Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) finally took a long overdue first 2015 win when he emerged as the strongest in the uphill sprint on stage 1 of the Tour du Limousin. After a late attacker was caught with around 2km to go, he held off Andrea Pasqualon (Roth Skoda) and Timothy Dupont (Roubaix) on the uphill drag to the line and is so also the first leader of the race.
The 2014 season was a breakthrough for Sonny Colbrelli who confirmed his status as one of the best puncheurs in the peloton by dominating the Italian one-day scene in the second half of the year. In fact, his condition was so good that he got the chance to lead the Italian team at the Worlds.
Much was expected from Colbrelli in 2015 but nothing has gone to plan for the Bardiani rider who has been unable to confirm his progress. The Giro d’Italia was a big disappointment and so it is again the second half of the season that will be his chance to shine.
With some good sprints in the Tour of Utah, Colbrelli had finally showed signs of form when he lined up for the Tour du Limousin whose lumpy course and many uphill sprints are tailor-made for his characteristics. The race turns out to be a happy hunting ground for him as he came out on top in today’s opening stage.
Despite the hilly parcours, it was a relatively controlled affair with a four-rider break being brought back inside the final 20km. Maciej Paterski (CCC) tried a late attack and when he was brought back, Quentin Pacher (Armee) gave it a go.
However, it was all back together with 2km to go and set for an uphill sprint. Here Colbrelli put his condition on show by beating Andrea Pasqualon and Timothy Dupont into the minor podium positions.
With the win, Colbrelli also takes the first leader’s jersey in the race as he holds a four-second advantage over Pasqualon. He will try to defend the position tomorrow in the hardest stage of the race. In the finale, the riders will tackle a category 2 climb before they descend to the hard uphill drag to the line where the puncheurs are expected to shine.
A lumpy profile
The 48th edition of the Tour du Limousin kicked off with a 176.3km stage that brought the riders from Limoges to Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche. With three category 3 climbs and constant ups and downs, it was a typical Limousin stage with room for aggressive racing. The final climb was located 16.1km from the finish and then there was another uncategorized ascent before the riders got the finish that was slightly uphill.
It was a nice sunny day in Limoges when the riders gathered for the start and immediately an FDJ rider escaped. He was joined by four riders but it quickly came back together. The attacking continued during the frantic opening until Giorgio Cecchinel (Southeast), Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) and Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93) managed to separate themselves from the pack.
CCC take control
The peloton was content with the situation and allowed the gap to go out to 1.15 at the 17km mark. When Bonnafond beat Levarlet and Cecchinel in the first intermediate sprint, it was already 3.25.
The gap reached a maximum of 5.20 before CCC took over the pace-setting and at the 35km mark, it was already down to 3.10. Meanwhile, Cecchinel beat Levarley and Bonnafond in the first KOM sprint.
Edet takes off
The gap continued to come down and was only 2.15 at the 47km mark. They kept it stable around that mark while Bonnafond worked his way to the front group after a bike change.
The gap briefly went down to 1.40 but at the first passage of the line with 98km to go, it was again 2.25. The peloton slowed down and this allowed Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) to take off in pursuit. Five kilometres later, he was at 2.30 while the peloton was 4.10.
Movistar start to chase
The front trio allowed themselves to stop for a natural break and so Edet managed to join them just after Cecchinel had beaten Levarlet and Bonnafond in the second KOM sprint. At this point, the peloton had again accelerated and brought the gap down to 2.20.
Movistar took control of the peloton and reduced the gap to 1.40 as they approached the second intermediate sprint where Bonnafond beat Edet and Levarley. As they entered the final 60km, it was only 1.05 and the break seemed to be toomed.
The gap comes down
The escapees managed to react and extend the advantage to 1.40 before Edet beat Bonnafond and Levarlet in the final intermediate sprint. It even went out to 1.55 before the peloton went full into chase mode.
With 29km to go, the gap was only 40 seconds and it was still Movistar trying to make the race hard. However, the gap was unchanged when they hit the final climb.
The break is caught
Manuel Belletti abandoned the race after a crash before Cecchinel attacked further up the road. He managed to win the final KOM sprint while the peloton caught the chasers, with Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Bryan Nauleau (Europcar) leading them over the top.
With 16km to go, it was all back together before Maciej Paterski (CCC) tried a solo move. He stayed clear until two riders joined him on the late climb but they were brought back with 6km to go.
Quentin Pacher (Armee) was the next to try and had a 10-second advantage with 5km to go but it was mission impossible. He was back in the fold before they got to the flamme rouge and it was Colbrelli who won the sprint.
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