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With a dominant display of speed, Gaviria easily won the reduced bunch kick on the final stage of Tour La Provence, holding off Wyss and Feillu; Voeckler took the overall victory

Photo: Tim De Waele

DANILO WYSS

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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FERNANDO GAVIRIA

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ROMAIN FEILLU

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THOMAS VOECKLER

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TOUR LA PROVENCE

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25.02.2016 @ 16:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) confirmed that he is back in form after his crash at the Tour de San Luis by claiming his first European win of the 2016 season on the final stage of Tour La Provence. The Colombian was clearly the fastest in the reduced bunch sprint after an aggressive finale as he held off Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Romain Feillu (Auber 93) by a big margin. Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) responded to all attacks and took the overall victory with Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) in second and his teammate Lilian Calmejane in third.

 

When he crushed the opposition in his first sprint of the year at the Tour de San Luis, Fernando Gaviria confirmed that he is destined to have an impressive first pro season. Unfortunately, he crashed a few days later and left Argentina with a crack in his arm that set him back by a few weeks.

 

He made his return to competition at last week’s Tour du Haut Var where he showed solid form but with no bunch sprints he never got a chance to show his speed. He had much bigger plans for the Tour La Provence and after deliberately giving his teammate Davide Martinelli the win in yesterday’s crash-marred stage, he finally opened his European account in today’s final stage of the race.

 

A strong, dangerous breakaway was brought back already with 73km to go which opened the door for nw attacks in what would be a very aggressive finale. Just as the junction was made, Loic Chetout (Cofidis) who had been in the early break, went again and he quickly put 15 seconds into the peloton. Frederic Brun (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Theo Vimpere (Auber 93) took off in pursuit and made the junction when the gap was 35 seconds.

 

The peloton slowed down again and with 60km to go, the new trio already had an advantage of 1.05. Here Vimpere beat Chetout and Brun in the final intermediate sprint.

 

The peloton allowed the gap to yoyo between 0.30 and 1.00 and it was still one minute with 40km to go. Oy even went out to 1.10 with 25km to go.

 

The peloton accelerated significantly and while the sprint teams controlled things, the GC riders prepared themselves to use the small rises in the finale to make a difference. Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) gave it  a try but Voeckler was quick to respond and joined the Belgian alongside Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep).

 

The trio joined the front group but with 23km to go, they were caught from behind by a bigger group which meant that a 30-rider group formed. They had a 10-second advantage over the peloton and managed to maintain it for a long time.

 

Bakelants, Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) and Lawson Craddock (Cannondale) attacked as they entered Marseille with 13km to go and quickly put 7 seconds into the Voeckler group. However, they were quickly brought back and it was a 26-rider group that entered the final 10km in front. At this point, the peloton was 40 seconds behind.

 

Amael Moinard (BMC) made a short-lived attempt just before the 5k to go mark but he had no luck and so the 26 rides decided the race in a sprint. Gaviria hit the front relatively early and easily held off Danilo Wyss and Fernando Gaviria to take his first European win of the season.

 

Voeckler finished safely in the group and so maintained his 7-second advantage over Vakoc while his teammate Lilian Calmejane confirmed his huge potential by taking third place. Gaviria won the points competition and Remy Di Gregorio was the best climber. Vakoc was also the best young rider and Etixx-QuickStep took a comfortable win in the teams classification.

 

With the Tour La Provence done and dusted, many of the riders will head to the Ardeche department and the two hilly weekend classics, Classic Sud-Ardeche and Drome Classic.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the fast finishers were expected to get another chance in stage 3 which brought the riders over 173km from La Ciotat to Marseille. There were three tough climbs in the early part of the race but the second half was a mainly flat run along the coast where the wind could potentially come into play.

 

With a tough start that included a climb right from the beginning, may riders had been warming up on the home trainers before they headed out for their neutral ride under a sunny sky. Stéphane Poulhies, Thomas Rostollan (Armee), Corentin Ermenault (France), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) and Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) were all absent.

 

A strong group gets clear

Unsurprisingly, the start was extremely fast and lots of riders were dropped right from the beginning, including Martin Laas (Delko Marseille), Jimmy Duquennoy (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Bryan Alaphilippe (Armee). Five riders formed the first break but it was Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) who escaped as they headed up the climb.

 

Delko Marseille brought the duo back after 4km of racing which made it possible for Egor Silin (Katusha) to win the first KOM sprint ahead of Remy Di Gregorio (Delko) and Edet. As they went down the descent,  Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (FDJ), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Flavien Dassonville (HP BTP-Auber 93), Egan Bernal (Androni Giocattoli) and Loïc Chetout (Cofidis) took off while Elie Gesbert (France) reacted a little too late and took off in lone pursuit.

 

The peloton accelerates

Phil Gaimon (Cannondale) made a failed attempt to make it across before the peloton slowed down and after 18km of racing, the gap had gone out to 1.20. Gesbert was losing ground and was now trailing by 40 seconds and as they hit the second climb, he had lost another 55 seconds.

 

Edet, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) and Jeremy Maison (FDJ) attacked on the ascent but they were quickly brought back by the peloton which upped the pace. That also spelled the end for Gesbert while more then 30 riders lost contact with the peloton

 

Direct Energie were controlling affairs and had reduced the gap to just 22 seconds one kilometre from the top. Meanwhile, a second peloton had gathered 48 seconds behind.

 

Four riders bridge across

Chetout beat Vicioso, Bernal and Dassonville in the KOM sprint while the peloton crested the summit just 16 seconds later. While Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) punctured, the smaller gap allowed Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) to bridge the gap.

 

The gap stayed around 10 seconds and this made it possible for Edet and Julien El Fares (Delko) to also make it across and the nine leaders now managed to reopen their advantage which had gone out to 35 seconds after 42km of racing. The peloton finally took it easy and the gap had reached 2.55 at the 56km mark.

 

Edet takes off

Gaimon, Dieter Bouvry, Jimmy Duquennou, Jan Ghyselinck, Lander Seynaeve, Alexis Bodiot, Bryan Alaphilippe and Jeremy Lecroq left the race while El Fares beat Lecuisinier and Talansky in the third KOM sprint. At this point, Direct Energie had started to stabilize the gap as El Fares was only 14 seconds behind in the overall standings.

 

On the descent, Edet took off in a solo move and he stayed 10 seconds ahead of his chasers for a little while. Meanwhile, the peloton reduced the gap to just 1.30 and Davide Martinelli and Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) rejoined the peloton after a small crash.

 

The break is caught

Edet managed to push his advantage out to 25 seconds while the peloton neutralized a short-lived chase group. At the same time, Dassonville was dropped from the chase group.

 

Edet was brought back before the riders contested the first intermediate sprint where Talansky beat Lecuisiner and Riblon. At this point, the gap was only 1.18 and the attackers managed to persuade El Fares to drop back to the peloton to get a better chance to stay away.

 

Wouter Wippert, Jimmy Raibaud and Serghei Tvetcov continued the mass exodus from the race while the peloton upped the pace significantly. With 77km to go, the gap was down to just 30 seconds and at the 100km mark, it was all back together, setting the scene for the aggressive finale

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