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With a powerful uphill sprint, Tronet easily held off Hardy and Carbel to win a very hectic first stage of the Route du Sud; the Frenchman took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

HP - BTP AUBER 93

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LA ROUTE D'OCCITANIE

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MICHAEL CARBEL

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ROMAIN HARDY

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STEVEN TRONET

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18.06.2015 @ 17:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Steven Tronet (Auber 93) took the biggest win of his career when he powered clear of the field in the tough uphill sprint that decided the first stage of the Route du Sud. After a late break had been brought back inside the final kilometre, the Frenchman was in a class of his own as he easily distanced Romain Hardy (Cofidis) and Michael Carbel (Cult) to take both the stage victory and the first leader’s jerset in the four-day race.

 

Steven Tronet may not be a household name in the professional cycling world but the Frenchman is well-known in France. With his powerful uphill sprint, he has achieved numerous remarkable results in several French races but until today he had only won a single major race, a stage of the 2012 Circuit de Lorraine.

 

Today Tronet proved that he is a great puncheur when he won the first stage of the Route du Sud in impressive fashion. With Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana both on the start line, the race gets a lot of attention and so the Frenchman suddenly finds himself in the spotlight.

 

It was a deceptively tough finale at the end of a mostly flat stage and this suited the strong Frenchman perfectly. All day Europcar had controlled the race to set Bryan Coquard up for the sprint but in the finale the sprinters were nearly denied the chance to sprint.

 

As they entered the final 20km, the riders hit the final category 3 climb and at this point Daniel Martinez (Colombia) was the lone survivor form an original 4-rider breakaway. He hit the climb with an advantage of 1 minute while Cyril Gautier led the chase for Europcar.

 

Martinez crested the summit with an advantage of 50 seconds and now Europcar were losing control as the attacking started. Julien Berard (Ag2r) launched a strong attack and was joined by Christopher Juul (Tinkoff-Saxo).

 

Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) briefly chased but as he stopped after the summit, the attacking continued. Bretagne and Cofidis were both active but Yohann Gene (Europcar) managed to bring them back.

 

FDJ and Quentin Jeauregui (Ag2r) were the next to give it a go but a strong Gene took control of the situation. Meanwhile, Berard and Juul passed Martinez with 12km to go.

 

The gap had now gone out to 15 seconds and Alex Dowsett started to work for Movistar when Gene swung off. However, when he stopped his work, the peloton slowed down and this opened the door for new attacks.

 

An Armee rider was the first to try but it was Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Karel Hnik (Cult), Miguel Rubiano (Colombia) and Jauregui who got clear. They passed Berard who had been dropped by Juul, and made it across to the lone Dane.

 

In the peloton, no one was chasing and so a Marseille rider attacker. However, he was joined by Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) and a Colombia rider and they had no interest in working with the Frenchman and so they were brought back.

 

With 10km to go, the gap was 25 seconds and there was still no organization in the peloton. Bagdonas made solo move and he stayed clear for a little while before Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) brought him back.

 

Angelo Tulik (Europcar) took a short turn on the front but the attacking continued when Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne) took off. He didn’t have any luck though and instead he started to chase hard.

 

With 5km to go, the gap was 15 seconds and the chase now got a bit more organized. Delaplace, Fabrice Jeandesboz and Jerome Cousin (Europcar) all took huge turns before Tulik and Gene again took over.

 

With 2km to go, Europcar ran out of ressources and as the gap was still 10 seconds, things were looking good for the escapees. However, Cult decided to go for the sprint despite having Hnik in the break and as they hit the front, the escapees were brought back inside the final kilometre.

 

Linus Gerdemann closed the final bit of the gap before Edwin Avila (Colombia) hit out early. Coquard was in the perfect position behind the Colombian but they had both underestimated the tough finale.

 

As they started to fade, Tronet launched his acceleration and he immediately got a big gap. Hardy and Carbel also distanced the rest of the peloton but they could only sprint for second, with the Cofidis rider narrowly edging out the Dane.

