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After Direct Energie had worked all day to make it a sprint finish, there was no glory for Coquard as Barbier took a breakthrough win in the reduced bunch kick at Cholet Pays De Loire; Planckaert was 2nd, Yssaad 3rd

Photo: Sirotti

BAPTISTE PLANCKAERT

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CHOLET PAYS DE LOIRE

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NATURA4EVER ROUBAIX LILLE METROPOLE

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20.03.2016 @ 17:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One week after winning Paris-Troyes, Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) confirmed his huge talent by claiming his first win in a 1.1 race when he came out on top in a 50-rider sprint at Cholet Pays De Loire, the third round of the Coupe de France series. After Direct Energie had worked for Bryan Coquard all day, it was Barbier who emerged as the fastest, with Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) and Yannis Yssaad (Armee) having to settle for second and third respectively.

 

Ever since he joined the small Roubaix Lille Metropole team in 2014, it has been evident that 23-year-old Rudy Barbier has a big potential. Solid on the climbs and fast in a sprint, he already finished fifth overall against WorldTour riders in the Tour de Picardie during his neo-pro season and he went on to finish second in two smaller French stage races. Last year he won a stage at the Circuit des Ardennes and finished an impressive fourth against a star-studded line-up of sprinter at the World Ports Classics while also getting close to his first big victory with a second place in a stage of the Tour de l’Ain.

 

This year he has continued to build on his potential and just one week ago he took his first win of the year at Paris-Troyes. This turned him into an outsider for today’s Cholet Pays De Loire where he found himself up against WorldTour teams but with several top results against the best riders earlier in the season, he was confident that he would be in the mix.

 

Things came together for Barbier as he both proved his strength to make the selection in the crosswinds on the lumpy course that included 10 climbs and put his speed on show in the 50-rider sprint that decided the race. No one was able to come around him in the bunch kick and he could raise his arms to celebrate the biggest win of his career.

 

It was a windy day in France and this had made it a selective day. Only around 50 riders had survived the carnage in the crosswinds as they approached the 29km finishing circuit that included two small climbs. After the early break had been caught, Direct Energie had controlled things for pre-race favourite Bryan Coquard and they had allowed Blel Kadri (Ag2r) to build a 10-second advantage as they crossed the finish line.

 

Direct Energie was in complete control and brought Kadri back as they approached the penultimate climb. Thomas Voeckler set the pace for Direct Energie on the climb, with Armee and Wanty looming further back. There were no attacks on the climb but after the summit, Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen) gave it a go. He quickly put 8 seconds into the peloton but Direct Energie had everything under control, keeping the lone Belgian in check.

 

With 12km to go, Helven was just 6 seconds ahead and he was brought back before they entered the final 10km. A group of exactly 50 riders hit the final climb, with everything pointing to a sprint finish.

 

Floris De Tier (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty) attacked on the climb and managed to get an advantage of 5 seconds at the top. However, Direct Energie quickly neutralized the move and it was back together with 8km to go.

 

Direct Energie rode on the front but suddenly came under pressure when TT specialists Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Damien Gaudien (Ag2r) attacked. They managed to stay clear until they passed the flamme rouge where it all came back together for a bunch sprint.

 

Direct Energie looked to have everything under control as they tried to set Bryan Coquard up for the win. However, the pre-race favourite was nowhere to be seen when the race was decided and it was Barbier who came out on top, holding off Baptiste Planckaert and Yannis Yssaad.

 

With the second place, Planckaert takes the lead in the overall Coupe de France. He will try to defend his position in the fourth race of the series, Route Adelie, which will be held on April 1. The next major event in France is the Criterium International which takes place next weekend.

 

A lumpy course

The 39th edition of Cholet Pays De Loire was held on a hilly 210km route around the city of Cholet. First the riders tackled a big 181km loop on the northern outskirts of the city, with 8 climbs spread throughout the course. The first 50km were all uphill and led to the top of the Cote du Cimitiere at the 47.7km mark and then a long descent led to rolling terrain with seven smaller climbs. The final part of the circuit was relatively easy, with the seventh climb coming at the 131km mark and the eighth climb coming at the 160.1km mark. Having crossed the finish line for the first time, the riders ended the race by doing one lap of a 29km circuit on the southern outskirts of Cholet. It included the climbs of Cote de La Tessoualle and Cote de la Seguiniere with 23.2km and 8.1km to go respectively. From there, it was a flat run to the finish.

 

It was a sunny day when the riders gathered for the start. Kennth Van Rooy (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Jimmy Janssens (3M) were both absent as the peloton headed out for its neutral ride.

