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Part of a big group that escaped on the final circuit, Felline attacked less than 2km from the finish and narrowly held off Boonen and Bouhanni to win the GP de Fourmies

Photo: Sirotti

FABIO FELLINE

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GP DE FOURMIES

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NACER BOUHANNI

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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06.09.2015 @ 16:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabio Felline (Trek) confirmed the outstanding condition he has shown recently when he became a surprise win of the GP de Fourmies. Having joined a big group that escaped on the hilly finishing circuit, he attacked with less than 2km to go and managed to hold off the sprinters by the tiniest of margins, with Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) beating Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in the sprint for second.

 

Since his made his professional debut as a 19-year-old Geox rider, it has been clear that Fabio Felline is destined for a big future. However, his progress seemed to stall for several years until he joined the Trek team for the 2014 season.

 

His first year at the American team was no big success but in 2015 he has finally started to show his full potential. Throughout the entire year, he has been riding extremely well and with stage wins in Criterium International and Vuelta al Pais Vasco, he has had a remarkable season.

 

In the second half, he has proved to be back in good condition as he finished in the top 5 at the Eneco Tour, proving that he can also go for success in stage races. However, he has done nothing to hide that he also wants to win big classics and today he proved his skills in the hard one-day races when he won the hilly GP de Fourmies which has often been decided in a reduced bunch sprint.

 

The 83rd edition of the race was held on a 205km course around the city of Fourmies. It was a complicated affair with several smaller circuits that the riders would do multiple times. One of them included two smaller ascents and would be tackled three times in the first part of the race. In the finale, the riders did three laps of a challenging circuit that included another climb.

 

It was a nice sunny day in France when the riders gathered for the start. One rider was absent as Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) was suffering from stomach problems and so decided to skip the race.

 

It was the usual fast start to the hilly race and it took some time for the early break to be formed. When the elastic finally snapped, it was Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Nico Brüngger (Roth-Skoda), Daniel Schorn (Bora-Argon 18), Elie Gesbert (FDJ), Romain Combaud (Armee), Emanuele Sella (Androni) and Guillaume Levarlet (Auber 93) that managed to get clear. The septet managed to build a small advantage but the peloton refused to let the situation get out of control.

 

With 60km to go, the gap had already been reduced to 3.20 and as they entered the final 40km, it was down to just a minute. This forced the escapees to go full gas as they tried to keep the peloton at bay and as a consequence, Combaud was dropped.

 

With 38km, the steady chase effort in the peloton ended when Fabio Felline (Trek) took off. He never got much of an advantage as several riders bridged the gap with the rest of the peloton in tow.

 

Next it was a Roompot rider to give it a go and the attacking continued for several kilometres. Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) was also part of the action but Lampre-Merida tried to restore order. The Italian team was on the front as they crossed the finish line to start the first lap of the finishing circuit.

 

The gap had now come down to just 15 seconds and so Levarlet attacked as soon as they hit the climb right after the passage of the line. Only Voeckler could keep up with him while the rest of the group sat up.

 

Lampre-Merida were unable to keep the situation under control as the attacking continued. A Nippo rider tried to get clear before Andrea Fedi (Southeast) instigated a four-rider move with an Astana rider, Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) and Fabio Sabatini (Etixx-QuickStep). However, more riders, including Marco Marcato (Wanty), joined them and very soon the rest of the peloton had made it back.

 

The ever-aggressive Felline tried again with 27km and suddenly, a big group had an advantage. Pozzato, Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty), Igor Boev (Rusvelo), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Francis Mourey (FDJ), Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep), Davide Malacarne (Astana), Pozzato, Combaud, Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen), Alessandro Malaguti (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Francesco Gavazzi, (Southeast), Florian Vachon (Bretagne) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) had also made it selection and the group quickly caught the fading front duo.

 

There was no cooperation in the big front group and so Gasparotto, Pozzato, Coquard, Sprengers and Vachon managed to get an advantage. Many riders tried to bridge from the chase group to the leaders while the peloton slowly got organized under the impetus of FDJ.

 

With 23km to go, the big front group was back together and they still had a solid advantage when they started the second lap of the circuit. A small chase group had former further back as they hit the climb for the second time.

 

The front group of 15 riders started to work well together while Roompot started to chase in the peloton. They brought the chasers back but the front group had a 30-second advantage with 17km to go.

 

This was the signal for Cofidis to go all in and they put several riders, including Rudy Molard, on the front. After a little while, they got some assistance from Bora-Argon 18 and Remy Di Gregorio (Marseille) but the gap was still 30 seconds as they entered the final 12km.

 

At the start of the final lap of the 11km circuit, Astana also came to the fore even though they had Malacarne in the front group. Moments later, disaster struck for Gasparotto as he slid out in the turn at the top of the climb and so dropped out of the lead group.

 

With 9km to go, the gap was down to 20 seconds and here Malacarne decided to try a solo move. Meanwhile, Astana had tried to send Alexey Lutsenko across to the break but he failed in his quest.

 

Cofidis were fading and so Romain Bardet (Ag2r) launched an attack. However, Astana shut it down immediately.

 

Cofidis went back into chase mode with just a single rider but he had to chance to control the strong breakaway which now had an advantage of 20 seconds. Voeckler took some huge turns in the front group to work for his teammate Coquard and that was enough to bring Malacarne back.

 

With 5km to go, the gap was still 15 seconds and it was time to start the battle for the win. Vachon launched the first attack and was joined by Combaud to form a strong duo. Meanwhile, Cofidis had given up and it was now a single FDJ rider leading the chase.

 

Voeckler managed to bring the front duo back before he sat up and fell back to the peloton. FDJ had blown up and as the pace in the main group went down, an Auber 93 rider tried to bridge across before FDJ went back to work with Steve Morabito.

 

Vachon refused to give up and went again. This time Coquard and Malaguti were quick to join the action and the trio had a solid advantage with 2km to go.

 

The group was fragmenting and many were caught by the peloton while most made it back to the front group. Meanwhile, disaster struck for Pozzato as he slid out and hit the deck.

 

Passing the flamme rouge, Felline had managed to drop his companions and with 500m to go, the rest of the group had been caught. Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) chased desperately before Tom Boonen launched a long sprint. He narrowly held off Nacer Bouhanni but he missed a few metres in taking the win as Felline could celebrate the biggest one-day success of his career.

 

The series of French one-day races continues next Sunday when the riders will tackle the Tour du Doubs.

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