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"Actually I had an advantage that was a bit more comfortable than the one with which I finished but I was taken the off route in the finale and I took awrong turn."

Photo: A.S.O./X.Bourgois




















23.02.2016 @ 20:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) finally returned to his winning ways for the first time since 2013 when he claimed an impressive solo victory on the very hard opening stage of the inaugural Tour La Provence. Having joined an early six-rider breakaway, he dropped his companions on the tough finishing circuit and managed to hold off a splintering peloton on the short climb to the finish to take botht he win and the leader’s jersey. Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) won the sprint for second ahead of Voeckler’s young teammate Lilian Calmejane.


We have gathered several reactions.


Thomas Voecker: A wrong turn nearly cost me the victory

"The course was damn selective, especially with the wind,” Voeckler told Directvelo. “We were warned but we still have sore legs (laughs). At the briefing this morning, we were told to be part of a group of seven to eight riders as it had a chance to stay away. It would have been more complicated to do something in the finale. It was a pretty clear scenario. 


“It was quite aggressive early in the race before we formed a six-man break. Then we were rather successful in managing the gap. 


“On the final circuit I managed to rid myself of my breakaway companions and maintain a small advance. Actually I had an advantage that was a bit more comfortable than the one with which I finished but I was taken the off route in the finale and I took awrong turn (laughs). I had to turn around and I lost thirty seconds there. I told myself it was going to be close. At that time I thought I had some bad luck but I finally managed to rejoin Julien Antomarchi and keep few seconds. 


“I have not won since August 2013 so I savored it all the more. I will not lie, I have missed it. Since 2003 I won races every year. And it is true that in 2014 and 2015 there was no victory, so it feels good. The team is in a good spiral, it's nice. "


Petr Vakoc after frustrating near-miss: I am really disappointed

After a strong 5th on Sunday, in the general classification of Haut Var, where he also claimed the young riders jersey, Petr Vakoč was again at the front in France, this time at the maiden edition of Tour La Provence. Etixx – Quick-Step was among the teams with the most riders on the tricky finishing circuit, even though it missed Carlos Verona, who crashed and couldn't rejoin the peloton. Thomas Voeckler took the win, but our team placed no less than three riders inside the top 15, which leaves us with many cards to play for the next stages of the three-day event.


On the tough climb leading to the line (15% maximum gradient), having Voeckler in foresight, Vakoč dug deep and managed to distance everyone else, while reducing the advantage of the Direct Energie rider, which means that he now trails him for only seven seconds. His teammate Pieter Serry came 4th, while Maxime Bouet completed the very good day of the team by arriving in 12th position. Their results combined were synonym to Etixx – Quick-Step taking the lead in the teams standings following the first stage of the race.


"A break of six went clear, and Voeckler proved to be the strongest on the final circuit. Unfortunately, Carlos crashed, but even so we did all that we could to bring Petr at the front and he took a solid second. We are happy with this result, and we now look forward to see what we can do over the following couple of days, in terms of stage wins and general classification", said sport director Brian Holm.


"I'm really disappointed, I felt good,” Vakoc told Directvelo. “I wanted to win and I thought I was able to do so. But I missed a few meters to catch Thomas Voeckler. I joined Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) but we did not work well together. The others returned. Then it was not fast. I attacked again but it was not enough. Thomas (Voeckler) was very strong...


“I'm disappointed but I'm still happy with my form. The legs are good. We will try to take the yellow jersey.  I was protected with Maxime Bouet and Pieter Serry. We were there all three in the finale. This bodes well. 


”Next I'll be at the Drôme-Ardèche classics. I am delighted to start the season strongly." 


Danish champion shines for new team, Fedrigo abandons in Provence

Well protected by his teammates, Foruneo-Vital Concept's new signing Chris-Anker Sørensen found himself in a good position before attacking the three laps of the final circuit. On the offensive several times, He finished 5th at 9 seconds of Thomas Voeckler.


Due to a knee problem, Pierrick Fedrigo had to abandon the race after ten kilometers.


"The stage was difficult and technical," Sørensen said. "The team put us, Anthony [Delaplace] and myself in great position before the final circuit. I enjoyed myself! I attacked on numerous occasions. I have good legs even if I was a bit "stuck" in the sprint. We are motivated to get a pGC result and why not the podium? It's a shame to have lost Pierrick but the main thing is that it goes well. The next two stages suit me a little less but with the wind, it may be hard."


Strong Alessandro De Marchi shows form in tough Provence finale

Alessandro De Marchi has finished sixth behind solo winner Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) in a tough opening stage of the Tour La Provence.


De Marchi was with Amaël Moinard and Danilo Wyss in a chasing group that battled it out for second place. 


It was an extremely tough day in the saddle said De Marchi.


