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Another perfect lead-out from Petit set Coquard up for his second consecutive sprint win at the 4 Days of Dunkirk while a fast-finishing Bouhanni had to settle for second; Coquard extended his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti








05.05.2016 @ 17:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) continued his amazing spring season by making it two in a row with another sprint win on stage 2 of the Four Days of Dunkirk. Like yesterday, he got the perfect lead-out from Adrien Petit and even though Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was clearly the fastest and finished very strongly, the Frenchman crossed the line first to double his tally and extend his overall lead.


Last year Bryan Coquard won the first stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk but missed out in the subsequent bunch sprints and so failed to build enough of an advantage before the queen stage. Hence, he had to settle for second overall behind Ignatas Konovalovas.


This year he is determined not to make a similar mistake as he aims for overall victory in his home race and yesterday he got the race off to the perfect start by winning the first stage. Today he did what he failed to do 12 months ago: back up his first victory with another win on the second stage.


Just like yesterday, Coquard benefited greatly from a formidable lead-out from teammate Adrien Petit who allowed his captain to start his sprint from the perfect position. And just like yesterday, big rival Nacer Bouhanni was completely out of position and even though the Cofidis rider was clearly the fastest, it was only enough for second place.


All day Direct Energie controlled the relatively calm stage that was raced in summerlike conditions and they had brought everything back together as they approached the final lap of the 15km finishing circuit. Perrig Quemeneur kept riding on the front until Topsport Vlaanderen took over just before they started the final lap.


Armee were next to take over but the attentive Topsport team was back in control as they left Aniche. ONE then strung out the field until Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) launched one of his trademark attacks with 11km to go.


Gougeard did an impressive job to put 10 seconds into the peloton which forced Direct Energie to get back to work. Roompot lend them a hand but they didn’t make much inroad and so Delko upped the pace with 7km to go.


Yohann Gene came to the fore to take a huge turn for Direct Energie as they approached the final 5km However, Gougeard did an impressive job to maintain a 5-second advantage.


Inside the final 5km, Yoann Offredo (FDJ) attacked and he sprinted past Gougeard who was picked up by Direct Energie. He managed to build an advantage of a handful of seconds but when he looked back, he could see the red jerseys of Cofidis on the front.


Two riders from Androni took over and they brought Offredo back with 3.4km to go. Cofidis were in a great position but they had lost Bouhanni who was on his own and desperately looking for his teammates.


Direct Energie kept the pace high with one rider before Frederik Backaert (Wanty) took over. However, it was Etixx-QuickStep that looked strongest when Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh and Maximilano Richeze gathered on the front with less than 2km to go.


Bouhanni had now found his teammates and was in a good position behind the Etixx-QuickStep trio and they moved up just before the flamme rouge when Michael van Staeyen sprinted past Terpstra. Clement Venturini went head to head with Vandenbergh and the Cofidis rider won the battle.


That’s when things unraveled for Cofidis as Petit timed his move perfectly to hit the front, followed by a Wanty rider, Coquard, Richeze and Bouhanni. The Wanty rider launched the sprint but Coquard easily came around. Bouhanni again paid for his poor positioning and even though he finished much faster than his rival, he had to settle for second. Roy Jans (Wanty) also came from far back to take third.


With the win, Coquard strengthened his overall lead and now has an advantage of 10 seconds over Bouhanni. He should get another chance to sprint for the win in stage 3 which is another relatively flat affair. There are four early climbs on the menu in the first half but the second part is mostly flat. In the end, the riders will do two laps of a 10.5km circuit that is a bit hillier than we have seen in recent days and where a harder uphill sprint will make things tougher.


Three pave sectors

After yesterday’s sprint stage, there was another flat stage on the menu on the second day when the riders covered 186.3km around the city of Aniche. It was the cobbled stage of the 2016 edition but this year the three pave sectors came in the first 60km and so were unlikely to make a difference. Then there were two small climbs in the first half before the terrain leveled out. In the end, the riders did three laps of a mostly flat finishing circuit that had an uphill finishing straight.


As had been forecasted, it was bright sunshine as riders gathered for the start in Aniche. Like yesterday, there were many early attacks, but finally five riders managed to get clear. Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot), Lander Seynaeve (Wanty,) Xandro Meurisse (Crelan), Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) and Felix Pouilly (Roubaix) quickly got a gap of 2.30.


Nervousness of the paves

Not surprisingly Direct Energie quickly took control and ensured that the gap was not more than 3.20 after 23km of racing. They were not really chasing, and therefore they allowed the gap to grow to 5.40 before they hit the first cobbles where Pouilly had to use some energy to get back to the break after a puncture. Nervousness meant that the peloton increased the pace, and the gap dropped to 2.30. At the same time, there were many punctures, including one for Florian Senechal (Cofidis).


After 35 km the gap was again 3.10 but it did not deter Florian Pereira (Roubaix) from trying to close the gap with a solo move. At the end of the second pave sector after 47km of racing, he was 1.30 behind the leaders while the peloton was 3 minutes behind.


Direct Energie in control

Nervousness meant that the gap was reduced to 2 minutes after the last pave sector where Pereira was brought back. While Marc Fournier (FDJ) left the race, the peloton relaxed a bit and after 65km of racing, the gap was again 3.30. It reached 4.30 where Direct Energie kept it stable for most of the day


Halfway through the stage, the French team started to increase the speed and with 70km to go, the gap had been halved to just 2.20. Guillaume Thevenot and Fabien Grellier were taking some huge turns on the front and his work paid off as there was only 1.50 left of the advantage ten kilometres later.


Cofidis come to the fore

Direct Energie didn’t want to catch the break too early and so Grellier and Thevenot stepped off the gas, allowing the gap to go back out to 2.15 with 50km to go. That was the signal for Cofidis to show their intentions as Gert Joeaar came to the fore to work with Grellier and Thevenot.


Seynaeve led the front group across the line to start the first lap of the 15km finishing circuit while Thevenot was the first rider from the peloton just 1.28 later as the harder chase effort was now paying off. Joeaar, Grellier and Thevenot worked well together to shave 33 seconds off the advantage during the first lap, reaching the finish for the second time 55 seconds behind the leaders.


FDJ try to split the field

With 27km to go, the monotony was broken when FDJ attacked hard in the crosswinds, with four riders trading pulls on the front. Sebastien Chavanel and Yoann Offredo were took huge turns that split the peloton in two. However, the group came back together.


Topsport and Crelan maintained the high speed when FDJ stopped and this made the gap melt away. Seynaeve and Meurisse tried to keep the break alive a little longer while their three companions were swallowed up but as it all looked futile, Seynaeve quickly sat up.


Meurisse is caught

Meurisse pressed on and as the peloton calmed down with Direct Energie, he actually managed to extend his advantage again. Perrig Quemeneur was setting a modest pace for the French team, keeping the Belgian at around 10 seconds.


Meurisse fought hard but it was impossible to keep the peloton at bay and with19km to go, it was all back together. Quemeneur kept riding on the front until they started the final lap and his efforts ultimately paid off as it was another win for Coquard.



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