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After Bouhanni had crashed in the finale, Laporte took over sprinting duties for Cofidis and was in a class of his own in the uphill sprint at the Tour de Vendee; Hutarovich and Sprengers rounded out the top 3

Photo: Sirotti




04.10.2015 @ 18:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Christophe Laporte made sure that Cofidis took the expected win in the Tour de Vendee after pre-race favourite Nacer Bouhanni had been taken out by a crash in the finale. After a late move by Marco Marcato (Wanty), the Frenchman did a long sprint on the uphill finishing straight and managed to pass the fading Italian 50m from the line. Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne) and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen) completed the top 3.


After a strong showing in the World Championships, Nacer Bouhanni went into today’s final round of the Coupe de France series, Tour de Vendee, as the overwhelming favourite to win both the race and the overall classification. As expected, Cofidis came out on top but it was a different face that topped the podium during the ceremonies.


Christophe Laporte has mostly been working as a lead-out man for Bouhanni but on numerous occasions he has proved that he is riding extremely well. He was one of the strongest in the finale of the GP Plouay and has generally proved to be strong in uphill sprints. That has given him third places in Le Samyn and the GP de Wallonie this year but until today the elusive win had escaped him.


His fortunes changed in Vendee when his role suddenly changed in the finale of the race. Bouhanni’s extreme run of bad luck continued when he hit the deck on the wet roads in the very rainy finale and so Laporte got the chance to play his own card in the uphill sprint. The finishing straight was tailor-made for him and he turned out to be in a class of his own.


It was a five-rider break of Romain Feillu (Bretagne), Jeremy Leveayu (Roubaix), Guillaume Levarlet (Auber), Bryan Nauleau (Europcar) and Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) that had dominated the race after escaping relatively late in what was a fast first half of the race. With 20km to go, the peloton was in a strong comeback though and the gap was down to just 1.40.


Declercq had joined the break late and was the first to start the attacking but the group was back together when they entered the final 15km with an advantage of 1.08. Four kilometres later, it was down to just 43 seconds.


In the peloton, FDJ had taken complete control, trying to set Arnaud Demare up for a sprint win  With 7km to go, the gap was down to 25 seconds and FDJ were chasing full gas in the rainy conditions. Meanwhile, the attacking started in the front group which was no longer working well together and Pillon was briefly dropped.


With 4.5km to go, Levarlet put in a big attack as he went up the finishing straight and he started the final lap of the 3.9km finishing circuit as the lone leader. In the peloton, it was a Marseille rider making the first move but it was Romain Campistrous (Ag2r) who got an advantage.


Levarlet rode extremely well to extend his advantage over the chasers that were joined by Campistrous. As he entered the final 3km, he was still 15 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Pillon and Feillu were dropped from the chase group as Campistrous took a huge tur on the front, with Declercq and Nauleau on his wheel. Meanwhile, the impressive Levarlet managed to extend his advantage over the peloton which was 17 seconds behind at the flamme rouge.


The peloton accelerated hard and brought the chasers back as Bretagne had now taken control. This was the chance for Marco Marcato to make a very strong move as the Italian flew out of the peloton to quickly approach the lone Levarlet.


Marcato passed the fading Frenchman inside the final 500m but was starting to pay the price for his big effort. Behind, Nacer Bouhanni had gone down in a crash and so it was left to Laporte to do the sprint for Cofidis. He did so by launching a very long effort and passed Marcato just 50 metres from the line to take a hugely dominant win. Yauheni Hutarovich and Thomas Sprengers rounded out the top 3.


The race was the final round of the Coupe de France series which was won by Bouhanni while Bretagne took the win in the teams competition. However, there are still some big French races left as the riders face Paris-Bourges on Thursday and Paris-Tours on Sunday.


A lumpy course

The 44th Tour de Vendee was held on a 201.1km course that brought the riders from Olonne sur Mer to La Roche Sur Yon. It was a rolling route with 10 smaller climbs, the final one coming 34.6km from the finish. In the end, the riders did two laps of a 3.9km finishing circuit that included a rough rise to the finish.


It was dry and cold when the riders gathered for the start but they managed to stay warm due to the fast pace in the opening part. Flavien Dassonville (Auber) and Julien Duval (Armee) were the first riders to get a small gap but they were soon brought back.


Five riders get clear

The peloton was still together after 13km of racing but soon after five riders managed to get clear. Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Sebasten Minard (Ag2r), Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), Clement Saint-Martin (Marseille) and Eneko Lizarralde (Murias) quickly got an advantage of a minute and as the peloton slowed down, it went out to 3.30 before FDJ started to ride on the front of the bunch.


Engoulvent beat Minard and Saint-Martin in the first KOM sprint where FDJ had reduced the gap to 3.30. When the Frenchman beat the same two riders in the second sprint, the French team had brought it down to just 2.20.


The peloton accelerates

At the end of the first hour, the gap was only one minute and when it came down to 20 seconds, Marcato, Nauleau, Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) tried to bridge across. That turned out to be impossible though.


Engoulvent beat Minard and Saint-Martin in the third sprint where the gap was only 10 seconds and this made it possible for Steven Tronet (Auber) to make it across. However, it was in vain as it all came back together at the 59km mark.


New attacks

While Yoann Barbas (Armee) left the race, the attacking continued and it was Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and Ignatas Konovalovas (Marseille) that got a 10-second advantage. They had no luck though and instead 11 riders with Kevin Ledanois (Bretagne) built a gap of 20 seconds.


At the end of the second hour, that move was also neutralized and riders were now getting dropped due to the furious pace. However, Feillu and Levarlet managed to escape when the peloton took a small breather and they managed to build an advantage of 50 seconds while Benjamin Giraud (Marseille) abandoned.


Four riders get clear

Leveau and Nauleau joined the move as the peloton slowed down again and when Nauleau beat Leveau and Feillu in the fifth sprint, the gap was already 2.35.


The gap went out to 4 minutes as the peloton took it easy. Meanwhile, the front group split as Levarlet and Leveau escaped on the sixth climb to crest the summit in that order while Feillu took third 25 seconds later.


The front group comes back together

The two leaders stopped for a natural break and so the group came back together. The peloton had kept the gap at around 4 minutes but it was down to 3.40 with 80km to go.


Nauleau beat Feillu and Leveau in the seventh sprint where the peloton was 3.45 behind. It was now raining heavily and this apparently prompted the peloton to slow down as the gap was 5 minutes when they entered the final 70km.


The peloton accelerates

Seven kilometres later the gap was 5.20 and this was the signal for FDJ to hit the front. In just four kilometres, they brought the gap down to 3.50 while Florian Guillou (Bretagne) abandoned one of his last professional races.


With 55km to go, the gap was 2.55 and when Levarlet beat Nauleau and Leveau in the 8th sprint 10km later, it was down to just 2.00. Feillu was faster than Levarlet and Nauleau in the ninth sprint.


Impressively, Declercq took off in a solo move and he managed to bridge the gap with 40km to go to make it a front quartet. That gave new life to the break which was 2.48 ahead with 29km to go. At the 20km mark, the peloton had reduced it to 1.40 and this kicked off the thrilling finale.



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