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Two days after his relegation in Hamburg, Bouhanni bounced back by winning the bunch sprint on stage 1 of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, holding off the Wanty pair of Jans and Napolitano; the Frenchman is the first leader

Photo: A.S.O.

DANILO NAPOLITANO

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NACER BOUHANNI

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TOUR DU POITOU-CHARENTES

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NEWS
23.08.2016 @ 18:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two days after his frustrating relegation at the EuroEyes Cyclassics, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) got a small revenge when he sprinted to victory on the first stage of the Tour du Poitou Charentes. The Frenchman was the fastest in the expected bunch sprint where he held off the Wanty-Groupe Gobert duo of Roy Jans and Danilo Napolitano to take both the stage victory and the overall lead.

 

The 2016 season has been a difficult one for Nacer Bouhanni who has been marred by bad luck and relegations. He has missed out on two WorldTour wins where he had crossed the line in first position as he was relegated in a stage of Paris-Nice and at the EuroEyes Cyclassics two days ago. To add to his woes, a chain problem probably cost him victory in Milan-Sanremo.

 

Bouhanni’s travails reached a low in the summer when a hotel altercation left him with injured hand that cost him the chance to do the Tour de France. He now hopes to turn everything around at the Worlds in Qatar where he hopes to lead the French team and today he proved that he is ready for the captaincy role when he confirmed the good form he showed in Hamburg by winning the first stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.

 

The 30th edition of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes kicked off with a stage of 189.6km between Angouleme and Puilboreau. There were two small climbs – 1km at 6% and 300m at 8% - in the first half and two climbs – 500m at 4% and 1km at 6% - in the middle section but they were not expected to be much of a challenge. The stage ended with one lap of a flat 24.4km circuit.

 

The 139 riders were greeted by extreme heat and 35-degree temperatures when they lined up for the start but that didn’t dampen the attacking spirit. Thomas Vaubourzeix (Delko) attacked as soon as the flag was dropped and he was quickly joined by Enrico Barbin (Bardiani). Julien Berard (AG2R), Yonder Godoy (Wilier) and Jeremy Leveau (Roubaix) tried to join the pair but they were quickly caught and a little later, it was over for the leaders too.

 

Maxime Cam (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Dieter Bouvry (Roubaix) and Alexis Bodiot (Armee) were the next to try. Martin Laas (Delko) made the junction before Barbin and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) also made it across. However, the sextet was brought back at the 14km mark.

 

Nicola Boem (Bardiani) and Flavien Dassonville(Auber 93) got a small advantage and got company from Etienne Fabre (Ag2r), Sander Helven (Topsport VlaandereN) and Bouvry. That break ended at the 19km mark and so things were back together at the bottom of the first climb.

 

Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen) attacked on the ascent and crested the summit with an advantage of 35 seconds. Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix) took off in pursuit and after he had bridged the gap, Simone Andreetta (Bardiani) and Berard also made it across. The peloton finally slowed down and so the gap had gone out to 3.05 at the 33km mark.

 

Unsurprisingly, Bouhanni’s Cofidis and Bryan Coquard’s Direct Energie teams started to chase and they allowed the gap to reach a maximum of 4.15 at the 41km mark. From there, they increased the speed after a first hour at an average speed of 43.5km/h.

 

Turgis beat Farazjn and Andreetta in the first KOM sprint where the peloton crossed the line 3.50 later. Cofidis was now doing all the work, keeping the gap between the 3- and 4-minute marks for a long time.

 

The 37-degree temperatures made it a brutal day while Cofidis set a stable pace, briefly allowed the gap to go out to 4.10 before they again increased the speed. Meanwhile, Blel Kadri (Ag2r) became the first rider to abandon.

 

Arnaud Demare’s FDJ team started to cooperate with Cofidis and so the gap was down to 2.50 at the 82km mark. Moments later, Turgis beat Berard and Farazjn in the intermediate sprint.

 

With his eyes on the KOM jersey, Turgis attacked and he crested the summit of the third climb with a  12-second advantage before he again waited for his companions. The four leaders were back together when they hit the final 70km with and advantage of 2.30.

 

Andreetta beat Turgis and Berard in the fourth KOM sprint at the end of the third hour where the riders had averaged 41.7km/h. The gap was now down to 2.10 and it was still Cofidis and FDJ leading the chase.

 

Andreetta was clearly the strongest in the break but he could not keep the peloton at bay. When Berard beat Turgis and the Italian in the final intermediate sprint with 50km to go, the gap was only 1.35.

 

The peloton slowed down a bit, with Dorian Godon (Cofidis) riding on the front, and so the gap stabilized between the 1- and 2-minute marks. However, when the pace was upped again, the gap dropped to just one minute with 27km to go.

 

Andreetta launched the first attack from the break and Berard soon gave chase. The Frenchman rejoined the Italian while Farazijn and Turgis were caught.

 

At the first passage of the line, the gap was only 40 seconds and Andreetta was doing almost all the work in front duo. He soon dropped his French companion but he could not keep the peloton at bay. With 15km to go, Cofidis brought the Italian back.

 

Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) launched a strong solo attack and managed to get a 15-second advantage while the peloton started to splinter, with Brice Feillu, Pierre Barbier, Francesco Chicchi and Bryan Alaphilippe among the riders to lose contact. Entering the final 9km, he was even 22 seconds ahead.

 

A big alliance between Cofidis, Delko, Bardiani and FDJ was formed and as Armee also lent a hand, Gougeard started to lose ground. He was back in the fold with 7km to go and then the battle of the sprint trains started.

 

With 5km to go, Direct Energie were in control but Cofidis soon took over. They led the peloton under the flamme rouge and then gave Bouhanni a great lead-out. The Frenchman held off the Wanty pair of Roy Jans and Danilo Napolitano, with Romain Feillu (Auber 93) and Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani) completing the top 5.

 

With the win Bouhanni takes the leader’s jersey with a four-second advantage over Jans. He has a solid chance to make it two in a row on stage 2 where the peloton will cover 179.8km between La Rochelle and Niort. There are two small climbs – 1km at 4% and 400m at 5% - but the final ascent comes with 56.1km to go. The stage ends with two laps of a flat 22.1km circuit in Niort.

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