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Attacking from a 12-rider group that escaped in the finale, Gerard held off his chasers with a late solo move to win stage 1 of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes and take the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

ARNAUD GERARD

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SEP VANMARCKE

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TOUR DU POITOU-CHARENTES

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25.08.2015 @ 18:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne) became a hugely surprising winner of the first stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes when he managed to escape from a 12-rider group that had attacked in the finale. The Frenchman held off Maxime Daniel (Ag2r) by just a single second and the rest of the group by 3 seconds to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.

 

With the race often being decided in the time trial, Arnaud Gerard has often done well in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, even finishing fourth two years ago. However, the strong rouleur who is known as a relentless attacker has never managed to win a stage in the mostly flat French race.

 

This year he is again aiming for the overall as he hopes to save what has been a disappointing season and the race couldn’t have started any better for the strong Frenchman. With a surprise move in the finale, he took his first big win since the 2008 La Polynormande on a stage that was expected to suit the sprinters.

 

As alwaysin Poitou-Charentes, it was a mostly flat stage with just 4 smaller climbs but the stage turned out to be much harder than expected. The combination of the lumpy terrain, strong wind and a very aggressive peloton made it impossible for Europcar to control the race and set Bryan Coquard up for the sprint.

 

In the final 40km, the attacks were flying but no one was able to get a big advantage until the peloton made a dangerous hesitation with 9km to go. Herard was quick to join a move that included Maxime Daniel (Ag2r), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Wout Poels (Sky), Angelo Tulik (Europcar), Andrea Fedi (Southeast), Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Rasmus Quaade (Cult), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Jose Herrada (Movistar), Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and as all the big teams had a rider in the break, they suddenly had a 40-second advantage.

 

The peloton finally got going again but as they passed the 2km to go banner, the escapees were still 25 seconds ahead. With riders like Martin, Quaade and Le Bon riding for GC, it was clear that the break would stay away and this was when Gerard made his move.

 

Knowing that he would have no chance against the likes of Daniel and Vanmarcke in a sprint, he attacked 1500m from the finish and that was enough to take the win. Nobody managed to catch the Bretagne rider who took arguably the biggest win of his career. Daniel took off in lone pursuit and crossed the line one second later while Vanmarcke won the sprint for third, 3 seconds too later. Marc Sarreau (FDJ) won the bunch sprint with a time loss of 11 seconds.

 

With the win, Gerard moves into the lead with a 5-second advantage over Daniel. He will try to defend that position in tomorrow’s second stage which is very similar to the opener. The riders will tackle a total of 5 smaller climbs, four of them in the second half of the stage, before they end the race by doing a lap of a flat 24.4km finishing circuit.

 

A windy stage

The 2015 Tour du Poitou-Charentes kicked off with a 187km stage that brought the riders from Rochefort to Barbezieux. The roads were mostly flat with just four smaller climbs at the midpoint and the stage ended with a flat 29.4km finishing circuit.

 

It was a sunny day in France when the riders gathered for the start but a very strong wind was blowing and was expected to do some damage on the peloton. Giorgio Cecchinel (Southeast) and Joel Zangerle (Cult) were absent when they rolled out for their neutral ride during which Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) got a puncture.

 

Four riders get clear

Right from the start, four riders attacked and were joined by another four before they were brought back. Meanwhile, Sebastien Turgot became the second Ag2r rider to puncture.

 

The attacking continued until Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar), Rudy Kowalski (Roubaix), Jordan Levasseur (Armee) and Thomas Wertz (Wallonie) got an advantage. As the peloton slowed down, they quickly established an advantage of 1.30.

 

The race is stopped

Due an incident on the course, the organizers had to neutralize the race for seven minutes before the escapees were sent off again at the 10km mark with an advantage of 2.30. Moments later, Sütterlin beat Levasseur and Kowaliski in the first intermediate sprint.

 

The peloton rode very slowly and allowed the gap to go out to 8.20 after just 19km of racing. That was the signal for FDJ and Wanty to up the pace and they had brought the gap down to 7.20 at the 31km mark.

 

Jerome sets the pace

The steady comeback continued and even though many riders took natural breaks, the gap was down to 6.20 after 40km of racing. 15km later they had taken back another minute.

 

When the gap was down to 5 minutes, Europcar’s Vincent Jerome started to work with FDJ and Wanty before Sütterlin beat Kowalski and Levasseur in the second intermediate sprint. At this point the gap was 4.10 and quickly it was Jerome who did all the work in the peloton as they entered the final 100km.

 

A fight for KOM points

Kowalski beat Wertz and Sütterlin in the first KOM sprint while Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix) abandoned. The gap hovered around 4 minutes at this point in the stage which gave Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) plenty of time to get back after a puncture.

 

While Sütterlin beat Kowalski and Wertz in the second KOM sprint, Levasseur was unable to keep up with his companion and Europcar started to accelerate. With 66km to go, the gap was only 3 minutes and it was down to 2 minutes just 9km later.

 

The peloton explodes

As they hit the third climb, the attacking started when Jeremy Roy (FDJ) took off. He was joined by José Herrada (Movistar), Julien Vermote, Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-Quick Step), Sep Vanmarcke (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo), Adrien Petit (Cofidis) and Giovanni Bernaudeau (Europcar) and they got to within 18 seconds of the leaders before Kowalski attacked. However, it was Sütterlin who led the Frenchman and Wertz over the top.

 

Everything was about to come back together as attacks were flying from riders lie Turgot, Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep), Vermote, John Gardet (Movistar), Vanmarcke and Sütterlin but it was gruppo compatto when Cofidis hit the front 31km from the finish. At this point, the peloton had exploded completely, with many sprinters having been left behind.

 

Alaphilippe makes a move

Frederik Brun (Bretagne) was the next to try but he was caught as Tony Martin and Vakoc had taken over the pace-setting for Etixx-QuickStep. They set Julian Alaphilippe up for an attack and he was joined by Twan Castelijns (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo) and Yohann Gene (Europcar).

 

The trio managed to get a 10-second advantage while Bernaudeau was dropped and Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne) punctured. Benoit Jarrier helped him rejoin the peloton while Cult and Sky were leading the bunch.

 

Teklehaimanot takes off

The gap reached a maximum of 30 seconds but was now coming down as FDJ were also lending a hand with Roy. Moments later, the junction was made but there was no room to recover as Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) took offer.

 

The Eritrean got a 20-second advantage while Sky continued to set the pace until Europcar and Movistar took over. Julien Morice took some huge turns which sent many riders out the back door.

 

Gerard takes the win

With 9km to go, it was over for Teklehaimanot but the attacking continued. Maxime Daniel (Ag2r), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Martin, Herrada, Wout Poels (Sky), Gerard, Vanmarcke, Angelo Tulik (Europcar), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Teklehaimanot, Andrea Fedi (Southeast) Rasmus Quaade (Cult) escaped while Alexandre Blain (Marseille) took off in pursuit.

 

Surprisingly, the peloton hesitated and suddenly the gap had gone out to 40 seconds. Finally, they accelerated and brought Blain back and also neutralized a counterattack from Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep).

 

Nonetheless, the gap was still 25 seconds with 2km to go and moments later Gerard made his move. No one managed to catch him and he held off his chasers before Daniel took off to take second.

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