 

An aggressive start

As soon as the flag was dropped, a Wanty rider took off but he had no success. That set the scene for lots of attacking and no one managed to escape for quite some time. Furthermore, there were already splits in the peloton almost straight from the gun.

 

Auber 93 and Armee were very active and latter sent Thomas Rostollan off in a solo move. However, Ag2r quickly brought him back and the riders got to the 18km mark when the early break was finally formed.

 

Four riders get clear

Maxime Daniel (AG2R), Murilo Fischer (FDJ), Ryan Anderson (Direct Energie) and Yannis Yssaad (Armee) formed a group of four fast rides that had to work hard to get a gap. When it had gone out to 25 seconds, the peloton slowed down. Jaap De Man (3M) took off in pursuit but he found himself stuck 50 seconds behind with 24km to go. At this point, the peloton was at 1.45.

 

The gaps grew quickly to 1.50 and 4.50 respectively after 30km of racing and it had gone out to 6.10 before Cofidis briefly tried to accelerate in the peloton. Things calmed down again and at the 40km mark, the bunch was 8.30 behind, with De Man now trailing by 2.25.

 

A massive gap

At the end of a first hour during which the peloton had averaged 42km/h, the gap was a massive 10 minutes and it was only Cofidis riding slowly on the front. It was Wanty-Group Gobert who finally took initiative when the gap had reached 11 minutes and after 50km of racing, Roubaix took over. Daniel beat Anderson and Fischer in the first KOM sprint.

 

They small continental team reduced the gap to 10.40 before Topsport Vlaanderen came to the fore. At the 59km mark, De Man was 3 minutes behind while the peloton was at 9.30.

 

Offredo goes down

Suddenly, the peloton hit a windy section where it was split into three groups. The stress caused a crash that involved Yoann Offredo (FDJ) and Tristan Marguet (Roth) who were both taken to hospital.

 

Things calmed down again and a regrouping took place when the gap was down to just 4.55. Cofidis took control and as they hit the second climb, they upped the pace, dropping Cesar Bihel (Auber 93) and Tiziano Dall’Antonia (Androni) who both abandoned.

 

Cofidis in control

De Man was brought back before Daniel beat Anderson and Fischer in the KOM sprint. The peloton crested the summit 4.35 behind the leaders and Topsport Vlaanderen were now assisting Cofidis.

 

Daniel beat Anderson and Yssaad in the third KOM sprint while the gap stabilized around 4.40. The Ag2r sprinter was also faster than Anderson and Fischer on the fourth climb where Rayane Bouhanni and Michael van Staeyen were working in the peloton for Cofidis. They upped the pace and at the top they had reduced the gap to 3.45.

 

Gaudin makes a move

Daniel beat Anderson and Fischer on the fifth climb where his teammate Damien Gaudin made a solo move in an attempt to bridge across. However, he was quickly brought back as the peloton was going fast, having reduced the gap to 2.40 after three hours of racing.

 

The peloton slowed down and after Daniel had beaten Fischer and Yssaad in the sixth KOM sprint, the gap had gone out to 4 minutes with 85km to go. That was as much as they would get though as it was again down to 3.10 when Daniel beat Yssaad and Fischer in the seventh KOM sprint with 77km to go.

 

The gap melts away

Wanty were the next to try to split things in the crosswinds and they managed to briefly split the bunch into two. However, things again came back together but the acceleration had reduced the gap to 2.05.

 

Roubaix briefly took control but the nervousness was evident. Direct Energie and Arme were the next to try to split things, quickly reducing the gap to 30 seconds with 60km to go.

 

The break is caught

Armee stayd on the front and brought the break back as they approached the 8th climb. They split the field and they hit the ascent with a 20-second advantage over the second bunch. Yann Guyot (Armee) beat Tony Hurel (Direct Energie) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty) in the KOM sprint.

 

Armee and Direct Energie had the most riders in the 40-rider first group but a few riders managed to bridge the small 13-second gap. The second group was down to just 17 riders and they finally managed to make the junction to make it a 50-rider lead group.

 

Kadri takes off

Delko and Fortuneo led the peloton when Blel Kadri (Ag2r) briefly tried to get clear. There were lots of attacks but Direct Energie with seven of their riders to keep things under control as they hit the finishing circuit.

 

As they hit the next climb, Kadri tried again and he managed to maintain a 10-second gap for a while. Backaert tried to join him but he had no success. Kadri was still clear as they started their lap of the finishing circuit but in the end it all came down to a sprint.

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