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Part of a 13-rider breakaway, Rosskopf made the final selection and finally won the 6-rider sprint on the first stage of the Tour du Limousin to take the victory and the overall lead; Dupont and Edet completed the podium

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport








16.08.2016 @ 18:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Joey Rosskopf (BMC) confirmed the excellent form he showed at the Tour of Utah when he claimed his first professional victory in impressive fashion on a surprisingly hard first stage of the Tour du Limousin. Having made it into a strong 13-rider group after a hectic start, he emerged as the fastest of the six survivors, holding Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) off in the sprint. With the win, Rosskopf also became the first leader of the race.


In 2014, Joey Rosskops finished 6th in the USA Pro Challenge and second in the road race at the Pan-American Championships, emerging as one of the biggest American talents. BMC were quick to offer him a pro contract and it seemed that Rosskops was destined for great things.


However, the first part of his professional career was very difficult and he seemed to suffer at the biggest races. However, he fought his way through the many WorldTour races and managed to complete both the 2015 Vuelta and the 2016 Giro and the big workload has slowly improved his level.


Having recovered from his efforts at the Giro, Rosskopf showed that he had taken another step when he finished sixth overall at the Tour of Utah less than two weeks ago. The American impressed the entire field with his brutal strength in all terrains and this made him confident that he could possibly achieve something in the lumpy terrain at the Tour du Limousin this week.


However, few would have suggested him to win the first stage whose flat course meant that it was almost destined to end in a bunch sprint. However, when an aggressive and extremely fast start had split the peloton and allowed a 13-rider group to get clear, it was evident that a surprise could be in store. That’s exactly how it turned out as six of the attackers managed to stay away and Rosskopf made use of his great form to win the sprint and claim his first individual victory as a professional.


The 49th edition of the Tour du Limousin kicked off with a mainly flat stage that brought the riders over  165.4km from Limoges to Oradour-sur-Glane. There were three short climbs on the menu – 0.7km at 7.3%, 1.8km at 4% and 0.8km at 8.5% respectively – but the first two challenges came early in the stage and the final ascent comes with 22.6km to go.  From there, it was mainly flat but a late turn 250m from the line will make for a technical, flat finale.


It was a very hot day in France when the riders gathered for the start. Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) suffered a mechanical in the neutral zone but he was back in the peloton in time for the real start.


As expected, it was a furious opening phase with lots of attack and it took 9km before Taylor Eisenhart (BMC) became the first rider to get a real advantage. However, he only managed to stay clear for around 2km before he was brought back.


A big 30-rider group briefly got clear from and then 8 riders emerged from that group. However, things came back together for the first intermediate sprint where Fabien Doubey (FDJ) beat Rafael Andriato (Wilier) and Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural) in the battle for the bonus seconds.


The fast pace split the field as Louis Verhelst (Roubaix), Thomas Degand (Wanty), Graeme Brown (Drapac) and Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) were among the first riders to get dropped and the former two would soon abandon. Moments later, Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) and Jordan Kerby (Drapac) were also left behind.


After 37km of attacking, Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) took off and he was joined by Rosskopf and Flavien Dassonville (Auber 93). For a long time, they worked hard to maintain a 15-second advantage and the gap was unchanged when Dassonville beat Dupont and Rosskopf in the first KOM sprint. Meanwhile, defending champion Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) had to work hard to rejoin the peloton after a puncture.


Julien Loubet (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Yoann Barbas (Armee) made it across to the leaders before the peloton finally sat up and let the gap go out to two minutes after one hour of racing at 46.6km/h. Ceric Pineau (FDJ), Rodolfo Torres (Androni) and Diego Rubio (Caja Rural) took off in pursuit before the slowdown and they also made the junction to make it 8 riders in the front group. Finally, Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot), Sergey Nikolaev (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Manuel Senni (BMC) and Theo Vimpere (Auber 93) also made it across and so 13 riders had gathered in front with an advantage of 1.40 at the 55km mark.


The peloton could not allow such a big group to ride away so they reduced the gap to 45 seconds with 100km to go. At this point, a big bunch of 70 riders had been left behind.


Dassonville beat Barbas and Dupont in the second KOM sprint before the peloton reached the top 1.10 later. The second peloton was 1.30 further adrift and not getting any closer.


Pineau scored important bonus seconds when he beat Rubio and Edet in the second intermediate sprint where the peloton had slowed down and allowed the second bunch to make it back. That allowed the gap to go out to 1.40 and the chase was still not organized again


After 2 hours of racing, the average speed had dropped to 42.4km/ and the gap had gone out to 3.40. This was the signal for the peloton to finally up the pace again and the gap had been reduced to 3.00 as they hit the final 70km. Ten kilometres later it was down to 2.35 and the situation seemed to be under control.


Movistar, Tinkoff and Wilier had taken responsibility for the chase and they slowly continued to take back time. With 45km to go, the gap was 2.05 and it had dropped to 1.30 twelve kilometres later.


The escapees upped the pace and so the front group started to split up. Nikolaev was the first to get dropped and later Barbas and Pineau were also distanced. Senni and van Ginneken were also left behind and so only 8 riders were left in front.


The hard work paid off as the gap had suddenly gone out to 1.45 and the fast pace was also taking its toll in the peloton where sprinters Erik Baska (Tinkoff) and Roy Jans (Wanty) and Giro stage winner Nicola Boem (Bardiani) were distanced. At the same time, Dassonville had to surrender with 25km to go and so only 7 riders were left in the front group.


With 18km to go, the gap was still 1.15 but things were looking difficult as Direct Energie were now chasing hard for Bryan Coquard. They had reduced the gap to 55 seconds as they passed the 10km to go banner.


The gap was coming down steadily but it was still 30 seconds when they entered the final 5km. Here Loubet paid the price for his hard work as he was also left behind and so only Vimpere, Dupont, Torres, Rubio, Rosskopf and Edet were left to try to keep the peloton at bay.


Despite the hectic chase from the peloton, the gap suddenly stabilized at 30 seconds and it was still 25 seconds as they passed the flamme rouge. Hence, it became clear that the escapees would decide the stage and Rosskof emerged as the strongest as he held off Dupont and Edet in the final dash to the line. 16 seconds later Nacer Bouhanni beat Rick Zabel (BMC) and Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural) in the sprint for seventh.


With the win, Rosskopf moves into the lead with a four-second advantage over Dupont, with Edet sitting one second further behind in third. The sprinters will have a chance to get revenge tomorrow when the riders will cover 173.6km between Dun-le-Palestel and Auzances. Like in today’s  stage, the riders will have to overcome three small climbs – 1.1km at 5.4%, 3.5km at 4.5% and 4km at 3.9% respectively. However, the two first ascents again come in the first half while the second hill comes with 25.7km to go. From there, the terrain is definitely not flat as there is a long uphill drag before the riders will descend for the final 10km. In the finale, the riders face an uphill sprint of 200m.



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