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Domont instigates an escape on the finishing circuit of the final stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe and takes off from his four companions to take the win while Navardauskas takes the overall win in the French race

Photo: RCS Sport

ANTHONY GESLIN

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AXEL DOMONT

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CIRCUIT CYCLISTE SARTHE

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DECATHLON AG2R LA MONDIALE

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EF EDUCATION - EASYPOST

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JULIEN SIMON

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RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS

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ROHAN DENNIS

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11.04.2014 @ 18:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Axel Domont continued the fantastic start to the season for his Ag2r team when the young Frenchman won the final stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe in solo fashion. Having instigated the decisive 5-rider move, he took off on his own inside the final 10km and held off to take the win while Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) finished safely in the bunch to take the overall win in the French race ahead of his teammate Rohan Dennis and Julien Simon (Cofidis).

 

Ag2r have had a fantastic start to the season with several wins and impressive showings, even in the biggest races. However, the great performances have not only been delivered by their big stars and their young talents have also shined.

 

A few weeks ago, their neo-pro Alexis Gougeard won the Classique Loire Atlantique and today their second-year pro Axel Domont took his first professional victory when he won the final stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. The young Frenchman showed great maturity in a hectic finale on a hilly finishing circuit when he instigated the right move during a small lulle in the peloton 30km from the finish.

 

Domont was joined by Angelo Tulik (Europcar) and later also by Gustav Erik Larsson (IAM), Anthony Geslin (FDJ) and Vegard Stake Laengen (Bretagne). As none of the five escapees were any threat to Ramunas Navardauskas' overall lead, Garmin-Shrap were happy to let them get a 1.10 gap.

 

Several teams hadn't given up on the stage win yet and so they started to chase hard. When the escapees started their final lap of the 9.5km finishing circuit, they were only 35 seconds ahead and it seemed that a bunch sprint was in store.

 

However, the breakaway turned out to be stronger than expected and 4km from the finish they were still 15 seconds ahead. Inside the final kilometres, Domont made his move and he did an impressive job to hold off both his former companions and the fast-charging peloton.

 

Tulik beat Geslin in the sprint for second 3 seconds later while Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) was left frustrated as his sprint win over Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) was only good enough for 6th as he was 8 seconds too late.

 

Navardauskas finished safely in the peloton and so he defended his 17-second lead over his teammate Rohan Dennis to make it a Garmin-Sharp 1-2 in the overall standings. Julien Simon completed the podium, one second further adrift.

 

Bouhanni had the consolation of taking the points jersey while Thomas Sprengers (Topsport) won a close battle for the mountains jersey. Dennis was the best young rider and Garmin-Sharp crowned a dominant performance by taking the teams classification.

 

The French season continues on Sunday with the big Paris-Roubaix classic while next week offers a few one-day races, starting with Tuesday's hilly Paris-Camembert.

 

A hilly final stage

After yesterday's queen stage, the four-day Circuit Cycliste Sarthe was brought to an end with another hilly stage that had a lot of different potential outcomes. The riders headed over 184.8km from Epau to La Ferté-Bernard and after a mostly flat start that only included a single categorized climb, things got tougher near the end. The stage ended with 8 laps of a 9.2km finishing circuit that included the Cote du Tertre (400m, 8%) which would be tackled a total of 9 times. After the final passage, it was downhill to a flat finish in La Ferté-Bernard.

 

The race took off under a cloudy sky in chilly conditions with one non-starter as Pavel Kochetkov decided to head home to continue his recovery from the broken collarbone he sustained at the Tour de Langkawi. With a close GC and a hilly profile, all was still to play for and so the Garmin-Sharp team of race leader Navardauskas prepared themselves to come under attack.

 

A small group gets clear

They did so right from the beginning of the stage as several riders tried to take off in the early part. The American team rode hard on the front to control proceeding but got an early setback when Phil Gaimon crashed and so had to chase back at a time when the peloton was going at full speed.

 

At one point, 12 riders were up the road but after 16km, Garmin-Sharp managed to let a small three-rider break with no dangerous riders take off. Local hero Tony Hurel (Europcar), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Martin Kohler (BMC) were the riders to be given some leeway and while Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) battled back from one of many early punctures, the gap started to grow.

 

No hurry for Garmin

After 28km, the escapees were already 2.05 ahead and at the 56km mark, it was 4.45. With Hurel being the best-placed on GC more than 11 minutes behind Navarduaskas, Garmin was in no hurry and allowed the gap to reach 7 minutes after 75km of racing.

 

Hurel beat Ignatiev and Kohler in the first KOM sprint while Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen) beat KOM leader Marco Minnaard (Wanty) to score the final point on offer. The duo had started the stage equal on points and so Sprengers was now the virtual leader of the competition.

 

Cofidis start to chase

While Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) left the race, Cofidis started to chase behind. Julien Simon had finished 2nd in yesterday's stage and the hilly finishing circuit suited the fast Frenchman down to the ground.

 

The French team worked hard and had the gap down to 4 minutes after 100km of racing. At the first passage of the line, the advantage was just two minutes as Cofidis now decided to take it a bit easier.

 

A battle for the KOM jersey

The NetApp sprinters Jonathan McEvoy and Michael Schwarzmann left the race while Cofidis allowed the gap to grow back up to 2.50. In the second KOM sprint, Hurel again took maximum points ahead of Kohler and Ignatiev while Minnaard beat Sprengers and Pieter Jacobs (Topsport) to again put the duo equal on points with just one more sprint to go.

 

At the next passage of the line, the gap was down to 2.20 as Victor Campanaerts (Topsport) was the next rider to throw in the towel. After another lap, he gap was 1.40 as Kohler led Hurel and Ignatiev across the line at the intermediate sprint.

 

Topsport start to chase

Topsport Vlaanderen wanted to catch the break before the final KOM sprint and so they joined Cofidis on the front. At the next passage of the line, they had the gap down to 25 seconds and while it emerged time trial winner Alex Dowsett had left the race, the break was caught 44km from the finish.

 

Topsport, Cofidis and Europcar set a hard pace to the bottom of the climb where Sprengers beat Minnaard to seal his win in the KOM classification. After the sprint, his team disappeared from the front as Cofidis was now back in control.

 

Tulik and Domont make their move

With 34km to go, Garmin-Sharp took over the pace-setting, with Dennis and Nathan Haas leading Simon over the lined in the second sprint. The pace had now gone down significantly and this opened the door for Tulik and Domont to take off.

 

28km from the finish, the duo were 25 seconds ahead and when the gap had gone up to 45 seconds, Larsson, Stake Laengen and Geslin took off in pursuit. The trio chased hard while Domont led Tulik and Larsson over the line in the final sprint.

 

The chase gets organized

Early in the penultimate lap with 17km to go, the two front groups came together and they were now 1.10 ahead of the peloton where Garmin led the chase. More teams started to up the pace, however, and when the crossed the line for the penultimate time it was down to just 35 seconds.

 

The front group did surprisingly well to keep a 15-second gap just 4km from the line and when he sensed an opportunity, Domont took off. The Frenchman held off both the chase group and the peloton to take his first professional win while Navardauskas could celebrate the first major stage race victory of his short career.

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