“The whole stage was difficult, but especially in the final when we reached the circuit in Cassis. It was quite dangerous with a lot of difficult corners and everyone was attacking at every point. Amaël, Danilo and I tried to attack and be in a good position for the final part of the race,” De Marchi explained.


“The next two stages are supposed to be easier than today so we will continue to focus on the GC and see what we can do.”


Sports Director Yvon Ledanois praised the team’s performance today.


“The team did a really great job of protecting Alessandro and Amaël today in a very tough stage. They were really strong and I think we can do some good things in the next two stages with the GC and go for a sprint as well.”


De Marchi sits in sixth position in the General Classification heading into stage 2 tomorrow, 185km from Miramas to Istres.


FDJ regret mistake in Provence opener

FDJ missed the break in the first stage.


"Yes, it was an the error of our team," ensures sports director Franck Pineau said. "We should have been in the breakaway where there were good riders. The guys chased and worked hard for the two protected riders Anthony Roux and Odd Christian Eiking, but ultimately, on narrow, winding roads with lots of roundabouts, the advantage was with the leading riders."


Sébastien Chavanel and Lorenzo Manzin did the work, supported by Cédric Pineau and Jeremy Maison, from the Col de l'Espigoulier. Kevin Reza and Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier took over on the Routes des Cretes but nothing worked.


"The race was tough," Pineau said. "20 to 25 riders emerged in the last lap, including Anthony and Odd Christian. He learned his trade and but was not enough support in the end for Anthony who is faster than him." 


The former Vuelta stage winner Roux took seventh place before the next two stages.


Spilak and Chernetckii show progress in tough Provence stage

Team KATUSHA’s Sergei Chernetckii finished the stage in the closest first group, 14 seconds behind the winner, taking 10th place.


”It was a tough stage with a very complicated and dangerous circuit in the final. It was a break in front, we tried to chase it down, but finally the riders in front decided this stage. In the final we had two riders in front – Sergei Chernetckii and Simon Špilak. Both are not in top condition, but I can say they look good and improve day by day. In the last kilometers Simon provided a good help to Sergei, so he was able to finish the stage among the leaders. We will see how the things will stay in next days, but anyway, I am happy with both our leaders, they are on the right way. Also I can note Aleksandr Porsev who is just recovering from his illness. It was a hard day, but he looked really good,” explained sports director Dmitry Konyshev.


Lawson Craddock takes leadership role for Canondale in Provence

Lawson Craddock was our top finisher today on the opening stage of Tour de La Provence. The 24-year-old finished in 12th place, 14" behind stage winner Thomas Voeckler, on a short, sharp ramp to the line.


"The circuits were absolutely insane with screaming descents and road furniture everywhere, and it quickly became clear that positioning was critical. After the first lap there was a small group left that included Toms [Skujins] and me. We covered as many moves as we could,” he said.


"When we hit the incredibly steep finishing climb a small group was able to jump away, and Etixx, who had two guys in the group, controlled the chase. The leaders managed to get a good gap going into the other major climb of the circuit.


"The climb was only one kilometer but it over 20%. I knew it would be a major factor in deciding the outcome of the race. I gave it a go over the top, but with a big headwind it wasn't possible to make anything work. The group ahead ended up staying away, and I tried to fight it out in sprint.


”All in all, I'm going to call it a good day. It is still early in the season, and the team is showing a lot of promise for the future."


Romain Feillu surprises himself by joining Provence breakaway

Romain Feillu (Auber 93) spent the day in the breakaway.


"I had not planned to attack. I wanted to keep a little bit in reserve. But when I was there, I went for it,” he told Directvelo.


”The finale was really hard. I liked the finale but the climb to the finish was too hard. The agreement was good. Some had it easier than me on the climbs so I did a little less. I'm glad the breakaway stayed away. Tomorrow there will be a sprint finish."


Armee rider contributes to Voeckler success in Provence

Thomas Rostollan (Armee de Terre) was the first rider to get dropped from the breakaway


"It took time for the breakaway to leave,” he told Directvelo. “I did not anticipate this scenario. I thought it was going to leave early but it took 30-40km. When one looks at the compo, there were only very strong riders in the group. We had a good day on the small roads towards Puyloubier, with lots of crosswind. That cost a lot of energy but I enjoyed myself at home. There are still two stages left.”


Difficult day for Wanty-Groupe Gobert in Provence

Wanty started Tour de la Provence with only six riders. On a profile which was similar to La Marseillaise, it was not an easy day out.

Marco Minnaard was 27th and the best rider for the team.


"I felt much better than in Haut-Var this weekend. It was a really hard parcours. On the first local lap I tried to attack. It did cost me some places later but I am happy with the progress."


Unfortunately there was also bad news. Boris Dron, who excelled in La Marseillaise, had to abandon. He will travel back to Belgium to have medical checks.



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