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After an attack from Moscon was neutralized 200m from the line, Colbrelli took victory in a reduced bunch sprint on stage 5 of Tour du Poitou-Charentes, holding off Swift and Feillu; Chavanel took the overall win

Photo: Sirotti

BARDIANI CSF FAIZANE

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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NELSON OLIVEIRA

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ROMAIN FEILLU

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SONNY COLBRELLI

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SYLVAIN CHAVANEL

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TOUR DU POITOU-CHARENTES

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WILCO KELDERMAN

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26.08.2016 @ 18:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) confirmed his excellent condition by taking his third victory in less than two weeks when he came out on top in a reduced bunch sprint on the final stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes. After a late attack from Gianni Moscon (Sky) was neutralized just 200m from the line, he managed to hold Ben Swift (Sky) and Romain Feillu (Auber 93) off in the final dash to the line. Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) finished safely to win the race for the fourth time, with Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) completing the podium.

 

After his breakthrough season in 2014, Sonny Colbrelli was expected to reach new heights in 2015 but a frustrating first half of the year left him completely empty-handed. It was the Tour du Limousin that signaled his return to form as the Italian puncheur won a stage and the overall in the French race.

 

This year it seems that the French race has again marked a turning point for the Italian. After his fantastic start to the year that saw him finish on the podium in the Amstel Gold Race, he was set back by pneumonia after the Giro d’Italia and the illness made for a difficult start to the second part of the year. However, Limousin again turns out to be a happy hunting ground for Colbrelli as he left the race with two stage wins and second place overall.

 

The results made Colbrelli optimistic for his next big goal, Sunday’s Bretagne Classic in Plouay, and this week he has used the Tour du Poitou-Charentes to keep the engine going. He only had one goal in the race – to win the hilly final stage – and today he confirmed his excellent condition when he did just that.

 

After yesterday’s time trial, it was time for the hardest day on the well-known final stage. This year the riders covered 171.3km between Thouears and Poitiers and they were much hillier than what they had faced until now. There were two small climbs – 800m at 5% and 500m at 6% - inside the first 25km and a 1km climb at 6% at the midpoint. With 40km to go, the riders tackled a 700m climb at 7% and then they hit the 13.7km circuit. It included a 500m wall at 11% which the riders tackled a total of three times. They did two full laps of the circuit, tackling the climb for the final time with 2.8km to go.

 

It was another extremely hot day with temperatures of more than 30 degrees when the riders gathered for the start. Two riders were absent AS Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) who preferred to recover for the Bretagne Classic, and Søren Kragh Andersen (Giant-Alpecin) who was sitting in 9th overall, skipped the final stage.

 

The hilly terrain was invitation to ride aggressively and so it was a surprise that the break was established almost straight from the gun. Julien Bérard (AG2R La Mondiale), Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Thomas Vaubourzeix (Delko-Marseille-Provence-KTM), Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF), Yonder Godoy (Wilier-Southeast ), Pierre Gouault (HP BTP-Auber 93) and Thibault Ferasse (Armee) had built an advantage of two minutes after just 6km of racing.

 

There was no great cooperation in the break but nonetheless they had extended their advantage to 3.40 when Helven strengthened his KOM lead by winning the first KOM sprint ahead of Vaubourzeix and Rowe. They had even pushed it out to 4.45 at the bottom of the second climb where Helven again took maximum points ahead of Godoy and Gouault.

 

Helven was also the fastest in the first intermediate sprint where he beat Barbin and Rowe befoe the peloton crossed the line 4.30 later. The escapees covered 43.8km during the first hour.

 

Direct Energie took control in the peloton and at the 48km mark, they had reduced the gap to 3.45. Eight kilometres later it was already down to 3.15 but nonetheless, the escapees were not in a hurry. In fact Berard and Rowe even stopped for a natural break.

 

Thomas Voeckler, Simon Sellier and Guillaume Thevenot did the early work for Direct Energie and they had reduced the gap to just 2.35 as they entered the final 100km of the race. Here Gouault beat Ferasse and Helven in the second intermediate sprint.

 

Alexandre Pichot, Adrien Petit and Thevenot were the next to do the work for Direct Energie and while Flavien Dassonville (Auber 93) abandoned, they kept the gap stable at around 2.30, covering 39.4km during the second hour under the 36-degree temperature. Meanwhile, Helven secured the win in the KOM competition by beating Barbin and Vaubourzeix in the next sprint. The peloton reached the top 2.0 later.

 

Direct Energie upped the pace and so the gap was already down to 1.30 with 63km to go. That was the signal for the escapees to respond and when Gouault beat Ferasse and Godoy in the final intermediate sprint seven kilometres later, they again had a gap of 1.55.

 

Thevenot did a lot of work before he swung off after the first KOM sprint which was won by Helven ahead of Barbin and Vaubourzeix. He left it to his teammates to continue the chase 1.30 behind the leaders.

 

Vaubourzeix was not working in the front group and so Rowe launched an attack as soon as they hit the final climb for the first time. Helven and Vauborzeix fell off and later Ferasse was also left behind. That left just five riders in the lead as they crossed the line for the first time with a 30-second advantage over Ferasse and one minute to the peloton.

 

Fortuneo-Vital Concept took control and quickly brought Ferasse back before FDJ took over. Four riders from the team were lined out the front and quickly brought the gap down to 30 seconds.

 

The fast pace had whittled the main group down to 30 riders and they were getting closer to te front where Rowe urged his companions to go faster. However, the Brit and Barbin were borh dropped as they went up the climb for the second time, leaving just Berard, Godoy and Gouault in the lead.

 

While Barbin managed to rejoined the leaders, Huge Houle (Ag2r) made a failed attempt to bridge across but he was back in the fold before the peloton crossed the line 15 seconds behind the leaders. Berard then sat up and moments later Barbin also had to surrender.

 

With Rowe back in the fold, Sky hit the front and they brought the front duo back with 8km to go. LottoNL-Jumbo and Bardiani then took over but the Brits were back in control when they hit the climb for the final time.

 

Sky set Gianni Moscon up for a big attack and the Italian managed to get an advantage of 8 seconds as he hit the final 2km. He was still clear at the flamme rouge but with 200m to go, it was all over. Instead, it came down to a reduced bunch sprint and here Colbrelli turned out to be the fastest, holding off Ben Swift and Romain Feillu.

 

Sylvain Chavanel finished safely in the bunch and so retained his 30-second advantage over Wilco Kelderman and Nelson Oliveira to win the race for a fourth time. Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the points classification and Helven was the best climber. Kelderman was the best young rider and LottoNL-Jumbo was the strongest team.

 

With the Tour du Poitou-Charentes done and dusted, the attention turns to one of France’s biggest one-day races, Sunday’s Bretagne Classic in Plouay for which this stage race has usually been the perfect warm-up.

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