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After a very aggressive race, Ahlstrand finished off a perfect Cofidis lead-out by winning the final stage of the Tour de l’Eurometropole; Gougeard did well in the battle for bonus seconds and won the race overall

Photo: Team Giant-Shimano

AG2R CITROEN TEAM

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ALEXIS GOUGEARD

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JONAS AHLSTRAND

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JURGEN ROELANDTS

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MARTIJN KEIZER

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SONDRE HOLST ENGER

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TOUR DE L'EUROMÉTROPOLE

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04.10.2015 @ 16:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jonas Ahlstrand (Cofidis) got a rare chance to sprint for himself in the final stage of the Tour de l’Eurometropole and he made the most of it by finishing off an excellent lead-out, holding off Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) and Raymond Kreder (Roompot) to take the win. Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) was always on top of things in the battle for bonus seconds and took the overall victory with a 7-second advantage over Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo), with Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) completing the podium.

 

Jonas Ahlstrand was signed by the Cofidis team for the 2015 season as he was set to play a key role in the lead-out train for Nacer Bouhanni. However, he has not done much racing with his team captain and has instead followed a separate programme.

 

In a team stacked with sprinting talent, that hasn’t left him many personal opportunities though but he has been good at grabbing his chances. He won a stage in the 4 Days of Dunkirk and today he won the final stage of the Tour de l’Eurometropole after having worked for teammaes Louis Verhelst and Michael van Staeyen in the first three road stages.

 

It had been a very aggressive race with lots of attacks on the 14.7km finishing circuit and as there were bonus seconds on offer on the small climb during the final three passages, Lotto Soudal and LottoNL-Jumbo had brought the break back very early. This had set the scene for a battle for bonus seconds and lots fo attacks and it was Eugert Zhupa (Southeast) who started the final lap with a small advantage.

 

The Albanian was quickly caught and instead Ludwig De Winter took off in a solo move as they approached the climb. Pavel Brutt, Franck Bonnamour, Maurits Lammertink, Nike Teunissen, Thomas Wertz, Jerome Baugnies, Zhupa, Dries De Bondt, Jelle Wallays, Nils Politt, Roj Rujgh and Victor Manakov joined him on the lower slopes and this forced IAM and Ag2r to chase hard.

 

IAM decided to send Dries Devenyns across as they hit the climb and this forced race leader Alexis Gougeard to chase. The Belgian made it across before Baugnies forced the pace on the climb as only Politt, Bonnamour and Teunissen could keep up. Bonnaumour led Teunissen and Politt over the top.

 

Brutt, Lammertink, De Winter and Devenyns joined the group before a big group latched on too. Suddenly 20 riders had gathered in front and the top 2 in GC, Gougeard and Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo), were both there, alongside riders like Johan Le Bon, Florian Senechal, Roy Curvers, Tom Van Asbroeck and Reto Hollenstein.

 

Lotto Soudal had missed the move and were chasing hard with Sean De Bie and they got closer as there was no cooperation in the front group. Devenyns tried to make a move before Le Bon, Teunissen, Senechal, Politt and De Winter managed to escape with 4km to go. Lotto Soudal were chasing full gas. They quickly brought the big chase group back and with 3km to go, it was also over for the front quartet.

 

Just as the junction was made, the peloton slowed down and this allowed Politt and De Winter to get a small gap. However, Vastgoedservice quickly upped the pace and with 2km to go, the front dup were caught.

 

The Belgian team set the ace until Roompot hit the front with 1.5km to go when Berden De Vries hit the front. One of his teammates took over and when he swung off, it was Matteo Tosatto who took control, followed by teammates Michael Mørkøv and Nikolai Trusov.

 

Passing the flamme rouge, Adrien Petit, Michael van Staeyen and Ahlstrand hit the front with Mørkøv and Trusov on their wheel. Van Staeyen made the lead out but when IAM tried to pass on the right-hand side and Jürgen Roelandts and Jens Debusschere came up on the left, Ahlstrand had to do a very long sprint.

 

He quickly got a gap as Roelandts and Debusschere started to fade. Sondre Holst Enger finished very strongly for IAM but had to settle for second while Raymond Kreder had latched onto the Norwegian’s wheel to take third. Roelandts missed out on bonus seconds by taking fourth.

 

Gougeard finished safely in the bunch and as he had drawn equal with Roelandts in the battle for bonus seconds and picked up four seconds himself, he took the overall win with a seven-second advantage over Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) and 11-second advantage over Roelandts who rounded out the top 3. Roelandts won the points competition, Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie) was the best climber, Gougeard was also the best climber and IAM was the best team.

 

With the Tour de l’Eurometropole done and dusted, the European stage racing season is now over. However, there are still two Belgian one-day races left, Tuesday’s Binche-Chimay-Binche and Nationale Sluitingsprijs one week later.

 

A tricky stage

After yesterday’s flat stage, the final stage of the Tour de l’Eurometropole was expected to be a lot harder as it brought the riders over 153.8k from Mons to Tournai. The first part was relatively easy with no climb but after 50.1km of racing, the riders hit the finishing circuit before crossing the line 700m later. The race ended with seven laps of the 14.7km loop that included the Croix Jubaru climb 9.4km from the flat finish. The climb offered KOM points the first four times while there were bonus seconds at the top the final three times.

 

It was another sunny day when the riders gathered for the start. One rider was absent as Björn Leukemans (Wanty) had travelled home to prepare for later objectives.

