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Having launched a long sprint, Dehaes narrowly held off Coquard in the bunch sprint on the final stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk; Coquard took the overall win with Frapporti in second and Meurisse in third

Photo: Kristof Ramon / Wanty-Groupe Gobert

4 JOURS DE DUNKERQUE

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BRYAN COQUARD

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CIRCUS-WANTY GOBERT

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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KENNY DE HAES

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MARCO FRAPPORTI

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MAXIMILIANO RICHEZE

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08.05.2016 @ 18:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Kenny Dehaes (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) returned to his former sprinting level when he claimed his first win for his new team on the final stage of the 4 Days of Dunkirk. Having hit out from afar, he narrowly held off the fast-finishing Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) to open his 2016 account while Maximilano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep) crossed the line in third. Coquard could console himself with the overall win as he ended the race with a 30-second advantage over Marco Frapporti (Androni), with Xandro Meurisse (Crelan) one second further adrift in third.

 

In 2006, 2007 and 2008, Kenny Dehaes was widely regarded as a future Belgian top sprinter and that allowed him to join the WorldTour with the Katusha team. However, his stint in Russia was never a success and after he joined Lotto, he disappeared into an anonymous role as domestique.

 

In 2013 and 2014, he suddenly returned to his former level by winning a total of six races despite riding for a team that was loaded by sprinters and dominated by André Greipel. However, an injury-marred 2015 season halted his progress and this year he had to drop to the pro continental level with the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team.

 

Dehaes was originally signed to be part of the lead-out train for Roy Jans but with the main sprinter just coming back from injury, he was given his own chance in this week’s 4 Days of Dunkirk. After he had shown his form with a third place in the GP de Denain in April and two top 6 results in the first two sprints in the French race, he proved that he is back at his best level by winning the final stage of the race, denying Bryan Coquard a fourth stage win in Dunkirk.

 

The stage ended with 10 laps of a 6.9km finishing circuit in Dunkirk and with Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) intent on not leaving the race empty-handed, it was evident that it would all be decided in a sprint. Cofidis never gave a five-rider break a big advantage and with 9km to go, Gert Joeaar and Florian Senechal brought everything back together for the expected sprint.

 

Joeaar and Senechal kept riding on the front for a few kilometres until an Armee rider took over as they crossed the finish line to start the final lap of the circuit. The French rider was working for his teammate Yannis Yssaad and strung out the group as they headed around the flat circuit.

 

With 5km to go, Rob Ruijgh (Crelan) launched a strong solo attack and he immediately got a solid advantage. That’s when Wanty first showed their intentions as they took the responsibility for the chase, with Frederik Backaert and Jerome Vaugnies taking some huge turns.

 

Ruijgh did an impressive job to stay clear for a few kilometres but with 2.8km to go, Wanty had brought the Dutchman back. They were fighting hard for the top positions as Wallonie tried to move up but it was Danilo Napolitano who won the battle for Dehaes’ team.

 

However, things unraveled with less than 2km to go when Cofidis launched their train, Florian Senechal hit the front with Michal van Staeyen, Borut Bozic, Geoffrey Soupe and Bouhanni on his wheel and everything seemed to be on track for the French sprinter. However, Dehaes had shown attentiveness and while triple winner Bryan Coquard was far back, the Belgian had won the battle for Bouhanni’s wheel.

 

Van Staeyen led the peloton under the flamme rouge and the French team did well to react when two riders from Ag2r launched late attacks. When they faded back, Etixx-QuickStep surged ahead with Stijn Vandenbergh, Yves Lampaert and Maximilano Richeze and they responded quickly when an FDJ rider tried to go from afar.

 

Lampaert and Soupe ended up sprinting against each other with their respective sprinters on their wheel but it was Dehaes who suddenly came flying from the background. Bouhanni and Richeze both tried to respond but they were no match to the Belgian’s speed. Instead, Coquard came fast from far back but he just ran out of metres, allowing Dehaes to celebrate his first win for his new team. Richeze edged Bouhanni out in the battle for third.

