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After attacking from a small front group at the bottom of the final climb, Grivko rode to a solo win on the third stage of La Méditerranéenne; Ladagnous was second and Bakelants third while Grivko also took the overall lead

Photo: Henriette Brandt

ANDRIY GRIVKO

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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JAN BAKELANTS

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LA MÉDITERRANÉENNE

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MATTHIEU LADAGNOUS

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13.02.2016 @ 17:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andriy Grivko (Astana) got his 2016 season off to the best possible start as he won the third stage of La Méditerranéenne, his first race of the year. After a very fast race, he made it into a small group with 30km to go and then dropped his rivals on the final climb to ride to a solo victory and the overall lead. Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) completed the podium.

 

Andriy Grivko is known as one of the most aggressive riders in the peloton but his many attacks have rarely paid off. In fact he has failed to win an international UCI race since 2008 even though two overall top 4 results at the Eneco Tour and a third place in a Vuelta stage prove that he is one of the strongest riders in the peloton.

 

Today things finally came together for the Ukrainian as he won the hilliest stage of La Méditerranéenne, his first race of the year. With a trademark Grivko attacked, he managed to drop his companions in a small group that arrived together at bottom of the final climb and then went into time trial mode to keep his chasers at bay.

 

After a very fast start to the stage during which it took almost two hours for the break to be formed, Grivko’s Astana team had been the driving force. They were on their toes again in the finale when the early break had been caught and a 60-rider front group had gathered after the Cote des Tuilieres, the hardest climb of the course. At this point, race leader Arnaud Demare’s peloton was 1.15 behind.

 

As the riders hit the uncategoried Col de Marjories, 16 riders managed to escape. With 25km to go, Cyril Gautier, Mikael Cherel (Ag2r), Andrey Zeits, Laurens De Vreese, Grivko (Astana), Matthieu Ladagnous, Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93), Romain Combaud, Thierry Hupond (Delko Marseille), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Yoann Barbas (Armee), Barbier (Roubaix) and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) had put 1.20 into the peloton.

 

The second group was not giving up and they had reduced the gap to 45 seconds with 20km to go. Here Alexis Vuillermoz, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) tried to bridge across and they quickly reduced their deficit to 20 seconds. However, the progress stalled and as they hit the Col du Tanneron with 13km to go, the gap was still 20 seconds.

 

Grivko attacked right from the bottom of the climb and while Ladagnous, Konovalovas and Gautier were dropped, he put 10 seconds into his chasers. Vuillermoz and Bakelants passed the group but were still 20 seconds behind as they started the descent.

 

Grivko went into time trial mode while a regrouping took place behind him. The group split up on the technical descent and while Grivko held off his chasers to take the win, Ladagnous escaped in lone pursuit, crossing the line in second, 18 seconds too late. Bakelants was 4 seconds further back in third, followed by Cherel at 24 seconds and Levarlet at 36 seconds.

 

As there are no time bonuses in the race and Grivko and Ladagnous had started the stage equal on time, Grivko takes the overall lead with an 18-second advantage over Ladagnous. Bakelants is 40 seconds behind in third.

 

However, it can all change on the final day when the riders will tackle a circuit race in the Italian city of Bordighera. The circuit includes a 500m climb and as the finish line is located on the top, it is a stage that is suited to puncheurs.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the riders faced much hillier terrain which brought the riders over 180.5km from Caldolive to Pegomas. After an early category 3 climb, the finale started when the riders tackled the category 1 Cote des Tuilieres with 55.2km to go before flat roads led to two climbs in the finale. First there was an uncategorized ascent and then the riders went up the category 2 Col du Tanneron. The final 8.5km consisted of a very technical descent and a short flat section

 

It was raining when the riders headed out for their neutral ride in Caldolive. Two riders were absent as neither Jeremy Leveau (Roubaix) nor Luca Sterbini (Bardiani) took the start.