 

An early break

Right from the start a five-rider group got up the road and they were joined by a few more riders before Ag2r brought them back. The attacking continue, with Jan Dieteren (Leopard) briefly getting off the front, but like the rest of the many moves, his attack was unsuccessful.

 

After 6km of racing, Nils Politt (Team Katusha), Jay Robert Thomson (MTN Qhubeka), Rudy Kowalski (Roubaix-Lille Métropole), Marc Fournier (FDJ.fr), Florian Senechal (Cofidis) and Arnaud Gérard (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) managed to get clear and they quickly got an advantage of 15 seconds. Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie) and a Bretagne rider unsuccessfully tried to bridge the gap..

 

The break is caught

With the chasers back in the fold, Wallonie and Vastgoedservice started to chase which made it difficult for Danilo Napolitano (Wanty) to return after a puncture. The hard work by the continental teams paid off as the gap was only 13 seconds at the 16km mark.

 

Tom Devriendt (Wanty) was the next riders to try to bridge the gap but it was all in vain as the race was back together after 19km of fast racing. This opened the door for new attacks while Jens Debusschere got help from Thomas De Gendt after he suffered a mechanical.

 

Six riders get clear

A new break was formed when Maurits Lammertink (Team Roompot), Jayde Julius (MTN-Qhubeka), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séche Environnement), Stef Van Zummeren (Verandas Willems), Marc Fournier (FDJ.fr) and Kevin Ista (Wallonie-Bruxelles) got up the road and now the peloton finally took a natural break after 35km of racing. As a consequence, the gap grew quickly and it was already 1.09 at the 40km mark.

 

The riders started the first lap of the circuit with an advantage of 2.45 but now the chase got organized, with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo) and two Vastgoedservice riders setting the pace. Julius beat Fournier, Laborie and Van Zummeren in the first KOM sprint before they made it back to the finish with an advantage of just 40 seconds.

 

KOM points for Julius

The peloton was not stressing and kept the gap around the 45-second mark while Julius again beat Fournier, Laborie and Van Zummeren in the second KOM sprint. In fact, they even allowed it to go out to 1.20 at the end of the second lap.

 

Fournier was not doing any work in the break which again started to lose ground as they went up the climb for the third time. Here Julius beat Laborie, Lammertink and Ista in the third KOM sprint.

 

The break splits up

The gap was down to 35 seconds at the top of the climb but at the next passage of the line, it was again 45 seconds. However, the peloton again accelerated on the climb when a Leopard rider and Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha) started the attacking.

 

Meanwhile, Fournier launched the first move from the front group and only Laborie and Lammertink could match his pace. Ista and Van Zummeren also made it back while Julius sat up and was passed by the two chasers.

 

Premont takes off

De Gendt and Castelijns were chasing full gas and quickly managed to bring the two chasers back. As they entered the final 50km, the gap was only 25 seconds.

 

As they approached the finish, Van Zummeren made one final desperate move while the rest of the break was caught as Castelijns swung off. With 48km to go, the lone Belgian was also caught but his teammate Chirstophe Premont made an immediate counterattack.

 

Roelandts wins the sprint

Premont managed to get a small advantage but at the start of the fifth lap with 44km to go, De Gendt and a Vastgoedservice rider had brought him back. As the teams were now preparing the first intermediate sprint, Kenny Dehaes took over for Lotto Soudal who set a fast pace.

 

Stig Broeckx took over until he was passed by Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r) when they went up the climb. Maarten Wynants tried to lead Keizer out but it was Tom Bohli (BMC) who launched a long sprint. However, the Swiss was passed by Debusschere and Roelandts who seemed to have everything under control when the former swung off. Gougeard came very fast though and was narrowly beaten into second while Bohli took third.

 

Gougeard on the attack

Surprisingly, Gougeard continued his effort and he was quickly joined by Bohli. Reto Hollenstein (IAM) tried to join the move while Lotto Soudal started to chase hard with Sean De Bie, bringing Hollenstein back.

 

Instead, Sander Cordeel (Vastgoedservice) made a move and he managed to bridge the 10-second gap. However, Gougeard quickly decided to sit up as Broeckx and Dehaes were riding hard for Lotto Soudal.

 

Pardini wins the sprint

With 30km to go, Bohli also decided to sit up, leaving just Cordeel to maintain a seven-second gap at the start of the penultimate lap. He even managed to press it out to 10 seconds but Broeckx brought him back with 25km to go.

 

Victor Manakov (Leopard) attacked as they hit the climb and this forced Pim Ligthart to ride hard for Lotto Soudal. BMC took over but it was Olivier Pardini (Verandas Willems) who launched a long sprint. Gougeard was glued to his wheel and took second while Roelandts had to settle for third.

 

Lots of attacks

Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo), Rob Ruijgh (Vastgoedservice), Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne) and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie) attacked on the descent and several more riders, including Danilo Napolitano, Mike Teunissen, Anton Vorobyev, a rider from Southeast and two from Lotto Soudal, joined the move. This forced Ag2r to chase hard.

 

When they had caught the break, Vorobyev made a solo move but De Bie, Matthieau Ladagnous and A Topsport rider quickly joined him. However, Ag2r brought it back with 17km to go.

 

Simon Pellaud (IAM), Simone Antonini (Wanty), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Eugert Zhupa (Southeast) and Joeri Calleuw (Verandas) were the next to get a gap and they still tried to force the pace when they entered the finishing straight. Zhupa took off and he started the final lap with a small advantage, setting thr scene for the finale.

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