 

With the win, Tronet takes the first leader’s jersey in the race. He will try to defend it tomorrow and he will have a good chance of making it two in a row. The stage is mostly flat but again ends with an uphill finishing straight that should suit the puncheurs.

 

A long stage

The 2015 edition of the Route du Sud kicked off with a 204km stage that brought the riders from Lourdes to Auch. The roads were mainly flat for most of the time with a category 3 climb at the midpoint but in the finale things got more difficult with another category 3 climb summiting 17.5km from the finish. In the end the riders went up an uncategorized ascent that made it a stage for puncheurs.

 

It was a beautiful sunny day in Lourdes when the riders gathered for the start. As they rolled out for their neutral ride, the temperature was 20 degrees but it was expected to reach a maximum of 27 degrees.

 

The break is formed

As soon as the flag was dropped, the attacking started and no one had managed to escape after 7km of racing that were marked by lots of aggression. Finally, two riders managed to get clear when Hector Saez (Caja Rural) and Cedric Pineau (FDJ) accelerated at the 14km mark and when they had an advantage of 18 seconds, Benat Txoperena (Murias Taldea) tried to bridge the gap.

 

The Basque made the junction and moments later Daniel Martinez (Colombia) also joined the move. The peoton was content with the situation and while Julien El Fares (Marseille) worked his way back to the peloton after a small crash, the gap had gone out to 1.30.

 

The gap comes down

Davide Villella (Cannondale) had a mechanical but as the peloton was riding slowly, he easily rejoined the group which was 3.30 behind at the 22km mark. Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ) also had to stop to get his bike checked while Tinkoff-Saxo and Europcar started to control the situation 4.30 behind the escapes.

 

Fabrice Jeandesboz, Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Jesus Hernandez and Oliver Zaugg (Tinkoff-Sixo) did the early work to keep the gap stable at around 4.30 for a while before they slowly started to bring them back. At the 50km mark, the gap was 3.40 and when Pineau beat Martinez and Txoperena in the first intermediate sprint, it was down to 3.30.

 

Europcar and Tinkoff-Saxo in control

After 75km of racing, the gap was 3.00 and it was down to 2.45 before the peloton slowed down a bit. Txoperena and Martinez sprinted for the points in the first KOM sprint where the Colombian came out on top, followed by the Basque, Saez and Pineau. At this point, they had extended their advantage to 3.30.

 

Imanol Estevez (Murias Taldea) had a small mechanical and worked his way back to the peloton while Europcar and Tinkoff-Saxo brought the gap down to 2.45 at the halfway point. From there, Jeandesboz, Cousin, Hernandez and Zaugg continued to set the pace, keeping the gap between 2.45 and 3.15 for most of the stage.

 

The peloton accelerates

Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale) had time to be treated by the medical staff on a day that was very calm, suffering from pain in one of his fingers. Moments later, Pineau and Txoperena contested the second intermediate sprint and again the Frenchman came out on top. Martinez was third across the line.

 

At this point, the peloton had accelerated and as they entered the final 45km, the gap was down to 2.30. Jeandesboz finished his work and instead Yukiya Arashiro started to work for Europcar. However, the escapees reacted well to the faster pace as they now committed themselves fully, keeping the gap at around 2 minutes for a long time.

 

Martinez attacks

With 30km to go, the riders got to the hillier terrain and now the escapees were starting to tire. Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jeandesboz and Cousin were setting the pace and the gap was coming down quickly. With 27km to go, it was just 1.25 and 2km later it was 50 seconds.

 

That was the signal for Martinez to attack and only Txoperena tried to follow him. The Basque was unable to match his speed and so the Colombian soloed clear.

 

The peloton slowed down a bit and allowed the lone leader to expend his advantage to 1.05. The work was now being done by Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Jeandesboz and Paulinho before the Portuguese decided to put an end to Tinkoff-Saxo’s time on the front. Moments later the chasers were brought back and Martinez hit the climb, setting the scene for the finale.

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