 

An extremely fast start

As soon as the flag was dropped, the attacking started and the combination of a fast pace, wind and wet roads made the peloton split into three groups after just 4km of racing. Lots of riders got dropped and even though a regrouping took place, around 20 riders still hadn’t regained contact.

 

Yannick Mayer (Veranclassic) punctured out of the peloton which was split up by a crash. A small group got clear and it was Ag2r that set the pace until another regrouping took place after 21km of racing. At this point, Julein Dechesne (Veranclassic) abandoned.

 

Feillu and Gautier take off

The attacking continued and three riders briefly got clear before Maximu Cam (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) gave it a go. Meanwhile, Guilllaume Levarlet (Auber 93) was the next rider to hit the deck.

 

Cam was brought back and instead Romain Feillu (Auber 93) and Cyril Gautier (Ag2r) took off. However, Astana refused to let them go and they never had an advantage of more than 10 seconds.

 

Jeannesson wins the KOM sprint

As the peloton hit the first climb, Astana set a brutal pace which was too hard for many riders, including Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie). Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis) was first at the top, winning the KOM sprint ahead of Andrey Zeits (Astana) and Sergio Sousa (Vorarlberg).

 

Boudat was among the riders that managed to rejoin the peloton on the descent while the attacking continued. Feillu was very active but failed to get clear.

 

A dangerous move

Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Florian Senechal (Cofidis), Theo Vimpere (Auber 93), Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) and Dimitri Peyskens (Veranclassic) were the next to attack and got a 6-second advantage before Astana neutralized the move. Hence, nobody had gone clear at the end of the first hour in which they averaged 43.3km/h.

 

Feillu was still very active and managed to get clear in a solo move. Two riders tried to join him but were brought back and ultimately it was also over for Feillu.

 

A strong group gets clear

The fast pace spelled the end for many riders, including Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo), Delio Fernandez (Delko Marseille), Massimo Vanderaerden (Veranclassic) and Thomas Rostollan (Armee), while Levarlet made short-lived solo move. That’s when a group finally managed to get a significant advantage when Cyril Gautier, Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Matthieu Ladagnous, Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, Andriy Grivko (Astana), Lilian Calmejane, Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie), Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis), Pierrick Fedrigo (Fortuneo-Vital Concept ) and Rudy Barbier (Roubaix Lille Metropole) escaped.

 

Loic Chetout (Cofidis) bridged across to make it 12 riders in the break and as the peloton slowed down, several riders managed to rejoin the bunch. They pushed the gap out to 30 seconds but the peloton refused to let them go.

 

The race calms down

Just before the junction was made, Gautier and Chetout attacked again and they were joined by Barbier. That was the signal for the peloton to finally stop for a natural break and at the halfway point of the race, the front trio had opened an advantage of 1.10.

 

FDJ took control of the peloton which was 2.05 behind with 78km to go. In the feed zone five kilometres later, it was 2.00 and FDJ kept it around 2.00 in the only calm moment of the race.

 

Demare is dropped

Most riders that had been dropped managed to rejoin the peloton and the riders could take off their rain jackets when the sun came out. However, a small group was still trailing by 13 minutes.

 

Gautier won the intermediate sprint ahead of Barbier and Chetout before they hit the Col des Tuilieres with an advantage of 2.00. Here Demare was dropped from the peloton as Ag2r put down the hammer and it was Mickael Cherel who split the bunch into four groups. The Frenchman led the peloton to the top just 58 seconds behind the escapees after Barbier had beaten Gautier and Chetout in the KOM sprint.

 

A regrouping

The first group brought the escapees back with 52km to go when a 25-rider group had formed and it was still Ag2r setting the pace. At this point, a second group was at 25 seconds, a third group trailed by 40 seconds while Demare’s group was at a minute.

 

A regrouping took place and as they entered the final 40km, 60 riders had gathered in the front. It was now Direct Energie that had brought the second group back and they quickly brought Gautier back when he made a short-lived attempt. Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Romain Combaud (Delko) were trying to bridge the gap and were 55 seconds behind with 33km to go. Moments later, the decisive move was made before Grivko made his solo move.

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