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With a powerful acceleration on the final climb, Bakelants managed to pass lone leader Geniez to win the final stage of La Méditeranéenne; Grivko lost 8 seconds but took the overall win ahead with Ladagnous in second and Bakel...

Photo: A.S.O.

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ALEXANDRE GENIEZ

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ANDRIY GRIVKO

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ARNOLD JEANNESSON

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JAN BAKELANTS

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LA MÉDITERRANÉENNE

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MATTHIEU LADAGNOUS

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14.02.2016 @ 17:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) ended a very strong first race of 2016 by claiming an impressive victory on the final stage of La Méditerranéenne. The Belgian made a powerful attack at the bottom of the final 1.3km climb and managed to pass Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) just metres of the line, with Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis) also making it past to take second. Andriy Grivko (Astana) finished just 8 seconds later and took the overall victory ahead of Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Bakelants.

 

Jan Bakelants’ first year at Ag2r was a testing one as he failed to hit his best form in the first part of the year. However, he finally returned to his winning ways in the final few weeks when he won both the Gran Piemonte and Giro dell’Emilia.

 

Those results set him up for a successful 2016 season and he has returned to his winning ways immediately. After third places in the second and third stages of La Méditerranéenne, his first race of the year, he came out on top in the hilly final stage.

 

Yesterday Bakelants had lacked confidence and asked his teammates not to chase behind a 16-rider breakaway and this ultimately cost him the stage win. Today he didn’t make such a mistake as he made his team accelerate hard in the final part of the short final stage that was held over 20 laps of a 5.9km circuit that included a 1.3km climb which summited just 100m from the line.

 

The Astana team of overall leader Andriy Grivko had been chasing hard all day behind a breakaway that had been whittled down to Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Cyril Gautier (Ag2r), Romain Feillu (Auber 93), Daniel Diaz (Delko Marseille), Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) and Franco Pellizotti (Androni) as they started the 15th lap. As they hit the climb, Geniez accelerated hard and he crossed the line with a 4-second advantage over Diaz and Gautier while Pellizotti and Nauleau were at 12 seconds. Feillu was dropped while Astana sent Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ) out the back door of the peloton in the splintering peloton

 

At the bottom of the climb, Diaz and Gautier rejoined Geniez and the trio stayed together as they tackled the ascent. Nauleau and Pellizotti also got back as they started the final three laps.

 

Meanwhile, Ag2r had decided to blow the race to pieces and it was Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) who reduced the peloton to just 30 riders and brought the gap down to 50 seconds. At the same time, Daniil Fominykh and Bakhtiyar Kozahtayev were dropped, leaving Grivo with just Eros Capecchi at his side.

 

As they hit the climb again, Geniez attacked for the second time and he started the penultimate lap with a 9-second advantage over Nauleau, Gautier and Diaz while Pellizotti was further back. The peloton was at 30 seconds and it was still Riblon and Ben Gastauer setting the pace for Ag2r in the 25-rider bunch from which the likes of Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Yoann Barbas, Kevin Lebreton (Armee), Felix Pouilly (Roubaix) and Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) had been dropped.

 

Geniez hit the climb with a 25-second advantage over the peloton and now it was time for Ag2r to play their cards. Mikael Cherel made a strong attack and crossed the line in lone pursuit of Geniez. The 15-rider peloton was led by Eros Capecchi who was just 18 seconds behind.

 

Capecchi managed to bring Cherel back in the early part of the final lap but Bakelants was ready to play his card as they hit the climb. The Belgian went full gas and passed the flamme rouge 10 seconds behind Geniez. Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis) followed him but was unable to match his speed.

 

Just before the top, Bakelants passed the fading Geniez and he had time to celebrate his win as he hit the finishing straight. Jeannesson also overtook Geniez who had to settle for third while Simone Andreeta (Bardiani) was first from a small group that included overall leader Andriy Grivko who only conceded 8 seconds.

