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After the peloton had stopped four times to protest against the cold conditions, Jans took his first win of the year by winning a bunch sprint in Etoile de Besseges; Boeckmans defended his lead despite a late crash

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDRE BLAIN

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BOB JUNGELS

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CIRCUS-WANTY GOBERT

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ETOILE DE BESSÈGES

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KRIS BOECKMANS

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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05.02.2015 @ 17:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Roy Jans (Wanty) confirmed his potential as a future top sprinter when he won today’s second stage of Etoile de Besseges in a bunch sprint. On a controversial day when the peloton stopped four times to protest against cold conditions, he held off Alexandre Blain (Marseille) and Bob Jungels (Trek) while Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) defended his lead despite a crash in the sprint.

 

Last year Roy Jans delivered several notable performances in bunch sprints, including a second place at the Belgian Championships. This made the Wanty team build a dedicated sprint train around the fast Belgian and today he paid back their faith in him when he took the team’s first win of the season on the second stage of Etoile de Besseges.

 

Going into the final kilometres on the flat course, however, Wanty were nowhere to be seen as the pace was being set by a dominant Lotto Soudal team which tried to set up race leader Kris Boeckmans for a second consecutive victory. With 2km to go, however, they were passed by FDJ who were riding for young sprinter Marc Sarreau.

 

Both teams came up short though as a crash in the final brought down Boeckmans and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and impacted the sprint. Jans came out from the carnage as the stage winner and managed to beat Alexandre Blain and Bob Jungels in the final dash to the line, with the latter picking up important bonus seconds.

 

The stage was held under controversial circumstances as a strong wind was blowing against the riders for much of the day. As it was very cold too, the riders protested by riding very slowly and even stopped four times.

 

The riders wanted the organizers to skip the big loop that preceded the three laps of the finishing circuit but the commissaires refused to grant them permission, saying that riders who didn’t do the full distance would be taken out of the race. In the end, the riders decided to do the entire stage and with some late attacks from Tim Kerkhof (Roompot), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Hugo Houle (Ag2r), they actually had a race.

 

Despite his crash, Boeckmans defended his overall lead and still leads Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) by four seconds. He takes that into tomorrow’s third stage which is the hardest road stage of the race. The riders will do three laps of a tough circuit that includes the category 1 Col de Treslys before they end the stage by doing three laps of a short, flat finishing circuit. In the past, the stage has been won by both attackers and sprinters from a reduced peloton and Boeckmans faces a tough job if he wants to hold onto his jersey.

 

A flat stage

After the very windy and dramatic first stage, the riders were set for another potentially dangerous day as they headed over 155km from Nimes to Les Fumades. After the opening part that brought the riders from the start to the finish, they ended the race by doing three laps of a 7.7km finishing circuit but as there was only one categorized climb on the menu, it was expected that only the wind could prevent a big bunch sprint.

 

Like yesterday, the riders took the start under a grey and cold sky and again there was a very strong wind. Nonetheless, they got the race off to a very fast start and it was Thomas Vaubourzeix (Veranclassic) who launched the first attack.

 

The peloton starts to chase

The peloton was content with the situation and allowed the Frenchman to get a gap while Evaldas Siskevicius (Marseille) and Tim Kerkhof (Roompot) took off in pursuit. When Vaubourzeix was 1.30 ahead of the bunch, they stopped to protest against the cold conditions and when they started to ride again, the gap was 3.30.

 

Vaubourzeix had decided to wait for his two chasers while Carlos Ramirez (Colombia) tried to bridge the gap. He didn’t have any success though as the peloton decided to react and under the impetus of Lotto-Soudal, they had brought the gap down to 22 seconds with 139km to go.

 

The break is caught

As the break was about to be caught, Vauborzeix tried to attack again but at the 19km mark, it was all back together. The riders were now riding into a strong headwind and while An Post set the pace, no one wanted to attack.

 

Lotto Soudal again took control and as they reached the end of the first hour, they had only covered 29.8km. While Sander Armee set the pace, there was not a single attack.

 

The peloton stops

As they reached the finish line for the first time after 55km of racing, the riders again stopped to protest but they decided to ride again after a short halt. As a consequence, the intermediate sprint had been cancelled.

 

Kerkhof decided to put life into the race by launching an attack and with 101km to go, he was 50 seconds ahead. Again the peloton decided to stop but when they were back on their bikes, the gap to the lone Dutchman was 5.00.

 

The chase gets going

The peloton made a fourth stop before they again started to ride, led by Lotto Soudal. They now started to ride a bit harder and gradually reduced their deficit.

 

With 77km to go, Kerkhof was 4.12 ahead and 10km later, it was only 3.15. As Ag2r took over the pace-setting, it was constantly coming down and dropped to less than 2 minutes with 63km to go.

 

Voeckler attacks

The gap came down to 50 seconds before the peloton slowed down and allowed it to get back up to 1.20. On a small climb, however, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) launched an attack and he was joined by Hugo Houle (Ag2r) to form a strong chase duo,

 

Kerkhof managed to reach the top in the first position while Houle led Voeckler over the line just a few seconds later. Moments later, the junction was made but the gap was now only 29 seconds.

 

FDJ and Lotto Soudal lead the chase

Boris Dron (Wanty) trued to bridge the gap but he failed to get much of an advantage before he was brought back. At the same time Kerkhof was dropped from the leading dup which fought hard to maintain a 30-second advantage for some time.

 

In the peloton, FDJ had taken control as they wanted to set Marc Sarreau up for a sprint win but they were losing the battle as the gap had grown to 47 seconds at the start of the first lap of the finishing circuit. That prompted Lotto Soudal to come to the fore and at the end of the first lap, the gap was only 18 seconds.

 

With 10km to go, Voeckler and Houle were brought back but Lotto Soudal didn’t slow down and they led the peloton onto the final lap. The Belgian team completely dominated the build-up to the sprint but inside the final 2km, they were passed by FDJ. In the end, however, Jans came away with the win after a crash had impacted the sprint.

 

Result:
1-Roy Jans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
2-Alexandre Blain (Team Marseille 13-KTM)
3-Bob Jungels (Trek)
4-Marco Coledan (Trek)
5-Yannick Martinez (Europcar)
6-Olivier Chevalier (Wallonie-Bruxelles)
7-Antoine Demoitié (Wallonie-Bruxelles)
8-Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix-Lille Métropole)
9-Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise)
10-Fabio Silverstre (Trek)

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