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After making it into a lead trio, Vichot did everything right in the finale to beat Gallopin and Vuillermoz in a sprint with apparent ease and so claimed his second French road race title

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXIS VUILLERMOZ

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ARTHUR VICHOT

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSSHIPS

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TONY GALLOPIN

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26.06.2016 @ 18:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) put more than a year of travails and health issues behind when he claimed his second French road race title in impressive fashion. Having made it into a front trio, he easily responded to the late attack from Tony Gallopin and then beat the Lotto Soudal rider and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) in the sprint.

 

In 2013, Arthur Vichot confirmed his huge potential and revealed himself as the next big French rider for the Ardennes classics when he rode to victory at the French championships. However, since then very little has gone right for the FDJ rider.

 

Vichot crashed hard late in 2014 when he seemed to be in the form of his life and his 2015 season was a write-off due to health issues. However, he has shown signs of his former self in 2016, most notably at the start of the year when he won the Tour du Haut-Var before he again fell ill for the classics.

 

After a decent showing in the Dauphiné, he lined up as one of the favourites for today’s French road race championships whose hilly course made it tailor-made for his characteristics. And he confirmed his return to form by taking his second title in  impressive fashion after an aggressive race that had seen all the French climbers come out with all guns blazing.

 

Vichot  joined teammate Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, Julian Alaphilippe, Tony Gallopin and Alexis Vuillermoz to form a formidable sextet at the top of the final climb and then reacted quickly when Vuillermoz and Gallopin attacked. The trio worked well together to keep their chasers at bay and in the end he did everything right by responding to Gallopin’s attacks and finally taking what seemed to be an easy sprint win.

 

The 2016 edition of the French championships was be held on a 13.1km course in Vesoul. It included two climbs. The first (2km, 6.4%) came right after the start and then there was a smaller hill (1km, 5.9%)at the 6km mark. The final 7km were mainly descending or flat. The riders covered 19 laps for an overall distance of 248.9km in the hilly terrain.

 

It was a sunny day in France when the riders gathered for the start and they slowly climbed the first climb during their neutral zone. The flag was dropped at the top of the ascent but surprisingly it took some time for the first break to be launched. Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) was the first to try and he was joined by Frederic Brun (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) but they were brought back shortly after the first passage of the line.

 

Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis) were then part of a four-rider group that briefly escaped before a big 34-rider group suddenly got clear at the end of the second lap. Jeremy Cornu, Tony Hurel, Thomas Voeckler, Bryan Nauleau, Lilian Calmejane, Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Olivier Le Gac, Arnaud Démare, Benoit Vaugrenard, Sebastien Chavanel, Lorrenzo Manzin, Kevin Reza, Matthieu Ladagnous, Jeremy Roy, Cedric Pineau (FDJ), Jean-Marc Bideau, Arnaud Gérard, Anthony Delaplace, Julien Loubet, Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortunéo Vital Concept), Florian Senechal, Anthony Perez, Christophe Laporte, Clement Venturini, Cyril Lemoine, Jerome Cousin (Cofidis), Leonardo Duque, Christophe Laborie (Delko-Marseille Provence), Alexis Gougeard, Hubert Dupont, Sebastien Minard, Pierre Latour, Jean-Christophe Peraud and Axel Domont (Ag2r) quickly managed to get an advantage of a minute.

 

Pierre Gouault (Auber 93) tried to bridge across and crossed the line at the end of the third lap 1.48 behind the leaders. The peloton arrived 3.52 behind the escapees and saw Julien Duval (Armee) also try to make it across.

 

While the gap grew to 4.27 during the fourth lap, Duval and Gouault both gave up and sat up to wait for the peloton which was led by the FDJ team. They slowly started to reduce the gap, bringing it down by 30 seconds before Roubaix and Armee took over. The former took completely control and had brought it down to 3.05 at the end of the fifth lap.

 

Nicolas Momcomble, Jeremy Leveau and Rudy Barbier were doing the work to reduce the advantage to just 2.15 with 150km to go. In the front group, Direct Energie did most of the work, supported by the Cofidis riders.