 

As a result, Grivko took the overall in in the inaugural edition of the race, with Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) 18 seconds behind in second and Bakelants at 32 seconds in third. Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) was the best young rider while Bakelants won the points competition. Cyril Gautier (Ag2r) was the best climber and Ag2r the best team.

 

With La Méditerranéenne now over, attention in France turns to the Tour du Haut-Var which is held next weekend and includes two stages.

 

A hilly circuit

The final stage of the inaugural La Méditerranéenne had been modified and now consisted of 20 laps of 5.9km circuit in the Italian city of Bordighera for an overall distance of just 118km. It included a 1.3km climb whose top was located just 100m from the finish from where it was a false flat to the line.

 

Yannick Martinez (Delko Marseille), Adam De Vos (Rally) and Dimitri Peyskens (Veranlassic) were the absentees when the 80 remaining riders in the peloton gathered under a cloudy and dry sky. They tackled the first lap as a neutral zone before the real start was given at the start of the second lap.

 

Diaz and Chetotu attack

Like yesterday Cyril Gautier (Ag2r) was very aggressive right from the start but he had no success. However, the fast pace took its toll as Dieter Bouvry, Daan Myngheer (both Roubaix) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani) were already dropped and Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) abandoned.

 

Daniel Diaz (Delko Marseille) and Loic Chetout (Cofidis) attacked while Franco Pellizotti (Androni) took off in pursuit. Romain Feillu (Auebr 93) was the next to give chase while Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) was set back by a mechanical.

 

A seven-rider breakaway is formed

Pellizotti was the first to make the junction and after seven kilometres of racing, Feillu also made it across to make it a front quartet with a 25-second advantage. The fast pace was still taking its toll as sprinter Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) was getting dropped.

 

At the first third passage of the line, the front quartet were 10 seconds ahead of Gautier, Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) and Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) who had taken off in pursuit while the peloton was just 5 seconds further back. Meanwhile, one of the GC contenders Thierry Hupond (Delko Marseille) was set back by a puncture.

 

Astana in control

The two front groups merged and increased their advantage to 30 seconds but the peloton did not slow down. Myngheer, Giogio Cecchinel (Androni), Alo Jakin (Auber 93), Clement Penven and Stephane Poulhies (Armee) were among the next riders to get dropped.

 

The gap had gone out to 1.00 at the start of the final 100km where Pierre Gouault and Julien Guay (Auber 93) were in pursuit 30 seconds behind. The Auber 93 pair stayed at around 30 seconds for some time while Astana took control of the peloton and allowed the gap to go out to 1.25 with 81km to go.

 

Vuillermoz abandons

Astana used Andrey Zeits and Laurens De Vreese for the early peace-setting and were 1.22 behind the escapees with 75km to go where Marc Sarreau (FDJ) and Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) were dropped, with the latter later abandoning Moments later, Gouault sat up while Guay continued to press on.

 

With 11 laps to go, the gap was still 1.15 and it was 1.10 at the midpoint of the race. Guay was brought back by Astana which was still in full control. Meanwhile, Vuillermoz had to abandon due to knee problems.

 

Diaz ups the pace

With 50km to go, De Vreese ended his day, leaving Grivko with just four teammates 1.10 behind the breakaway. At this point, Diaz decided to test his companions and his acceleration put Feillu and Chetout into difficulty. Astana also upped the pace with De Vreese who sent Mickael Delage (FDJ) out the back door and led the peloton to the finish at the end of the 13th lap with a deficit of 1.09.

 

Diaz accelerated again as they hit the climb for the 14th time and now Chetout finally had to surrender. At the end of the lap, he was already 21 seconds behind while the peloton was at 1.23 and down to just 52 riders. Andrey Zeits was the next Astana rider to finish his job, leaving Grivko with just De Vreese, Daniil Fominykh and Eros Capecchi at his side. Moments later, Geniez put in his first dig and this started the exciting finale.

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