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After a great team effort, Boeckmans and De Buyst crossed the line hand in hand to make it a 1-2 for Lotto Soudal in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Tour de Picardie; Boeckmans is the first leader

Photo: Lotto Soudal

JASPER DE BUYST

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KRIS BOECKMANS

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LOTTO-DSTNY

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TOUR DE PICARDIE

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15.05.2015 @ 18:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Kris Boeckmans and Jasper De Buyst ahieved the rare feat of crossing the line hand in hand at the end of a bunch sprint to make it a 1-2 for Lotto Soudal in the first stage of the Tour de Picardie. Boeckmans was first across the line and took both the stage victory and the leader’s jersey.

 

Going into the Tour de Picardie, Lotto Soudal had made it clear that they were aiming for sprint wins for Jens Debusschere in the short 3-day race which is usually dominated by fast riders. Today they managed to take an impressive 1-2 in the opening stage of the French event but the Belgian champion was nowhere to be seen.

 

Instead, lead-out men Kris Boeckmans and Jasper De Buyst completed a great team showing by crossing the line hand in hand and take both the stage victory and the leader’s jersey. The performance was made even more impressive by the fact that it came at the end of the expected bunch sprint.

 

With French sprint stars Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) both at the start, Lotto Soudal were the underdogs but they immediately showed their intentions. Very early in the stage, they contributed to the chase alongside the riders from FDJ and Europcar.

 

Their efforts paid off as they managed to bring back the early break with less than 10km to go and all was set for the expected bunch sprint. Here they hit the front with 3km to go and from there it was the Belgian team all over the place.

 

In the end, it was Boeckmans who led De Buyst across the line while Daniel McLay (Bretagne) was the best of the rest in third. There was no sign of Demare and Coquard who both failed to make it into the top 10.

 

With the win, Boeckmans takes the first leader’s jersey in the race and goes into stage two with a 4-second advantage over De Buyst. He has a great chance to make it two in a row in stage which is mostly flat apart from three categorized climbs in the first part. In the end, however, the riders will have to tackle a tough little climb that leads to the final 2 flat kilometres.

 

A flat stage

The 2015 Tour de Picardie kicked off with a 161.55km stage from Moy-de-Le Aisne to Tergnier that was a mostly flat affair. There was a short climb at the midpoint but otherwise there were no topographical challenges. The race ended with three laps of a 20.5km finishing circuit.

 

It was pretty windy, cold and cloudy when the riders gathered for the start but that didn’t dampen their attacking spirit. Three riders got clear early on and after a trio had taken off in pursuit, it came back together.

 

The break gets clear

5-rider and 4-rider groups both got clear briefly but after 20 minutes of racing, it was still together. Moments later 6 riders got clear and they managed to get a 20-second advantage but as they had to stop at a railroad crossing, they were brought back.

 

Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r), Daniel Schorn (Bora-Argon 18), Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Marseille) managed to escape while Fabien Canal (Armee) took off in pursuit. As the peloton slowed down, the front quartet quickly had an advantage of 1.05 at a point when Canal was still 20 seconds behind.

 

Canal makes the junction

The escapees didn’t wait for Canal who dangled 20 seconds behind for a long time. Meanwhile, the gap to the peloton went out to 3.10 before FDJ took control.

 

Finally, the escapees decided to wait for Canal who made the junction after 40km of racing when the gap was 2.50.

 

FDJ take control

Lotto Soudal started to work with Lorrenzo Manzin and David Boucher who did the early work for FDJ. They rode pretty fast and when Europcar took over the gap was 2.15.

 

The peloton slowed down a bit and the gap stabilized between 2.00 and 2.30 as Boucher, Manzin and three Lotto Soudal riders went back to work. Meanwhile, Canal beat Siskevicius and Schorn in the first intermediate sprint.

 

Canal takes the mountains jersey

Canal beat Schorn and Latour in the only KOM sprint to secure himself a stint in the mountains jersey. At this point the gap was 2.10.

 

The gap was now coming down and when it was down to just 1.40 in the feed zone, several riders tried to attack. They were caught but their aggression had brought the gap down to just 1 minute.

 

Siskevicius attacks

The peloton slowed down a bit and the gap went out to 1.25 as they hit the finishing circuit. Just after the first passage of the line, Siskevicius tied to attack but he had no luck.

 

Canal beat Hivert and Latour in the second intermediate sprint and the escapees were now responding to the faster pace.  As Europcar had taken control of the peloton, the gap stayed between 1.30 and 2.00 for a while.

 

The break is caught

The peloton finally accelerated and when they started the second lap, the gap was 45 seconds. However, the escapees responded very well and managed to bring the back up to 1.05.

 

At the start of the final lap, it was only 30 seconds though and even though they did well to stay clear for a long while, the escapees were brought back with less than 10km to go. Ag2r had now taken control before Lotto Soudal came to the fore to make it a great 1.2 with Boeckmans and De Buyst.

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