 

Armee gathered all their 13 riders on the front but they were unable to prevent the gap from growing. It reached 2.36 before Barbier came back to the front to share the work with the Armee riders. Despite the hard work from Perez, Cornu and Hurel in the front group, that tipped the balance as the gap dropped to less than two minutes with 125km to go. At the end of the 10th lap, there was only 1.15 left of the big advantage.

 

As they hit the climb again, Hurel, Cornu and Bideau who had done a lot of the work in the break, were dropped and sent straight out the back door in the peloton where Armee was now the only team working on the front.

 

That left Senechal and Cofidis to do all the work and when the gap had dropped to 55 seconds, they changed tactic as they hit the second climb. Laporte launched the first attack and was followed by Gougeard, Nauleau and an FDJ rider in what ultimately turned out to be a failed move. However, Senechal and Chavanel were dropped from the group and picked up by the peloton.

 

Perichon was the next to try and he was joined by Laporte, Gougeard and Ladagnous before Nauleau also bridged the gap. With representation from all the big teams, the quintet soon got a big advantage as the rest of the group almost sat up.

 

At the end of the 11th lap, the five leaders had a one-minute advantage over the peloton which brought the chasers back just as they crossed the line. That prompted Armee to stop their work and instead Manzin, Arnaud Courteille and Mickael Delage hit the front for FDJ. However, he was just controlling things and allowed the gap to go out to 2.15 at the end of the 12th lap.

 

FDJ and Direct Energie patrolled the front as the peloton slowly made its way around the next lap of the circuit, allowing the gap to reach 5.10 at the 13th passage of the line. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Demare had gathered on the front as they started the climb again.

 

It was time for Julian Alaphilippe to show his card as he sent his only domestique Maxime Bouet off in an attack. FDJ reacted immediately, with Demare leading a small group with the likes of his FDJ teammates Thibaut Pinot, Latour, Voeckler, Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie), Brice Feillu (Fotuneo-Vital Concept) back to the Etixx-QuickStep rider.

 

On the second climb, a small group with the likes of Kevin Reza, Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Jerome Coppel (IAM), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) bridged across and FDJ were clearly pleased with the situation. Demare and Reza kept riding hard as they had their leaders Vichot and Pinot in the group but as they didn’t get any help, they finally slowed down and so the group was caught.

 

Bernard, Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis), Yoann Offredo (FDJ) and Cyril Gautier (Ag2r) were part of a few attacks but no one had gone clear when they crossed the line at the end of the 13th lap. The fast pace had reduced the gap to just 3 minutes.

 

The peloton again slowed down as they hit the main climb again and it was Offredo who controlled things for FDJ. However, the calmness didn’t last long as Clement Chevrier (IAM) attacked near the top of the climbs, drawing clear a quintet that also included Jeandesboz and Johan Le Bon (FDJ). The attacking ended the day for Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) who was dropped.

 

That move was brought back and instead Quentin Pacher (Delko) hit out. Jeandesboz, Arnold Jeannesson, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Coppel and Latour joined him but that was too dangerous for FDJ who chased it down with Jeremy Roy riding on the front.

 

Cousin attacked as soon as they hit the second climb and he got clear alongside Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Latour and Yoann Offredo(FDJ). While there were more unsuccessful attacks in the peloton, the quartet worked well together to increase their advantage and approach the leaders. With four laps to go, they were just 1.05 behind the front quintet while they had increased their advantage over the peloton which had almost come to a standstill. Bouhanni rejoined the group but kept riding at the back of the field.

 

Entering the final 50km, the front group were 40 seconds ahead of the peloton and 1.40 ahead of the peloton which was led by the FDJ riders. The five leaders quickly realized that they were better off waiting and the junction was made with 42km to go where nine riders gathered in the lead with an advantage of 2.30.

 

FDJ upped the pace with Mickael Delage, William Bonnet and Demare but it was Ag2r that really accelerated with Julien Berard and Guillaume Bonnafond before they crossed the at the end of the 16th lap with a deficit of 1.45.

 

As they hit the climb again, Laporte and Gougeard were dropped from the break while Cyril Gautier (Ag2r) attacked hard from the peloton. Pacher joined the aggressive Ag2r rider while Peraud and Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) gave chase. They were passed by Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) who made it across to Pacher just as Gautier was dropped.

