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One day after winning the time trial, Vorobyev powered clear of an early four-rider break to win the qUeen stage at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, holding off Gretsch by 51 seconds; Fournier dug deep on the circuit to retain the lead

Photo: Katusha / Tim de Waele












07.04.2016 @ 18:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) proved that he is much more than a time trial specialist by claiming an impressive solo win in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe queen stage, just 24 hours after he had won the time trial. The Russian dropped his companions from a four-rider breakaway on the hilly finishing circuit and time trialled his way to victory with a 51-second advantage over Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r). Romain Hardy (Cofidis) won the sprint from a small 18-rider peloton while Marc Fournier (FDJ) dug deep to limit his losses sufficiently and retain the overall lead.


When he turned professional, Anton Vorobyev was known as the U23 time trial world champion and he was regarded as a TT specialist. While his power in the time trials was evident, he struggled a lot in the road races and he was often one of the first to get dropped on the climbs.


However, parts of the explanation for his travails were the many health issues that have plagued him and also prevented him from proving his full class in the TTs. However, he is now finally injury-free and seems to be back on track.


Yesterday he confirmed his class by claiming an impressive victory in the time trial at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. That stage was his only real goal in the race and he was expected to just work for his team in the final part of the race.


However, 24 hours after his first win he showed how much progress he has made by making it two in a row. He put his improved climbing skills on show by taking a beautiful solo win in the queen stage of the race.


The stage ended with five laps of a difficult 10.5km finishing circuit that ended at the top of the short Avaloirs climb and Vorobyev had anticipated the difficult finale by going on the attack right from the start. After 3km of racing, he had gone clear with Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r), Nicolas Baldo (Roth) and Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and that quartet hit the slippery finishing circuit after 129.5km with an advantage of 6.40. As they crossed the finish line on the Avaloirs climb for the first time, only 4.50 of the advantage was left as things started to heat up in the peloton


Vorobyev was clearly the strongest in the break and sent Baldo out the backdoor. The Russian tried to make a solo attack but failed in his attempt and instead Baldo regained contact.


Vorobyev tried again and this time, he quickly managed to put 8 seconds into Gretsch and Jarrier while Baldo was again left behind. He slowly extended his lead to 27 seconds as he hit the Avaloirs climb for the second time where he won the KOM sprint ahead of Jarrier, Gretsch and Baldo.


In the peloton, Floris De Tier (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) accelerated and they were the first to reach the top. Enger went again and got away as a part of a quartet that also included Francis Mourey (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Eliot Lietaer (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Christian Mager (Stölting).


While Gerald Ciolek (Stölting) left the race, the four chasers caught Baldo and put 40 seconds into the peloton which was still 4.55 behind Vorobyev. The Russian crossed the line with an advantage of 1.08 over Gretsch and Jarrier while the chase group which had dropped Baldo, followed at 4 minuted. Delio Fernandez (Delko) was 40 seconds further adrift and held just 10 seconds over the peloton.


While Vorobyev pushed his advantage over his chasers out to 1.30, Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) joined Fernandez and the pair quickly caught the chase group. As they hit the climb again, Jerome Coppel (IAM) and Cyril Gautier (Ag2r) also got across while Enger lost contact.


As they went up the climb again, Vorobyev won the KOM sprint, followed by Gretsch, Harrier, Gautier, Sicard and Lietaer. Further back, race leader Marc Fournier (FDJ) was suffering and crossed the line 20 seconds behind the peloton.


Coppel, Gautier, Sicard, Mourey, Fernandez, Lietaer and Mager worked hard to stay clear of the peloton which had split into three groups and witnessed constant attacks. Fournier found himself with two teammates in the third group.


While Gretsch dropped Jarrier, the chase group was caught and instead Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie) launched a solo attack. However, in front of the race it was Vorobyev who pressed on and he started the final lap with a 2-minute advantage over Gretsch and 2.30 over Jarrier,


Jeandesboz and Jarrier were both caught by the peloton which was now split in two groups, with Fournier finding himself in the second bunch. Halfway through the lap, the two groups were separated by 18 seconds but as the first group was 3.10 behind Voroboyev, it was evident that he was not going to be brought back.


Fournier and FDJ dug deep to bring the gap down to 10 seconds and the youngster proved his class by single-handedly bridging across. He even went straight to the front to set the pace alongside the Fortuneo team.


While Fournier knew that his lead was secure, Vorboyev had plenty of time to celebrate his win. The strong Russian crossed the line with a 51-second advantage over Gretsch while Romai Hardy (Cofidis) led the 18-rier peloton to the line 1.15 behind the winner


Fournier lost a bit of ground on the final climb and crossed the line with a time loss of 1.42. However, it was enough to defend his lead and he now leads Coppel by 1.57. He now just needs to get safely through the final stage which is easier than it has been in the past. There are three early climbs on the menu but as the stage ends with 7 laps of a completely flat 8.2km circuit in Arnage, everything is set for a bunch sprint at the end of the race.


The queen stage

After yesterday’s double stage, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over190.3km stage from Angers to the well-known finish at the top of the small Avaloirs climb in Pre-en-Pail. The first 134.9km took them from the start to the finish and with just one climb at the 85.8km mark, it was a pretty straightforward start. The real challenges were the five laps of the 10.5km finishing circuit which finished at the top of the Avaloirs climb.


It was another sunny day in France when the riders gathered for the start. Unfortunately, Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) who had done a great time trial was absent and so it was a 91-rider field that headed out for the 9km neutral ride.


Four riders get clear

Like in the first two road stages, it didn’t take long for the early break to be formed. Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) samt Nicolas Baldo (Roth) launched the first solid offensive but they were soon brought back. However, they refused to give up and when they went again, they were joined by Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r) and Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept).


The quartet quickly pushed their advantage out to 30 seconds while Anthony Perez (Cofidis) made a failed attempt to bridge across. The peloton took a breather and so the gap quickly went out to 4.40 before FDJ took control of the situation. The French team kept the gap stable and it was still 4.35 at the 25km mark.


FDJ in control

Nothing had changed at the end of the first hour during which 41.9km/h had been averaged before the gap went out to five minutes at the 50km mark. It was again down to 4.35 when Vorobyev beat Gretsch and Jarrier in the first intermediate sprint. The Russian was again the fastest in the second sprint, holding off Jarrier and Baldo.


The situation was totally stable, with FDJ keepting the gap between 4.30 and 5.00 while Vorobyev made it three in a row in the final sprint, crossing the line ahead of Jarrier and Gretsch. The peloton crossed the line 4.40 later.


The race hit by hail

Surprisingly, FDJ suddenly slowed down and at the end of a slow second hour with an average speed of 36.9km/h, the gap had gone out to 6.20. At the same time, hail started to fall and while Marc De Maar (Roompot) abandoned, many riders stopped to take on their rain jackets.


Jarrier led Vorobyev, Gretsch and Baldo over the top of the first climb before the peloton reached the KOM sprint 6.05 later. That was the maximum gap at this point as the peloton upped the pace as soon as the sun came out again. After 100km of racing, they had reduced the gap to 5.25.


Direct Energie came to the fore to lend FDJ a hand but the gap was no longer coming down. After it had briefly been only 5 minutes, it was again 5.50 with 72km to go. Moments later, they hit the circuit where Vorobyev rode to a solo win



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