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With a powerful sprint, Bouhanni easily held off Dumoulin and Modolo to win stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphiné in a bunch kick; Kennaugh defended the lead on the eve of the team time trial

Photo: A.S.O./X.Bourgois












08.06.2015 @ 15:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) finally took the elusive first WorldTour win in the Cofidis jersey when he powered clear to win the bunch sprint in stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphiné. Having latched onto Edvald Boasson Hagen’s (MTN-Qhubeka) wheel in the finale, he came around the Norwegian and held off a fast-finishing Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) to take the victory while Peter Kennaugh (Sky) defended the overall lead.


When he signed a contract with Cofidis, Nacer Bouhanni was expected to continue his impressive string of victories in his new team which has had a pretty poor tally in the last few years. However, the first part of the season was hugely frustrating for the Frenchman who had to wait until April before he finally took his first victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe.


Bouhanni took another two victories before he started to prepare for the Tour de France and was hoping to boost his confidence in the Bayern Rundfahrt and World Ports Classic. However, he came up short in both those races and so he was still missing that big win when he lined up for this week’s Criterium du Dauphiné.


Yesterday’s opening stage was another frustrating experience for Bouhanni who saw Peter Kennaugh deny him the chance to sprint for the win and he was determined to make up for it in today’s second stage which was the easiest of the entire race. Finally, things came together for the Cofidis sprinter who was clearly the fastest when it all came back together for the expected bunch sprint.


Cofidis, Lampre-Merida, Lotto Soudal and Giant-Alpecin had worked together to bring the early break of Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) within striking distance and as they entered the final 5km, the front trio was only dangling 15 seconds ahead of the peloton. The GC teams were now rallying near the front to get safely to the 3km to go mark while the sprint trains loomed a little further behind.


While Quemeneur made an unsuccessful attack from the breakaway, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) took a short turn on the front before Sky took control. With Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard working hard to keep Chris Froome and Kennaugh out of trouble, they brought the break back with 3.5km to go.


With 2.5km to go, the sprint trains came to the fore and it was Lampre-Merida who hit the front with Jose Serpa, Filippo Pozzato, Sacha Modolo and Rui Costa. The Colombian took a huge turn before Cofidis took over.


A crash brought down Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and while they licked their wounds, MTN-Qhubeka took over. Tyler Farrar, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Edvald Boasson Hagen led the peloton under the flamme rouge before Pozzato moved up with Modolo on his wheel.


Pozzato and van Rensburg went head to head before Modolo slotted in behind Boasson Hagen. However, their train was passed by Cofidis who moved up in the right hand side of the road with a big surge from Christophe Laporte.


Boasson Hagen did a long sprint but Bouhanni was quick to respond, slotting into second behind the Norwegian and pushing Modolo into third. Moments later he launched his sprint and from there the outcome was never in doubt as he easily passed the Norwegian. Samuel Dumoulin came very fast from behind and narrowly passed Modolo who had to settle for third.


Dumoulin’s fast sprint was great news for Kennaugh s Modolo’s third place was not enough to take the overall lead away from the Manxman. The Sky rider now leads the Italian and Bouhanni by two seconds as they go into stage 3 which is the first big GC day of the race. The 24.5km team time trial is held of a hilly, technical course and should open the first gaps between the overall contenders in the race.


The easiest stage

After the missed opportunity yesterday, the sprinters were expected to get another chance in stage 2 which brought the riders over 173km from Le Bourget-du-Lac to Parc des Oiseaux in Villas-les-Dombes. Right from the start, the riders went up a category 2 climb before a flat section led to the category 1 Col du Cuvery. The summit was located 99km from the finish and as the final part was all downhill or flat, a bunch sprint was the expected outcome.


It was a cloudy race when the riders gathered for the start. There were no non-starters as they rolled out for their neutral ride, ready to tackle the first climb right from the beginning of the race.


The break takes off

As soon as the flag had been dropped, Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) attacked and he was quickly joined by Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and KOM leader Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka). Teklehaimanot led Quemeneur and Courteille over the top of the climb at the 3km mark while Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) was first from the peloton 1.50 later.


Team Sky took control in the peloton but they were not in chase mode. At the 9km mark, the gap had gone out to 4.25 and 5km later it had passed the 5-minute mark.


Cofidis come to the fore

Sky decided to speed up and for a while they kept the gap stable between 5.00 and 5.30. However, they slowed down a bit as they passed the 40km mark and as they got to the 45km mark the gap was 6.20.


After 50km of racing, the gap reached a maximum of 6.45 and this was the signal for Cofidis to come to the fore. With assistance from a Lampre-Merida rider, the French team started to slowly bring the break back.


Pichon abandons

The gap was 6.10 at the 67km mark as they were climbing the Col du Cuvery and when Teklehaimanot led Quemeneur and Courteille over the top, it had been reduced to 5.25. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) were first from the peloton.


The hard work by Mate paid off as the gap was only 3.55 when they entered the final 80km. At this point, Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), Laurent Pichon (FDJ) and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) went down in a crash and the Frenchman was forced to abandon the race.


The chase gets organized

Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) and Caleb Fairly (Giant-Alpecin) came to the fore to work with Mate and as they entered the final 65km they had brought the gap down to just 1.55. On a very relaxed day, they continued to steadily bring the gap down and so it was only 1.10 with 40km to go.


While the GC teams started to amass near the front, the escapees reacted to the faster pace and managed to reopen their advantage to 1.30. This prompted Oliveira, Fairly and Mate to ride faster and with 30km to go, the gap was again 1.10.


Rodriguez held up in crash

This was the signal for the escapees to go full gas and with a big surge, they managed to bring the gap back up to 2.00. Meanwhile, a big crash split the peloton into pieces as Yaroslav Popovych (Trek) hit the deck hard.


Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) were among the riders who found themselves in the second group but hard work from Europcar managed to bring them back. It was no easy feat though as the chase had now got organized, with Florian Senechal, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Serpa and Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida) trading pulls on the front.


Lotto Soudal start to chase

With 15km to go, they had brought the gap down to 1.30 and now Lotto Soudal were also contributing with Pim Ligthart. With 10km to go, the escapees were just 35 seconds ahead and the sprint and GC teams were now fighting hard for position.


Ligthart, Edet, Bono and Serpa kept the gap at 30 seconds for a while before they again accelerated. Pozzato took a big turn with 5km to go and moments later Sky took over, bringing the break back and setting the scene for the bunch sprint.



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