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Having joined Delaplace to form a stong duo, Gautier won the two-rider sprint at the Paris-Camembert; Feillu won the sprint for third while Planckaert extended his lead in the Coupe de France series

Photo: Sirotti

ANTHONY DELAPLACE

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CYRIL GAUTIER

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DECATHLON AG2R LA MONDIALE

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PARIS-CAMEMBERT

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ROMAIN FEILLU

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03.04.2016 @ 18:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Cyril Gautier paid back the Ag2r team for the confidence they had shown him by signing him for the 2016 season by claiming his first win for the team at the Paris-Camembert semi-classic. Having joined forces with Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) in the finale, he beat his companion in a two-rider sprint before Romain Feillu (Auber 93) won the sprint for third.

 

Cyril Gautier is known as one of the most aggressive riders in the peloton but his many attacks have mostly been left unrewarded. Until today, he had only taken three wins and they had all come in hilly stages in his home country at the 2010 Route Adelie Vitré, the 2013 Tour du Finistere and a stage of the 2014 Tour du Limousin.

 

Gautier was set back by illness in 2015 but the Ag2r team still showed him confidence by picking him up as a key domestique for Romain Bardet in the mountains. However, his aggression is hard to hold back and after he had mostly worked for his teammates in the first part of the year, he was given the chance to attack in Friday’s Route Adelie Vitré and today’s Paris-Camembert.

 

His late attack in Vitré was unsuccessful but he was ready to go again in today’s semi-classic where a harder course offered better opportunities for attackers. And this time there was no one stopping Gautier as he managed to take his first win for his new team.

 

The race ended with a tough 36.2km circuit that included four climbs and this is where things turned sour for the Direct Energie team of pre-race favourite Bryan Coquard. They had been chasing hard all day and had brought things back together when they hit the second climb, the Mur de Champeaux where the action really started. Florian Vachon (Fortuneo) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko) took off and crested the summit in that order before Thomas Voeckler led the peloton and his Direct Energie team to the top 12 seconds later.

 

With 20km to go, the pair had pushed their advantage out to 20 seconds and there were just two riders left to chase for Direct Energie. However, the effort was in vain as Siskevicius took a wrong turn and it left Vachon with an impossible solo mission. H was brought back with 17km to go.

 

Three kilometres later Gautier kicked into action as he accelerated and made it into a quartet with the Fortuneo-Vital Concept pair of Anthony Delaplace and Pierrick Fedrgio and pre-race favourite Coquard. They quickly pushed their advantage out to 12 seconds before the group split up and Coquard and Fedrigo dropped back to the peloton.

 

Only 20 riders were left in the bunch and this meant that there were barely any domestiques left to do the chase work. With 10km to go, the gap had gone out to 20 seconds and it was left to Voeckler to try to bring it back together.

 

The veteran did an outstanding job and at the bottom of the final climb with 8km to go, there was only 8 seconds left of the advantage. However, Delaplace and Gautier dug deep to reach the top in that order, 10 seconds ahead of the peloton which was now led by Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (FDJ).

 

The balance had completely tipped and inside the final 5km, the gap was suddenly 20 seconds. It was 22 seconds at the start of the final 3km.

 

Cofidis did their best to bring things back together but it was impossible to catch the leaders. Gautier and Delaplace decided the race in a two-rider sprint and it was the Ag2r rider who came out on top before Romain Feillu beat Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) in the sprint for third just 5 seconds too late. Coquard had to settle for 11th.

 

Planckaert’s fifth place allowed him to extend his lead in the Coupe de France series to 36 points over Coquard. The next race in the series is the GP de Denain on April 14 while the next major race in France is the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe which starts on Tuesday.

