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After several near-misses, Theuns took his second win in 2015 when he beat Coquard and Napolitano in the bunch sprint on the final stage in the Four Days of Dunkirk; Konovalovas took the overall victory

Photo: Sirotti

4 JOURS DE DUNKERQUE

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BRYAN COQUARD

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DANILO NAPOLITANO

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EDWARD THEUNS

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IGNATAS KONOVALOVAS

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LA POMME MARSEILLE

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TEAM FLANDERS - BALOISE

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10.05.2015 @ 18:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) finally turned his many places of honour into a victory when the Belgian won a very close sprint on the final stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk. Having hit out early, he narrowly held off a fast-finishing Bryan Coquard (Europcar) in the bunch sprint while Ignatas Konovalovas (La Pomme Marseille) finished safely in the peloton to secure the overall victory.

 

The 2015 season has been a big breakthrough for Edward Theuns who has a perennial protagonist in sprints and classics. However, despite his 15 top 10 results in the first part of the year, he had only taken a single victory in the Ronde van Drenthe.

 

In the Four Days of Dunkirk he has been close to the victory on several occasions, finishing in the top 5 in the first three stages, but again he had always been up against a stronger rider. Today he finally took what seems to be a long overdue second victory when he emerged as the fastest in the bunch sprint that ended the race.

 

Being no pure sprinter, Theuns didn’t ask his Topsport Vlaanderen teammates to chase behind a strong 6-rider break that animated the early part of the stage. Instead, Cofidis, Auber 93 and Marseille took the responsibility and with 8km to go, they brought the lone survivor Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne) back.

 

Marseille again proved that they are probably the strongest team in the race as they managed to stay in control despite their hard work until two Roompot riders briefly took over. However, the team of race leader Ignatas Konovalovas was back on the front with 3.5km to go but moments later they finally had to surrender when Cofidis took over.

 

The French team was eager to take a second win with Jonas Ahlstrand and it was Gert Joeaar who led the train as they hit the front. With 2km to go, Adrien Petit took over and he showed impressive strength by leading the peloton all the way to the flamme rouge.

 

Here Kenneth Vanbilsen took over in what looked like the perfect lead-out for Ahlstrand and he even got a small breather when Jimmy Engoulvent took a huge turn for Europcar. Moments later Michael van Staeyen did the lead-out for the Swedish sprinter.

 

Theuns launched his sprint from afar and Ahlstrand only drifted backwards when he tried to respond. Instead, it was Danilo Napolitano (Wanty) who tried to pass the Belgian and it seemed to be a battle between those two riders.

 

Suddenly, Bryan Coquard came flying in the right hand side of the road and the Frenchman was riding significantly faster than anybody else. However, he ran out of metres and had to settle for second behind Theuns while Napolitano took third.

 

Konovalovas finished safely in the bunch and so secured the overall victory with a 14-second advantage over Coquard. Alo Jakin (Auber 93) completed the podium while Coquard won the points jersey.  Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) was the best climber and Coquard the best young rider while Bretagne won the teams classification.

 

Many of the riders from this week’s race will be back in action on Friday when the French season continues with the 3-day Tour de Picardie that traditionally suits the sprinters.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, the sprinters were expected to be back in the mix in the fifth and final stage which brought the riders over 171km from Cappelle la Grande to Dunkirk. After a lumpy first part with two small climbs, the riders got to the flat 6.9km finishing circuit that they would do 10 times.

 

The riders had reasonable weather condition when they gathered for the start and the strong wind that could have made the stage dangerous, never materialized. Three riders were absent as Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora) and Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r) had all headed home.

 

A strong break

The riders got the race off to a fast start with lots of attacks and when the elastic snapped, it was a very strong 6-rider group that got clear. Jarrier, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Christian Mager (Cult), Tim Kerkhof (Roompot), Laurent Pichon (FDJ) and Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r) opened an advantage and it was Voeckler who led Mager and Jarrier over the top of the first climb and Pichon and Kerkhof over the top of the second ascent.

 

With that amount of firepower in the break, the peloton never allowed them much of an advantage and as they crossed the line to start third lap of the finishing circuit, the gap was already down to 1.40. Marseille, Auber 93 and Cofidis were working hard and as they entered the final 50km, they had reduced their deficit to 1.00.

 

Mortensen attacks

The escapees responded well to the faster pace and managed to extend their advantage to 1.20 while Marseille were the most active among the three chasing teams. Meanwhile, Mager beat Kerkhof and Jarrier in the first sprint while Jarrier led Kerkhof and Turgot across the line in the second one.

 

With 36km to go, Martin Mortensen (Cult) tried to bridge the gap and he did well to get a solid advantage ovr the peloton which was just 55 seconds behind with 32km to go. At this point, Fabio Duarte (Colombia) joined the lone Dane and the pair worked well together to get closer to the escapees. At one point, it seemed that they would make the junction but with Marseille, Auber and Cofidis working hard, they were brought back 23km from the line.

 

The break splits up

With 20km to go, the gap was down to 30 seconds and now the attacking started in the front group. Pichon was the first to try and after Voeckler had joined him, the group came back together.

 

Jarrier led Voeckler and Turgot across the line in the final sprint before he attacked with Voeckler and Mager. He later distanced his two companions while Voeckler desperately tried to join him. At this point, Kerkhof had already been caught.

 

Cofids and Marseille were still working hard and with 12km to go, they had caught Pichon. With 10km to go, Voeckler, Mager and Turgot were also back in the fold while Jarrier still had a 15-second advantage. With Marseille in complete control, that gap was erased 2km later and from there it was all about the sprinters.

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