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After escaping on the final two climbs, Devenyns and Pinot held off a select group before deciding the GP La Marseillaise in a two-rider sprint, with the Belgian beating the Frenchman; Planckaert won the sprint for third

Photo: IAM Cycling

BAPTISTE PLANCKAERT

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DRIES DEVENYNS

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GRAND PRIX CYCLISTE LA MARSEILLAISE

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IAM CYCLING

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THIBAUT PINOT

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31.01.2016 @ 17:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dries Devenyns (IAM) got his 2016 season off to the best possible start as he came out on top in the traditional French season opener. The Belgian attacked before the final climb where he was joined by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and the pair managed to hold off a select chase group before the Belgian won the 2-rider sprint. Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) won the sprint for third.

 

It came as a bit of a surprise that Giant-Alpecin didn’t renew Dries Devenyns’ contract at the end of the 2014 season during which he had showed himself as a great classics contender. Instead, the Belgian moved to the IAM team where he had a difficult first year.

 

Now it seems that Devenyns is finally ready to build on the progress he showed two years ago after he won an exciting edition of the first French race, GP Cycliste la Marseillaise. The Belgian benefited from a new, harder course that included an extra climb in the finale and managed to prevent the usual scenario of a reduced bunch sprint.

 

After an early four-rider break had dominated the race, it all came back together when the peloton tackled the new climb of the Col des Cretes with 30km to go. FDJ had been working hard all day and made the peloton explode to pieces.

 

This is where Devenyns made his move and he was the first rider to reach the top before Mikael Cherel (Ag2r) and Thibaut Pinot led the peloton over the summit as the group had been reduced to around 20 riders.

 

After a Lotto Soudal rider had crashed, Devenyns and Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) attacked on the descent but the former quickly dropped the latter as they hit the final climb of the Col de la Gineste. Instead, it was Pinot and Marco Marcato (Wanty) bridging the gap but the latter quickly fell behind. At the top of the climb, they had put 1 minute into the 20-rider field.

 

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) attacked on the descent and were 40 seconds behind, with the peloton following at 48 seconds. However, they were quickly brought back

 

Devenyns and Pinot still had a 40-second advantage when they entered the final 4km. Here Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) made a counterattack but he was brought back before the finish.

 

Devenyns and Pinot were both content with a sprint finish and the Belgian managed to hold off the Frenchman by just 15cm. 42 seconds later Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) beat Dimitri Claeys (Wanty) and Ryan Anderson (Direct Energie) in the sprint for third.

 

With the GP La Marseillaise over, the attention turns to the first French stage race of the year. The Etoile de Besseges will have a very similar line-up and will be run from Wednesday to Friday.

 

A hillier course

The 37th edition of the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise was held on a 143.8km course around the city of Marseille and it was the usual hilly affair. After a relatively flat start, the riders tackled the Pas Couelle and the Col de l’Espigoulier around the midpoint. Then it was time for the uncategorized Pas d’Oullier before they hit the new climb of the Col des Cretes which had been added for the 2016 race. The top was located just 27.7km from the finish and then the riders tackled the traditional finale, with the Col de la Gineste leading to the final 9.3km that were descending and flat.

 

It was a great sunny day in a spring-like Marseille when the riders gathered for the start. One rider was absent as Jonathan Breyne (Veranclassic) didn’t make it to the beginning of the first French race of the year.

 

Four riders get clear

The first kilometres were up the small Cote des Termes which was the invitation to ride aggressively and there were lots of attacks right from the start. Daniel Diaz (Delko Marseille), Jerome Mainard (Armee) and Flavien Dassonville (HP BTP) managed to establish a 25-second advantage at the 5km mark and they had extended it to 30 seconds at the top of the climb.

 

Veranclassic and FDJ led the chase before Jerome Cousin (Cofidis) attacked on the descent. The Frenchman joined the leaders who were now 55 seconds ahead, with Nico Denz (Ag2r) in lone pursuit at 55 seconds.

 

FDJ take control

Denz was brought back and instead Jasper Bovenhus (An Post) and Christophe Premont (Verandas) took off. Meanwhile, the peloton sat up and allowed the gap to the four leaders to grow.

 

Bovenhuis dropped Premont but was losing ground and at the 30km mark, he trailed the leaders by a minute, with Premont following at 1.30. The peloton had already been distanced by 2.45, with Thibaut Pinot calling the shots for FDJ that controlled things.

 

Bovenhuis gets closer

Bovenhuis was stuck one minute behind the leaders while Premont lost ground. The peloton allowed the gap to go out to 3.15 as they hit the first categorized climb, Pas Couelle.

 

Premont was brought back while Bovenhuis used the climb to reduce his deficit to 45 seconds. The peloton also gained back time and was 2.45 behind after one hour and 39.4km of racing.

 

Bovenhuis makes the junction – and get dropped

Diaz led Dassonville and Mainard over the top with 95m to go, with Bovenhuis following just 25 seconds behind. He made the junction with 89km to go where the gap was 2.30.

 

At the bottom of the Col d’Espigoulir with 82km to go, the gap had been reduced to 2.15. Here FDJ upped the pace significantly and sent lots of riders out the back door while narrowing the gap to 1.30. Meanwhile, Bovenhuis paid for his big effort to join the leaders and was left behind before being caught by the peloton.

 

Cousin attacks

Five kilometres from the top, the gap stabilized at around 1.30 and the escapees even managed to add another 15 seconds to their lead before they reached the summit.  Diaz accelerated to lead Dassonville and Mainard over the top, with the peloton led by FDJ following 1.35 later.

 

With 60km to go, the gap had been brought down to 1.15 but it was back up to 1.30 when they hit the Pas de l’Oulier. Here Cousin made an unsuccessful attack but when he went again he got a gap. Dassonville joined him and they managed to put 10 seconds into Mainard and Diaz.

 

The break is caught

Rudy Barbier (Roubaix) tried to attack from the peloton but he was quickly brought back by the group which was 1.30 behind. Kevin Reza set the pace for FDJ which was still doing all the work.

 

Cousin dropped Dassonville on the descent and was the first to hit the new climb of the Col des Cretes. Meanwhile, Jerome Coppel (IAM) made a failed attack from the peloton. However, it all came back together and instead Devenyns made his race-winning move.

 

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