonment at La Mediterraneenne, this third place reassures me,” he said. “I was able to work for Mika (Cherel) today. I managed to get to the top of the last climb with a Movistar rider. All is not perfect in terms of health but my knee is better. I leave the Var weekend with morale. Now I will head to the Classic Sud-Ardèche and then Paris-Nice,” he said.

 

Mikael Cherel finished 6th overall, Hubert Dupont is 12th and Alexis Vuillermoz 14th.

 

"For this stage, the goal was to make the race hard with Ben Gastauer in the break,” Ag2r sports director Didier Jannel told Directvelo. “Unfortunately, there were only two to accompany him. If there was a group of 8-10 riders, it would have been possible but this was complicated. 

 

“It is often a group of 20-30 riders who decided the wins on the second stage. We knew that if there was no difference on the first stage it would definitely be decided on a countback today. The sprint was a false flat downhill, quite fast. 

 

“In GC, we have Mikaël Chérel who finished 10th in the stage and 6th overall. In the leading group, we also had Alexis Vuillermoz and Hubert Dupont who chased a lot with FDJ to bring Izagirre back in the finale. 

 

“Alexis also followed the attack on the climb from Visconti. He was sick on Friday, he suffered from gastric problems. Yesterday, it was a bit complicated for him. Without it he could easily have gone for the overall podium as he was in great shape today. 

 

“We have a lot of riders coming back from illness or injury like Blel Kadri and Ben Gastauer who had bronchitis. Given these adverse circumstances, the result is rather encouraging in view of the WorldTour races Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico where we will rely on Mikael and Alexis. "
 

Defending champion Ben Gastauer wins mountains jersey in Haut Var

Ben Gastauer spent the day in the break and won the mountains jersey.

 

"Yesterday I did not attack due to the morning briefing. I lost twenty seconds in the finale which was too technical for me. I lacked something. I reassured myself today. It's nice to ride in the front, it was a good stage. I consider myself fit, almost as well as during my victory last year,” he told Directvelo.

 

Petr Vakoc wins best young rider’s jersey in Haut Var

After being in the thick of the action on Saturday, Etixx – Quick-Step was again one of the protagonists, with the likes of Petr Vakoč and Maxime Bouet in aggressive mode in the last hour of racing, throwing caution in the wind and rising to the challenge. As a result, they both notched a top 10 placing, arriving in the same time as the winner.

 

Vakoč, the 2015 Czech champion, took 5th in the general classification, together with the best young rider jersey, while Bouet, who is in his second season with the team, came 9th.

 

"Today I was in the front group with Maxime, who tried to jump clear a couple of times, but without any luck", Vakoč said. "The sprint wasn't easy, as the road was a bit downhill. I tried to find a gap, but I was boxed in and couldn't really sprint. I'm a bit disappointed with the result, but on the other hand I'm happy of how we rode in these two days and of my condition. I felt pretty good and I'm now looking forward to my next race, La Provence. It's the first time I'm riding in this region and I like it, it's a nice experience that will be useful also for the upcoming races."

 

Tom-Jelte Slagter fails to defend jersey on final day in Haut Var

Tom-Jelte Slagter won the first stage of the two-day Tour du Haut Var on Saturday - which meant he wore yellow on Sunday and Cannondale spent the day on the front.

 

They lost yellow in the end but put up a great fight. Paddy Bevin was the top finisher for Cannondale Pro Cycling Team on stage two, coming to the line in 14th place from an elite 15-rider group that formed in the final 5km. The Kiwi would prove our top finisher overall, roundng out the top ten.

 

”Could not finish off all the hard work the team did, but I'm sure we're going to win again if we keep riding like this,” Slagter tweeted after the stage

 

Simon Spilak shows first signs of form in Haut Var

Twenty riders, including Team Katusha’s Simon Špilak, contested for victory.

 

“Alexey Tsatevich stayed with Slagter; unfortunately, the collaboration in that group was not good, despite being just 25 seconds behind. In the end, we had Špilak in front. For him it is early season and he is no sprinter, but at 3 km from finish there was a small ascension again. He tried, but AG2R had 3 riders there and they kept the pace too high. It was impossible to escape,” said team director Dmitry Konyshev. Špilak came in with the front group, all on the same time of 5:15.11

 

Špilak was the best of Team Katusha in 19th place at nine seconds.

 

 

Difficult Tour du Haut Var for Wanty Group Gobert

In France sports director Jean-Marc Rossignon lined-up with Gaetan Bille, Marco Minnaard, Antoine Demoitié, Danilo Napolitano, Lander Seynaeve and Boris Dron for the Tour du Haut-Var. The first day in the south of France was a tough test from the start.

 

Gaëtan Bille who crashed out of the Tour of Valencia two weeks prior tried several times to keep up with the peloton but he had to throw in the towel at the end.

 

“I haven’t been able to train the past two weeks. Miracles just don’t exist,” he reacted disappointed. “I will stay in France now and take the start in the Tour de la Provence on Tuesday.”

 

Marco Minnaard disappointed mostly himself in the first stage.

 

At four kilometres from the line the Dutchman lost touch with the main pack. “I just felt good but was dropped anyway in the final of this stage. This should never have happened today.”

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