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After five second places in the first six stages, Fortuneo Vital Concept finally got a win in the final stage of Tropicale Amissa Bongo when Hutarovich won the sprint on the final day; Petit won the race overall

Photo: Sirotti

ADRIEN PETIT

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ANDREA PALINI

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ANTHONY DELAPLACE

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ARMINDO FONSECA

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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LA TROPICALE AMISSA BONGO ONDIMBA

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YAUHENI HUTAROVICH

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24.01.2016 @ 18:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

With five second places in the first six stages, Fortuneo-Vital Concept had had a race of near-misses at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo but the French team ended the race on a high when Yauheni Hutarovich won the bunch sprint on the final stage. The Belarusian beat Andrea Palini (Skydive Dubai) and his lead-out man Armindo Fonseca in the final dash to the line while Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) had to settle for fifth which was enough to take the overall victory.

 

As one of only three pro continental teams at the start, Fortuneo-Vital Concept were among the favourites to leave Gabon and Africa’s biggest bike race, Tropicale Amissa Bongo, with a fair share of the stage wins. While Adrien Petit and Andrea Palini have had plenty of success, however, it has been a frustrating race for the Frenchmen.

 

It all started when sprinter Yauheni Hutarovich was beaten twice by Palini in the first two stages and it only added to the frustration when Benoit Jarrier was third behind Petit in the uphill sprint on stage 3. After a fourth place for Anthony Delaplace in stage 4, Armindo Fonseca was second behind Petit in the punchy finale on stage 6 and yesterday Delaplace was second in the time trial.

 

That left the team with only one chance to make up for the disappointments and luckily things came together when the final stage was decided in a bunch sprint in the Gabonese capital of Libreville. After a splendid lead-out from Fonseca who finished the stage in third, Hutarovich crossed the line in first position, finally getting the better of Palini who had to settle for second.

 

After yesterday’s time trial, the 2016 Tropical Amissa Bongo finished with a 132.6km stage that brought the riders from Cap-Esterias in Akanda to the capital of Libreville. The first part of the course was completely flat and led to the 5.8km finishing circuit that included a small climb and had to be tackled 16 times. There were KOM sprints on the climb twice and intermediate sprints at the finish line on three occasions.

 

It was another very hot day in Gabon when the riders gathered for the start and they got it off to the usual very fast beginning.Abdelbasat Hanachi (Algeria), Soufiane Haddi (Skydive), Jean Bosco Nsengimana (Stradalli), Harouna Ilboudo (Burkina Faso), Leris Mokagni (Gabon), Jeremie Nzeke (Cameroun), Nassim Saidi (Algeria), Magno Nazaret (Funvic), Joseph Areruya (Rwanda), Yoann Gene and Alexandre Pichot (both Direct Energie) were all part of the action but no one managed to get clar.

 

The elastic finally snapped when Nazaret attacked at the 28km mark but he was not given much leeway. He only had a 25-second advantage at the 50km mark and he was brought already brought back before the first KOM sprint at the 60.5km mark. Here Aron Debretsion (Eritrea) took maximum points ahead of Azzdeine Lagab (Algeria) and Yonathan Hailu (Eritrea).

 

Skydive were working hard to keep things together for the first intermediate sprint and their efforts paid off as Andrea Palini beat Petit and Gene in the battle for maximum points. The Arab team continued to ride on the front to keep their options alive for the second sprint too.

 

Before they got there, Debretsion beat Temesgen Buru (Ethipia) and Hailu in the second KOM sprint to secure himself the win in the mountains competitionbut and this time, Skydive had no luck. Petit beat Palini, with Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) crossing the line in third.

 

Skydive finally decided to slow down and this allowed Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie), Amanuel Million (Eritrea), Camera Hakuzimana (Rwanda) and Azzedine Lagab (Algeria) to get clear at the 92km mark. They quickly got an advantage of 30 seconds before Jarrier beat Lagab and Nauleau in the final sprint.

 

The peloton never gave them much of an advantage and after 27km of racing, it was back together. However, the attacking continued and Joseph Areruya (Rwanda) and Murilo Affonso (Funvic) managed to escape, entering the final 15km with a 15-second advantage. However, they were brought back with 10km to go.

 

Direct Energie took control as they tried to set Petit up for a third consecutive stage win. However, he had to settle for fifth as Hutarovich finally got his first win by holding off Palini and his own lead-out man Armindo Fonseca.

 

The six bonus seconds meant that Petit lost part of his advantage over Palini but as he had got into the stage with a 12-second buffer, he took the overall victory, 6 seconds ahead of the Italian. Delaplace was 18 seconds behind in third.

 

Palini could console himself with the victory in the points classification while Eritrea took home the mountains jersey with Debretsion and previous leader Tesfom Okubamariam who was also the best African. Abderrahmane Bechlaghem (Algeria) was the best young rider and Joseph Areruya (Rwanda) the most combative. Glenn Morvan Moulengui (Gabon) was the best home rider and Direct Energie won the teams classification, with Eritrea taking home the title for best African team.

 

While the European teams will now return to their continent, the Africans will prepare themselves for the African Championships which is the next event on the Africa Tour. The team time trial takes place on February 22, with the ITT following two days later and the road race on February 26.

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