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Having controlled the race all day, Etixx-QuickStep delivered Trentin to victory in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Tour de l’Ain; Barbier was second, Bauhaus was third and Trentin is the first leader

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim de Waele








10.08.2016 @ 19:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) confirmed the excellent form he had shown in the Tour de Wallonie when he claimed victory in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Tour de l’Ain. After his teammates had controlled the stage all day, the Italian beat Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) and Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18) in the final dash to the line and so became the first leader of the race.


Matteo Trentin is mostly working as part of the Etixx-QuickStep lead-out train but the Italian occasionally gets the chance to sprint for himself. With stage victories in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia and overall victory in Paris-Tours, he never disappoints and he is always a solid back-up plan for the successful Belgian team.


A few weeks ago, Trentin proved that he is in great form when he won a very hard stage at the Tour de Wallonie and this made it natural for Etixx-QuickStep to select him as the protected sprinter for his week’s Tour de l’Ain. The many lumpy stages in the mountainous Ain region are tailor-made for the strong Italian who has a fast sprint at the end of a hard race and he stood out as the obvious favourites for the first two stages which are expected to be for the fast guys.


Today Trentin paid back his team for the confidence as he rode to victory in the easiest stage of the race, the almost completely flat opener. After hard work from his teammates all day, he turned out to be the fastest in the expected bunch kick where he beat Rudy Barbier and Phil Bauhaus into the minor podium positions.


The 28th edition of the Tour de l’Ain kicked off with a 149.6km stage between La Plaine Tonique and Saint-Vulbas which was almost completely flat. There was an early category 4 climb after 18.9km of racing but from there, the only real challenge was the potential wind. The stage ended with one lap of a flat 23km circuit that had a downhill finish.


The riders had hot conditions and blazing sunshine when they gathered for the start and the 126 riders got the race off to the usual attacking start. A Roubaix rider attacked as soon as the flag was dropped and even though he failed to get clear, his fast pace meant that there were already splits in the field.


Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) and Arnaud Gerard (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) managed to get an advantage of 30 seconds after just 5km of racing and they looked like they would form the break of the day. Surprisingly, defending champion Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) took off in pursuit and he made the junction after just 7km where the gap had gone out to 1.30.


The peloton showed little interest in the break which had pushed the gap out to 3.40 when Ag2r hit the front after 16km of racing. While Gerard beat Voeckler and Geniez in the only KOM sprint, Axel Domont hit the front for the French team and started to keep the gap stable.


It didn’t take long for Lotto Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep to come to the fore and so the gap started to come down. It was 3.20 at the 30km mark and it was down to 2.45 as they entered the final 115km.


Lukasz Wisniowski did a lot of work for Etixx-QuickStep during the first hour which was done at an average speed of 43.2km/h and when Geniez beat Voeckler and Gerard in the intermediate sprint with 100km to go, he had already reduced the gap to only 2.15. Jerome Coppel (IAM) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) lent him a hand and those three riders briefly kept the gap stable before they again accelerated.


With 82km to go, the gap was down to only 1.35 and it was 1.20 thirteen kilometres later. That’s when the escapees started to react and they managed to push it out to 1.45 at the end of the second hour, during which 42.8km were covered.


Ag2r were now the most active in the chase, keeping the gap stable at around 1.30 as they passed the 100km mark. Louis Vervaeke also took some turns for Lotto Soudal but the gap was np loger coming down.


With 37km to go, the escapees had 1.30 but now Etixx-QuickStep decided that it was time to accelerate. With the gap down to 1.10, the escapees responded  and suddenly it was again 1.40.


At the first passage of the line, the gap was 1.20, with Ag2r doing the majority of the work. Lotto Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep were also still active and so there was only 45 seconds left with 14km to go.


Gerard fell off the pace and was soon picked up by the peloton which hit the final 10km 18 seconds behind Voeckler and Geniez. They still had 5 seconds with 7km to go but one kilometre later, it was all back together.


Working for Rudy Barbier, Roubaix hit the front with two riders as they entered the final 5km and it came down to the expected bunch sprint. Here Trentin emerged as the fastest as he managed to hold off Barbier and Phol Bauhaus, with Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) and Jonas Van Genechten (IAM) completing the top 5.


With the win, Trentin takes the first yellow jersey with an advantage of four second over Barbier. He faces a much harder task tomorrow in stage 2 which has a tough finale. As the race starts in the flat part of the department, the first half is largely flat but then the terrain gradually becomes harder. The category 4 Cote de Matafelon-Granges serves as a warm-up before the riders hit the category 3 Cote de Cessiat for the first time. From there the riders will head to the finish before they take on one lap of a 27.9km circuit. It includes the 3.8km climb of Cote de Cessiat again. The top comes with 17km to go and then a short descent leads to the final 12km which are very slightly downhill.



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