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Delivered perfectly by his teammates, Bouhanni made it two in a row when he beat Barbier and Markus in the bunch sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de l’Ain; the Frenchman extended his lead

Photo: Sirotti

BARRY MARKUS

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NACER BOUHANNI

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TOUR DE L'AIN

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13.08.2015 @ 17:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nacer BouhannI (Cofidis) confirmed that he is ready to shine in the Vuelta a Espana when he powered to a second consecutive stage win in the Tour de l’Ain in the final sprint stage of the race. Delivered perfectly to the line by his teammates, he held of Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) and Barry Markus (LottoNL-Jumbo) and so extended his overall lead.

 

Going into the Tour de l’Ain, it was evident that Nacer Bouhanni was going to be the man to beat in the first two stages which were tailor-made for the sprinters. At the end of the first two road stages, the Frenchman has fully lived up to his status as he has come out on top on both occasions.

 

Bouhanni crashed out of the Tour de France but by winning the Circuit de Getxo less than two weeks ago he had confirmed that he was ready to shine on home soil. A ninth place in the prologue confirmed his form and yesterday he took his first stage win in the race.

 

Today he doubled his tally with another convincing sprint win but it was not only Bouhanni who shone in the stage. With just 6-rider teams, Cofidis faced a massive task if they wanted to control the stage but they did the job splendidly.

 

In a frantic first hour of the stage, it took nearly 40km for the early four-rider break to be formed and from there Cofidis got very little help in their attempt to bring it back together for the bunch sprint. Nonetheless, they accomplished their mission with 7km to go from where the scene was set for the bunch sprint.

 

Despite their hard work, Cofidis impressed as they still had riders left for the lead-out and they managed to control the final kilometre and drop Bouhanni off in the perfect position. From there, the outcome was never in doubt and he easily held off Rudy Barbier and Barry Markus in the final dash to the line.

 

Bouhanni had already taken the race lead in yesterday’s stage and by adding another 10 bonus seconds to his tally, he strengthened his position at the top. He now has a 15-second advantage over Mike Teunissen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Alexandre Geniez (FDJ).

 

However, his time in the race lead is likely to be over after tomorrow’s stage which offers the first serious climbing. No less than five tough climbs are on the menu, with the Col du Berthiand and Cote de Cessiat coming inside the final 30km. The summit of the latter comes just 6km from the finish in Bellignat where the GC is likely to be reshuffled completely.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the fast finishers were again expected to shine in stage 2 which brought the riders over 159.7km from Feillens to Pont-de-Vaux. With no categorized climbs on the course, it was an almost completely flat ride where the wind was the only potential danger. In the finale, the riders did two laps of an 18km finishing circuit.

 

With a temperature of 31 degrees, it was another very hot day in France when the riders gathered for the start of the second stage. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present.

 

A fast start

Already yesterday, many teams had indicated that they wanted to go on the attack and so it was no surprise that the race got off to a flying start. The first significant move was made by Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Yoann Paillot (Marseille) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18) but they were quicly brought back.

 

Pöstlberger and Paillot tried again and this time they were joined by Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar). The trio managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds but as Bretagne had missed the move, they brought it back after 18km of fast racing.

 

Four riders get clear

Alexandre Blain (Marseille), Florian Guillou (Bretagne) and Roosen made a short-lived attempt but were brought back by Cofidis who controlled things firmly. They got to the 40km mark before they allowed a group to get a bigger advantage as Antoine Duchesne (Europcar), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne), Cristiano Salerno (Bora-Argon 18) and Elie Gesbert (France) had managed to build an advantage of 20 seconds at that point.

 

The peloton finally slowed down and when Salerno beat Gesbert and Duchesne in the first intermediate sprint, the gap had gone out to 55 seconds. At the 50km mark, it was 1.25.

 

Cofidis in control

While Remy Di Gregorio (Marseille) had to abandon the race due to a crash, Cofidis took control of the situation and allowed the gap to grow slightly. At the 79km mark, it was 2.00 and they kept it around that mark for a while, with Romain Hardy and Yoann Bagot setting the pace.

 

Surprisingly, the peloton slowed down and so the gap went out to 2.35. This was the signal for Armee to join forces with Cofidis and as they entered the feed zone with 58km to go, they had reduced the gap to 1.40.

 

The gap stabilizes

With 50km to, they had pegged it back to 1.30 and at this point it started to rain. Meanwhile, Florian Vachon (Bretagne) rejoined the peloton after a mechanical.

 

With 40km to go, the gap had gone out to 1.45 and when they crossed the line to start their first lap of the finishing circuit it was still 1.40. At this point, Perichon beat Duchesne and Gesbert in the second intermediate sprint.

 

Cofidis back in control

Fabien Canal (Armee) was working with the Cofidis team in the peloton but it didn’t have much effect on the gap which was 1.30 with 30km to go. Hence, Marseille and Auber 93 also started to work in the peloton, with Theo Vimpere and Julian Guay taking some huge turns for the latter team.

 

As it stopped raining, the gap was coming down. Entering the final 20km, it was 1.00 and now it was Cofidis in complete control with Cyril Lemoine, Hardy, Dominique Rolland Stephane Rossetto.

 

The break is caught

At the start of the final lap, it was just 38 seconds but the escapees managed to keep it stable for a long time until Marseille again took over. With 10km to go, it was down to 20 seconds and three kilometres later, it was all back together.

 

While the lead-out trains were fighting for position, Björn Thurau (Bora-Argon 18) suffered a puncture but he managed to get back in time for the sprint. Ag2r and Cofidis took control with 3km to go but it was the latter team that came out on top and delivered Bouhanni perfectly to another victory.

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