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After Direct Energie had worked hard to catch a strong trio, Coquard came out on top in the uphill sprint on the queen stage of Boucle de la Mayenne, holding off Vantomme and Vigano in the dash to the line; he retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti










04.06.2016 @ 18:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two days after winning the prologue, Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) continued his dream season by adding the queen stage at the Boucles de la Mayenne to his growing palmares. After his team had worked hard to catch a very strong front trio, he held off Maxime Vantomme (Roubaix) and Davide Vigano (Androni) in the final dash to the line and so extended his overall lead on the eve of the final stage.


It may have taken some time for Bryan Coquard to turn into a regular winner but in 2016 the French fastman has really proved his class. Despite a setback with a training crash in February, Coquard has been one of the most successful riders throughout the year. He was in contention in the cobbled classics where he nearly won Dwars door Vlaanderen and he finished fourth in both Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race before he completely dominated the 4 Days of Dunkirk to add another four wins to his growing list of 2016 victories.


The results made him the natural favourite for this week’s Boucles de la Mayenne and with a dominant win in the prologue, he firmly showed his intentions. Things didn’t work out in yesterday’s sprint stage but today he bounced back by winning the uphill sprint on the queen stage, holding off Maxime Vantomme and Davide Vigano on a day when his small 6-rider Direct Energie team had done a massive job.


After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 182km from Laval to Villaines-la-Juhel. There were two categorized climbs in the first half but the real challenge was the three climbs that came in quick succession before the riders got to the finish for the first time. Here, they ended the race by doing four laps of a finishing circuit that had two climbs inside the final 6km. The final top came with 2km to go and from there a descent led to the final few hundred metres that were slightly uphill.


Benjamin Giraud (Delko) and Holm Foder (Trefor) were the non-starters when the peloton gathered under a cloudy and dry sky. As soon as the flag was dropped, the attacking started and it was Flavien Dassonville (AUBER 93) who first got a small advantage. Connor McConvey (An Post) was next to try a solo move but Fortuneo-Vital Concept kept things together.


Julien Duval (Armee) and Kasper Asgreen (Trefor) briefly escaped but things were back together at the first intermediate sprint where Androni took 1st, 2nd and 4th with Francesco, Chicchi, Marco Benfatto and Daniele Ratto respectively. Domingos Goncalves (Caja RuraL) crossed the line in third before the attacking started again.


Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) managed to escape after 36km of racing and he was quickly joined by William Clarke (Drapac) and Philipp Walsleben (Beobank). The trio fought hard to maintain a 10-second advantage and this allowed Clarke to win the second intermediate sprint ahead of Walsleben and Mas, with Marcel Meisen (Kuota Lotto) taking fourth place.


After the sprint, things came back together and riders started to get dropped in the rolling terrain. The compact peloton decided the third sprint where Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural) beat Coquard, Meisen and Leonardo Duque (Delko). Meanwhile, Benoit Sinner (Armee) left the race.


As the peloton hit a 20% climb, Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank) took off while the peloton exploded to pieces. Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Joris Nieuwenhuis (Rabobank), Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ) and Eliot Lietaer (Topsport) joined the cyclo-cross start and they opened a 25-second advantage before Yann Guyot (Armee) bridged across. Van der Poel beat Neiuwenhuis, Hoelgaard and Lietaer in the first KOM sprint.


The peloton finally slowed down and so the gap went out to 1.30. However, that didn’t stop Mas from trying to bridge across and impressively, he made the junction very quickly. At this point, the peloton was 2.50 behind the leaders.


Direct Energie took control in the peloton but were not chasing yet. Hence, the gap was 3 minutes as they entered the final 100km where Kevin Lebreton became the second Armee rider to leave the race. Jens Mouris (Drapac) also left the race while Chicchi was dropped in the hilly terrain.


Direct Energie upped the pace and had reduced the gap to 2.20 with 80km to go. However, the escapes reacted strongly and so they again had an advantage of 3.10 with 67km to go.


As they hit the next climb, lots of riders tried to attack, including Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Davide Vigano (Androni) and Yoann Offredo (FDJ). However, only Offredo could escape and the next move from Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis) was also unsuccessful.


The peloton had to chase hard and when the gap had dropped to 2 minutes, it spelled the end for Adrien Petit who had been working for Coquard. However, Direct Energie remained in control of the reduced peloton before Auber 93 and Cofidis lent them a hand as they entered the final 50km.


While Mas became the first rider to surrender from the lead group, Offredo was still dangling 30 seconds ahead of the peloton which kept the gap at around 2 minutes. At the first passage of the line, Mas was 40 seconds behind, Offredo was at 1.40 and the 88-rider peloton was at 2.15. Chicchi was more than two minutes further adrift.


While Yoann Gene and Angelo Tulik set the pace for Direct Energie, Offredo joined forces with Mas but it was all in vain as they were brought back. However, the six leaders were still riding strongly and kept a 2-minute advantage.


Ledanois led the front group across the line for the second time before the peloton arrived 1.49 later. However, that spelled the end for the cooperation in the front group as Ledanois, Guyot and Lietaer dropped van der Poel, Nieuwenhuis and Hoelgaard. Van der Poel made it back a little later.


At the start of the penultimate lap, the front trio had an advantage of 1.15 and now the attacking was started. Alo Jakin (Auber 93) tried the first move and was joined by Aritz Bagues (Euskadi) but the pair was quickly brought back.


Ledanois tried to attack but van der Poel and Guyot could both keep up with the U23 world champion. However, they were losing ground quickly as Caja Rural had now taken control and reduced the gap to 40 seconds while also bringing the dropped riders from the break aback.


Nicolas Baldo (Roth) led the peloton across the line to start the final lap with a delay of 34 seconds. However, Caja Rural quickly took over again as they lined up Angel Madrazo, Ricardo Vilela, Jose Goncalves and Javier Aramendia on the front.


As they hit the first climb of the circuit, Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) attacked but he never made it across. Instead, it was Guyot who attacked from the front trio but the effort was in vain as the break was caught with 3km to go.


Caja Rural, Roth, Cofidis and FDJ amassed on the front while Coquard was now on his own. However, that was not enough to stop the Frenchman who won the uphill sprint by holding off Maxime Vantomme and Davide Vigano.


With the win, Coquard extended his overall lead over teammate Thomas Boudat to 16 seconds. He has a chance to add to his tally in the final stage which has two early categorized climbs and three climbs in the second half. However, the stage ends with 5 laps of a flat circuit in Laval where the sprinters are expected to battle it out.



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