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Hutarovich wins since August 2012 by holding off Van Asbroeck and Martinez in the bunch sprint at the Grand Prix de la Somme

Photo: Sirotti

AG2R CITROEN TEAM

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GP DE LA SOMME

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YANNICK MARTINEZ

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YAUHENI HUTAROVICH

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04.05.2014 @ 17:09 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) finally brought an end to his long victory drought when he won today's round of the Coupe de France race series, the Grand Prix de la Somme. The Belarusian emerged as the strongest in the bunch sprint when held off Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Yannick Martinez (Europcar) in the final dash to the line.

 

When they signed Yauheni Hutarovich to strengthen their sprinting squad, Ag2r probably thought that they had added a real winning machine to their roster. After all, the Belarusian had taken no less than 19 wins in major UCI races, among them a big stage win at the Vuelta a Espana, and had finished on the podium in some of the biggest classics for the sprinters.

 

However, things have not unfolded in the way Hutarovich and Ag2r had hoped. In 2013, his first year with the tea, he failed to win a single race and this year it hasn't been any better for the fast sprinter. When he lined up at today's Grand Prix de la Somme, he hadn't won a race since he took two consecutive bunch sprint victories at the 2012 Tour de l'Ain almost two years ago.

 

However, his drought has finally come to an end after he won today's race which is a prestigious round of the important Coupe de France race series. Having already shown excellent condition over the last few weeks, especially in last week's La Roue Tourangelle where he finished 2nd after riding a really good race under harsh conditions, he finally capitalized from his strength when the GP de la Somme came down to the expected bunch sprint.

 

A big crash left just 50 riders to contest the sprint but Hutarovich was always well-positioned and in the final dash to the line, he finally got the chance to taste victory again. He held off Tom Van Asbroeck and Yannick Martinez in the final dash to the line to continue the fantastic run of success for his Ag2r team.

 

Ag2r had had a rather quiet day in the saddle as they had Alexis Gougeard in the three-rider breakaway that dominated most of the day and they left it to FDJ to close it down inside the final 20km. While their rival French team failed to place a rider in the top of the standings, Ag2r had enough left in the tank to deliver Hutarovich to the win.

 

Despite only finishing 14th in the race, Julien Simon (Cofidis) defended his overall lead in the Coupe de France. After several races during the last few weeks, the series takes a small break until it resumes on May 31 with the GP de Plumelec-Morbihan. However, racing in France continues on Wednesday when the big 5-day stage race 4 Jours de Dunkerque starts.

 

A lumpy course

Usually held in September, the Grand Prix de la Somme had been moved to the month of May for its 29th edition which took place on a 192.1km course from Saint Leger les Domart to Abbeville. 6 smaller climbs were spread throughout the route but as the terrain was mostly flat, a bunch sprint was the most likely outcome if the wind didn't wreak havoc on the peloton.

 

That certainly wasn't the case as the riders took off in very calm conditions and surprisingly the peloton was equally calm. In the opening kilometres, they rolled along at a modest pace until the attacking finally started.

 

Brun makes the first attack

The first rider to give it a go was Frederic Brun (BigMat) but he was quickly brought back. This signaled the start of the real race as the peloton was now single file while several attacks were launched.

 

Ag2r were very attentive in the first part of the race and made sure that a dangerous break didn't take off. At the 28km mark, they sent their own rider up the road when Gougeard attacked with Julien El Fares (La Pomme) and they were quickly joined by Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen).

 

A battle for KOM points

The peloton was pleased with the composition of the break that was allowed to build up a nice gap. After 46km of racing, they were already 6.40 ahead as no one took any responsibility for the chase.

 

Campanaerts beat El Fares and Gougeard in the first KOM sprint and the gap reached a maximum of 8.00 at the 61km mark. At this point, El Fares beat Campanaerts and Gougeard on the second climb while the peloton finally started to chase.

 

FDJ and Cofidis start to chase

FDJ put Arnaud Courteille on the front while Cofidis asked Clement Venturini to contribute to the pace-setting and those two riders spent most of the day swapping turns on the front. After 83km of racing, they had brought the gap down to 6.45 and when Campenaerts beat El Fares and Gouegard in the third KOM sprint, it was down to 5.40.

 

BigMat put Theo Vimpere on the front and he lend Courteille and Venturini a hand. The gap had now come down to just 2.40 with 91km to go and this prompted the peloton to ease up a bit.

 

FDJ try to attack in the wind

The gap remained stable at around 3.00 for some time while El Fares beat Campenaerts and Gougeard on the fourth climb to continue the intense fight between the former two riders in the battle for the KOM prize.

 

FDj decided to try to split the peloton in a windy section when six riders hit the front and the peloton briefly split, with several Europcar riders being caught out in the second group. As a consequence, the gap went down to a minute with 64km to go but when FDJ stopped their action, the situation again stabilized and the gap went back up to 1.40.

 

A failed attack

All the work was now left to FDJ that wanted to set up Mickael Delage for the sprint and they seemed to be playing with the escapees. On the final climb 34km from the finish, Flavien Dassonville (BigMat) and Bryan Nauleau (Europcar) took off in pursuit but they were quickly swallowed up by the peloton.

 

FDJ kept the speed high and they brought the escapees back when they crossed the finish line for the first time to start their lap on the 8.1km finishing circuit. At this point, they had got some help from the Bretagne team that had joined them on the front.

 

The sprint teams started to get organized and it was impossible for anyone to escape the peloton as it headed around the final circuit. When all was set for a big bunch sprint, a crash brought down 5 riders, leaving just 50 riders ahead to contest the sprint. Here Hutarovich finally broke his drought when he got the better of Van Asbroeck and Martinez.

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