 

Coquard could console himself with the fact that he took the overall win with a 30-second advantage over Marco Frapporti while yesterday’s winner Xandro Meurisse was one second further adrift in third. With three stage wins and two second places, Coquard also won the points competition while Stephane Poulhies (Armee) was the best climber. Coquard was of course the best young rider and Etixx-QuickStep was the best team.

 

With the 4 Days of Dunkirk done and dusted, the attention in France turns to the three-stage Tour de Picardie that starts next Friday.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, the riders had much flatter terrain for the final stage which brought them over 159.7km from Hondschoote to Dunkirk. There eas just an early climb on the menu and the stage ended with the traditional 10 laps of the flat 6.9km circuit in Dunkirk where a fourth bunch sprint was the expected outcome.

 

Like in the previous stages, it was excellent sunshine and very hot when the riders gathered for the start and like yesterday it was a fast opening phase with lots of attacks. In the hectic stress, Felix Pouilly (Roubaix) had bad luck to hit the deck at the 6km mark, suffering an open wound in his shoulder. Julien Berard (Ag2r) and Maxime Farazijn (Topsport) wre also involved in the tumble but only Puilly had to leave the race.

 

Lots of attacks

After 11km of racing, Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r), Julien El Fares (Delko), Delio Fernandez (Delko), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Pieter Jacobs (Crelan) and Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie) had opened an advantage of 45 seconds but the peloton was unwilling to let them go. At the 17km mark, their lead had been reduced to 30 seconds and they were brought back just minutes later.

 

Pierrick Fedrigo (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) was attentive to pick up a bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint behind Yann Offredo (FDJ) and David Boucher (Crelan) before Alexis Bodiot (Armee), Boucher and Offredo (FDJ) opened an advantage of 10 seconds. However, they were brought back too and this allowed Stephane Poulhies (Armee) to secure the victory in the mountains classification by taking second in the only KOM sprint of the stage behind Backaert and ahead of Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo-Vital Concept).

 

The peloton splits

Things were still together at the 44km mark where the attacking continued and this created a split in the peloton after 55km of racing when Delko made a big acceleration. The group was broken into three parts but race leader Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) was attentive to stay in the first group.

 

Cofidis had missed the move and they were chasing hard 12 seconds behind the Coquard group. They managed to brings things back together and as the peloton took a small breather after the hectic start, five riders managed to get clear.

 

Five riders get clear

Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot), Jens Wallays (Topsport), Pieter Jacobs (Crelan) and Pierre Gouault (Auber 93) quickly got an advantage of one minute and it went out to 2.25 at the 72km mark before Direct Energie started to chase. They were not riding full gas though and so the gap was 3 minutes. Meanwhile, van Ginneken beat Wallays and Jacobs in the second sprint.

 

Entering the final 60km, Cofidis hit the front and started to reel the break in. As they hit the finishing circuit, strong pulls from Clement Venturini and Anthony Perez had reduced the gap to just 2.05 and it was 2 minutes at the first passage of the finish line.

 

Cofidis in control

Entering the final 40km, the escapees only had 40 seconds but they did very well to extend the gap to 1.00 before they contested the final intermediate sprint with 32km to go. Again van Ginneken was the fastest as he held off Jacobs and Gouault.

 

The race situation was pretty steady as Perez and Venturini kept the gap at around a minute before they started to accelerate. With 20km to go, they had halved the gap.

 

The break is caught

Perez swung off and instead Venturini got a hand from Joeaar who completely took over the pace-setting with 15km to go. At this point, the gap was only 15 seconds and as Senechal also came to the fore to work on the front, it was down to 5 seconds with 10km to go.

 

Van Ginneken tried to attack and Feillu sat up, Jacobs and Gouault countered the move. The pair stayed ahead for a little longer than the rest of the break but with 9km to go, it was all back together for the bunch sprint that allowed Dehaes to open his account.

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