 

A hilly course

The 77th edition of Paris-Camembert was held over 205km from Pont-Audemer to Vimoutiers. The first 123.5km brought the riders from the start to the finish through lumpy terrain that included the category 3 Cote de Canapville just 6km from the finish. After crossing the finish line, the riders did do a lap of a 26km circuit with the category 2 Cote de Roivile and category 3 Cote de Canapville again. The final part of the race consisted of two circuits. First it wasthe relatively easy 19.3km circuit with the Cote de Roiville but the real challenge was the final 36.2km loop that included no less than four category 1 climbs. The Cote du Moulin Neuf, Mur des Champeaux and Cote du Ranouard came with 31.5km, 27.5km and 20.3km respectively and then the final challenge is Cavee de Crouttes just 7.1km from the finish. From there it was mainly descending until the riders hit the final kilometre where the first 600m were flat and the final 400m were uphill.

 

It was a sunny day with barely any wind when the riders gathered for the start and as it was the case in Friday’s race in Vitré, they observed one minute of silence in memory of Daan Myngheerr, Antoine Demoitie and Romain Guyot before they headed out for their neutral ride. That was the only moment of calmness in the opening phase as the attacks started straight from the gun.

 

Three riders get clear

Ion Ander Insausti (Euskadi) launched the first attack but after 7-8 riders – including Marc Fournier (FDJ) – had joined him that move was neutralized. Giacomo Tomio (Roth) was the next to try and he was joined by Peio Olaberria (Euskadi) and Julien Duval (Armee) to form a trio on the narrow roads.

 

After 10km of racing, they had pushed their advantage out to 10 seconds and as the peloton slowed down, it started to grow quickly. At the 14km mark, it was 50 seconds and when Jeremy Maison (FDJ) becamethe first rider to abandon at the 19km mark, they were already 4.30 ahead.

 

Direct Energie take control

Tomio had bad luck to suffer a puncture but Olaberria and Duval naturally decided to wait for him. The trio continued to work well together and had pushed their advantage out to a massive 10.15 after 38km of racing. It was a relatively slow start as they covered 39.7km during the first hour.

 

Auber 93 started to chase and as Direct Energie also came to the fore, the advantage started to come down. It was 9.40 at the 45km mark and had already dropped to 7.15 after 55km of racing. Direct Energie were now doing all the work and stabilized the gap around the 7-minute mark.

 

KOM points for Duval

The riders averaged just 37.7km/h during the second hour as the race had settled into a rhythm. At the 85km mark, the gap was still a massive 6.15 but now the peloton slowly started to up the pace. With 100km to go, the escapes only had an advantage of4 minutes.

 

After a third hour at an average speed of just 36.1km/h, the riders hit the first climb of the Cote de Canapville where Duval beat Olaberria and Tomio in the KOM sprint. Five Direct Energie riders led the peloton to the top 4.20 later  and they were still 4.20 behind at the first passage of the finish line.

 

The attacking starts

Duval again beat Olaberria and Tomio in the second KOM sprint where the action started to heat up in the peloton. Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) launched the first attack and he was joined by Remy Di Gregorio (Delko) and Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie). However, the latter was just covering the move and so the trio was brought back.

 

With 65km to go, Alo Jakin (Auber 93) tried to bridge across the gap which was down to 2.45 but he was caught on the third climb where Duval beat Tomio and Olaberria in the KOM sprint. The peloton was now riding much faster and they were just 1.20 behind when they crossed the line for the second time after 150km of racing.

 

The break is caught

With the peloton breathing down their necks, the escapees started to attack each other when Duval made a move. Olaberria joined him but Tomio soon found himself 30 seconds behind. He was soon brought back by the peloton which was just 25 seconds behind with 49km to go and moments later it was all back together.

 

Tony Hurel (Direct Energie) led Francis Mourey (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and his teammate Jeandesboz over the top of the fourth climb as Direct Energie tried to set a fast pace that prevented any attacks. They quickly reacted when Jakin tried again and so things were back together when they started the final difficult 36km circuit with four climbs. Mourey led Jeandesboz and Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (FDJ) over the top of the fifth climb before the peloton hit the Mur de Champeaux where the action heated up.

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