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Stopping the clock in 8.11 on the 6.8km course, Vorobyev beat the IAM pair of Coppel and Brändle by less than a second in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe time trial; Fournier was a surprise fifth and retained the lead

Photo: Katusha / Tim de Waele

ANTON VOROBYEV

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CIRCUIT CYCLISTE SARTHE

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JEROME COPPEL

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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MATTHIAS BRÄNDLE

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06.04.2016 @ 19:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) confirmed his status as one of the biggest time trial talents by riding to a narrow win in the third stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. On the 6.8km course in Angers, he was less than a second faster than the IAM pair of Jerome Coppel and Matthias Brändle while Marc Fournier (FDJ) was a surprise fifth and so retained his overall lead.

 

In 2012, Anton Vorobyev won the U23 World Time Trial Championships and it was a general assessment that the powerful Russian was destined for greatness in the individual discipline. However, a number of health issues have slowed him down and he has never achieved the results  that many expected.

 

Vorobyev has shown flashes of his talents with a win in the Three Days of West-Flanders prologue and the time trial at Coppi e Bartali and he has been in the top 10 at the World Championships. However, he has never been able to consistently deliver results and most of his 2015 season was destroyed by injuries.

 

However, Vorobyev showed signs of improvement near the end of the year and now he is back on track. Today he won the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe time trial in a thrilling battle with two of the biggest specialists.

 

Having lost time in the opening stage, Vorobyev started the stage around the midpoint when one of the pre-race favourites Matthias Brändle held the fastest time of 8.12. The Russian powered around the short, flat course in Angers in a time that was just 0.9 second faster and so moved into the hot seat.

 

Among the late starters, the big rival was French champions and Worlds bronze medallist Jerome Coppel who was the big favourite for the stage. As expected, the Frenchman was riding very well and it came down to a hugely exciting battle. However, Vorobyev came out on top as the French champion missed out on victory by just 0.35 second.

 

Among the late starters, no one was able to get close, with a surprisingly strong Laurent Pichon being the best of the rest in fourth place, 6 seconds off the pace. The final challenger was expected to be Gaetan Bille (Wanty) who was one of the final starters but he had to settle for ninth.

 

The big surprise was overall leader Marc Fournier who had built an advantage of more than 2 minutes over all the favourites in yesterday’s very strange first stage. Despite his good results at the U23 level, no one really expected him to challenge the best in this stage but the youngster surprised most by posting the fifth best time, losing just 9 seconds to Vorobyev.

 

There were also encouraging rides for Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) and Javier Moreno (Movistar) who finished 6th 8th and respectively will be ready to strike in tomorrow’s hilly stage while sprinters Sondre Holst Eneger, Bryan Coquard and Juan Jose Lobato also remained in striking distance with top 20 finishes. As opposed to this, it was a disappointment for Tiago Machado who had to settle for 18th.

 

With his good ride, Fournier retained the lead and he now leads Coppel by 2.24. He faces his biggest test in tomorrow’s third stage which is the hardest of the race. The first 134.9km only includes a small climb at the 85.8km mark but the real challenges are the five laps of the 10.5km finishing circuit. It ends at the top of the short Avaloirs climb, meaning that it’s a day suited to puncheurs.

 

A short, flat course

After the sprint stage in the morning, the riders tackled the traditional 6.8km time trial in Angers. It was a completely flat course that had a technical middle section but also included long straights where the big engines could make a difference.

 

It was still beautiful sunshine when Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) rolled down the ramp as the first rider. He stopped the clock in 9.10 to set an early mark but was quickly pushed into second by Peter Koning (Drapac) who was 30 seconds faster.

 

Brändle takes the lead

Sergei Tvetcov (Androni) slotted into second but it was Matthias Brändle (IAM) who was expected to set the first serious mark. His time of 8.12 put him in pole position as it was a massive 28 seconds faster than Koning’s mark.

 

Jens Mouris (Drapac) got closer when he posted a time of 8.33 and Nicolas Baldo (Roth) made it into the top 5 with 8.47. Jorge Arcas (Movistar) moved into third with 8.38 and Romain Lemarchand (Stölting) also briefly made it into the top 5 with 8.44.

 

Best time for Vorobyev

Many had big expectations for Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) but the French specialist had a disappointing ride with 8.47. Instead, it was another TT talent, Vorobyev, who knocked Brändle out of the hot seat as he was 0.9 second faster.

 

Anthony Perez (Cofidis) had a fine ride to slot into fifth but it was Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r) who was the first big challenger for Vorobyev. However, the German was 20 seconds off the pace in third place.

 

Coppel misses out

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) proved that he is still a very capable bike rider by posting the third best time of 8.26 which was four second better than Kevin Reza (FDJ) who moved into fourth. However, it was pre-stage favourite Coppel that everybody was waiting for and he got agonizingly close, missing out by just 0.35 second.

 

Thomas Scully (Drapac) moved into the top 10 before being pushed down one spot by Arnaud Gerard (Fortuneo) who slotted into seventh. Laurent Pichon (FDJ) did even better as he was just 6 seconds behind in fourth place.

 

Fantastic ride by Fournier

Javier Moreno (Movistar) proved that he is ready to strike in the queen stage by posting the sixth best time which was one second slower than Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) who pushed the Spaniard down one spot. Mathias Frank (IAM) also stayed in contention by posting the 8th best time.

 

Lasse Norman (Stölting) narrowly missed out on the top 10 and Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) had a fine ride to make it into the top 20. However, it was Gaetan Bille (Wanty) who was expected to be the big threat for Vorobyev but the Belgian could only manage 8th.

 

Tiago Machado (Katusha) was left disappointed with 15th before Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) posted the 9th best time. Coquard did really well to slot into 15th before Fournier rolled across the line to take a surprise fifth place.

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