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With another dominant sprint performance, Coquard made it two in a row and extended his overall lead in the morning stage at the Route du Sud; Poulhies was second and Belletti rounded out the podium

Photo: Sirotti

BRYAN COQUARD

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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LA ROUTE D'OCCITANIE

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MANUEL BELLETTI

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STEPHANE POULHIES

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17.06.2016 @ 15:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) again proved that he is in excellent condition for the Tour de France by making it two in a row in the short morning stage at the Route du Sud. With another great sprint, the Frenchman held off Stephane Poulhies (Armee) and Manuel Belletti (Southeast) and so strengthened his overall lead a few hours before the important afternoon time trial.

 

When he lined up for Etoile de Besseges at the start of the year, Bryan Coquard had taken 15 major victories during his first three seasons as a professional. With a strengthened lead-out and a stronger leadership position in the Direct Energie team, many would have expected him to add significantly to his tally during the year. However, few would have expected him to dominate things in the way he has done in the first months.

 

Coquard already win his first race on the very first day of his season and since then he has been unstoppable. He even missed one month of competition after a bad training crash but nonetheless it was win number 27 when he beat Arnaud Demare in yesterday’s first stage at the Route du Sud.

 

From a sprinting point of view, the short French race has been highly anticipated as it was a chance to see Demare and Coquard in a direct duel but yesterday there was no doubt about the outcome. Today the FDJ leader had a chance to take revenge in the short morning stage and like yesterday his team did almost all the work to bring the early break bac. However, Coquard again proved to be totally unstoppable and by crossing the line in first, he upped his tally to 28.

 

After yesterday’s first sprint stage, the fast riders were expected to get another chance in the morning stage in the second day. They tackled 92.4km from Saint-Pierre-de-Trivisy to Albi and covered a category 2 climb at the 30.8km mark. From there it was a gradual descent to Albi where the race had a flat finish on the motor circuit.

 

There were no non-starters when the riders gathered under a cloudy sky. As they headed through the neutral zone, the roads were wet though as it had been raining during the night.

 

Right from the start, Romain Hardy (Cofidis) launched the first attack and while he worked to maintain a five-second advantage, Stephane Poulhies (Armee) bridged across. The duo quickly managed to push the gap out to 50 seconds and while Armee sprinter Stephane Poulhies rejoined the peloton after a puncture, it went out to 2.45 after 20km of racing.

 

Like yesterday, FDJ took control and they had shaved 10 seconds off the lead by the time they hit the only climb on the course. Berard beat Hardy in the KOM sprint before his Ag2r teammates Quentin Jauregui and Axel Domont led Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) and the rest of the bunch over the top 2.35 later.

 

Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ) abandoned but that didn’t stop his teammates who continued to ride on the front, covering 38.6km during the first hour. Entering the final 50km, the gap was already down to 2.05 and then they kept it stable at 1.49 for a while.

 

With 30km to go, Berard beat Hardy in the intermediate sprint while Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) was the first from the peloton just one minute later. The two escapees tried to surprise the peloton by upping the pace but with 15km to go, there advantage was only 15 seconds.

 

Berard and Hardy managed to get to the 10km to go banner before they were swallowed up by the speeding peloton. From there, everything was set for a bunch sprint and it was again Coquard who came out on top, holding off Stephane Poulhies and Manuel Belletti. A disappointed Arnaud Demare (FDJ) had to settle for ninth.

 

With the win Coquard extended his advantage over second placed Demare to 10 seconds while Nairo Quintana is one second further adrift in third. He already has to try to defend his position in the afternoon when the riders will tackle stage 3 which is a 13.4km time trial around the city of Albi. It is definitely not a flat affair as there are two pretty hard climbs in the first half. The second half is for specialists as it is completely flat and ends on the motor circuit in Albi.

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