 

Gautier, Peraud, Elissonde, Jeannesson, Edet and Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) joined Pacher and Antomarchi and they quickly bridged the gap to the leaders. Pacher went straight on the attack but he didn’t clear

 

The peloton slowed down again and this opened the door for Bouet to try to bridge the gap. He quickly got a big advantage and while he tried to make it back to the leaders, Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) made an unsuccessful attempt.

 

Over the top of the climb, Jeannesson went on the attack and unlike Rolland, he got an advantage. Meanwhile, Latour and Peraud started to work hard for Gautier in the front group and Bouet passed Gougeard.

 

A small group with the likes of Brice Feillu (Fortuneo), Axel Domont (Ag2r), Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) were the next to try and they quickly caught Gougeard and Jeannesson. At the start of the penultimate lap, they were around 1.10 behind the leaders while the peloton was at 1.40.

 

Pacher attacked hard on the climb and was joined by Elissonde, Edet and Gautier. Meanwhile, Gauillaume Martin (Wanty) attacked from the peloton but it was the impressive counterattack from Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) that distanced everybody. Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) tried to give chase but he had no chance to follow the Etixx talent.

 

Romain Bardet (Ag2r) realized the danger and made a big attack that no one could follow. He rode Gallopin off his wheel and took off in lone pursuit of Alaphilippe.

 

Alaphilippe and Bardet caught Jeannesson, Feillu and Domont who were the only survivors from the big chase group and Peraud and Bouet immediately waited before going full gas for their leaders. Meanwhile, a 10-rider front group with Gautier, Edet, Ladagous, Pacher, Antomarchi, Nauleau, Sicard, Loubet, Perichon and Elissonde had gathered in front with an advantage of 1.30 over the Alaphilippe group.

 

As Bardet refused to work, a group with the Bouet, Vuillermoz, Pinot, Vichot, Feillu, Coppel, Dumoulin, Gallopin and Jeannesson caught them and Bouet went straight to work for Alaphilippe. Unfortunately, Coppel crashed out of the group when he touched Bardet’s rear wheel.

 

Feillu, Vichot, Pinot, Offredo, Bardet, Dumoulin, Latour, Vuillermoz, Jeannesson, Cousin, Alaphilippe, Bouet and Gallopin started the final lap with a 30-second deficit and it didn’t take long for Bouet to close the final part of the gap on the lower slopes of the climb. He buried himself until they hit the climb where Elissonde launched the first attack.

 

Elissonde dangled a few metres ahead of the group while Gautier emptied himself for Bardet. The Agwr captain went straight past the fading Elissonde and rode Gallopin off his wheel.

 

A surge from Pinot allowed the FDJ leader, Vichot, Gallopin, Alaphilippe and Vuillermoz to catch Bardet and when Vuillermoz countered, only Gallopin and Vichot could respond. As Pinot, Alaphilippe and Bardet failed to cooperate, Antomarchi rejoined from behind and later a group with Dumoulin, Perichon, Edet, Sicard and Gautier also made it back.

 

Gallopin, Vuillermoz and Vichot extended their advantage to 25 seconds before Dumoulin and Sicard took off in pursuit. Perichon joined from behind before they hit the final climb.

 

Alaphilippe went full gas on the ascent and crested the summit together with Dumoulin while Pinot, Bardet, Perichon and Sicard gathered to form a chase group. Gallopin tried to get clear from his two companions but the three leaders stayed together.

 

Dumoulon was briefly working with Alaphilippe but soon stopped to cooperate. As opposed to this, the front trio worked well together and entered the final 3km with an advantage of 30 seconds over Alaphilippe and Dumoulin.

 

Perichon caught Alaphilippe and Dumoulin but it was too late for them to get back. After Gallopin tried a small attack with 1.5km to go, the game of cat and mouse started and it was Gallopin who rode on the front until he launched the first attack. The attentive Vichot shut it down and then hit the front.

 

Vuillermoz tried to launch the sprint but Vichot reacted immediately. The Ag2r rider did never come around the FDJ rider who easily held off his companions. Gallopin had to settle for second again while Vuillermoz was third. Moments later Dumoulin beat Alaphilippe and Perichon in the sprint for fourth.

 

Vichot will get his first chance to wear the new jersey at the Tour de France where he is part of the FDJ line-up.

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