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Jules wins the sprint from a reduced peloton after a very animated and hard final stage of the Tour d'Azerbaijan while Zakarin got safely through the stage to seal his overall victory

DARREN LAPTHORNE

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GAZPROM - RUSVELO

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JUSTIN JULES

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LA POMME MARSEILLE

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LINUS GERDEMANN

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TOUR D’AZERBAIDJAN

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VITALIY BUTS

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YOUCEF REGUIGUI

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11.05.2014 @ 13:37 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Justin Jules (La Pomme Marseille) proved that he is both a good climber and a strong sprinter when he ton today's final stage of the Tour d'Azerbaidjan in a sprint from a small bunch. The Frenchman survived the tough circuit in the capital of Baku before beating Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) and Andrian Honkisz (CCC) in the final dash to the line while Ilnur Zakarin (Rusvelo) finished safely to seal his overall victory.

 

Justin Jules (La Pomme Marseille) won the final stage of the Tour d'Azerbaidjan, while Ilnur Zakarin (Rusvelo) won the overall title.  Jules won the bunch sprint on Baku's Freedom Square ahead of Youcef Reguigui (MTN Qhubeka) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC Polsat).  

 

Zakarin successfully defended the leader's jersey he won on the previous day's Queen Stage. Vitaliy Buts (Kolss) and Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) rounded out the final podium.  

 

The King of the Mountains jersey went to Linus Gerdemann (MTN Qhubeka), best young rider was  Robert Power (National Team Australia), the sprint jersey was awarded to Vitaly Buts (Kolss), and MTN Qhubeka was the best team overall. Samir Jabrayilov (Synergy Baku) was named the best Azeri rider.  

 

“It was a very tough day and a hard circuit,” Zakarin said. “The team protected me in the stage and throughout the whole race. My first thanks go to my teammates who earned the victory.”  

 

He looked at this win as a portent of things to come. “If I can win here, then it means that I can win at the top international level.”  

 

“The race was very well controlled by the Rusvelo team,” Jules noted. “The climbing on the laps was very difficult. The selection today was done by the back of the race and not by the front of the race.”  

 

“My team protected me well. In a group like today with 20-40 people, I can expect to win.”  

 

Gerdemann was pleased with the MTN Qhubeka performance.

 

“I think as a team we did a great race, We won 2 stages and were second today. We can be very happy with this race. I had not expected today's stage to be so hard.”  

 

The German not only was part of the race's best team, but also took home the King of the Mountains title.

 

“We prepared very well and came here in good form. The team took the race very seriously. I see this as a reward for the entire team as well for my own efforts.”  

 

Power celebrated his 19th birthday by winning the best young rider title.

 

“It means a lot to me because the team worked really hard this week. We hoped to get this jersey. It gives a bit back to my  teammates who worked so hard. It's a good feeling.”  

 

Jabrayilov, as the best Azeri rider, said: 

 

“Of course I feel very proud. I am very pleased to win this special jersey, but I would really like to get the leader's jersey in this race. Perhaps in a few years it will be within my reach.”  

 

For a change, there was no wind at the start of the last stage in Baku. The riders gathered early for the 9 am start on what promised to be a very hot day. One team was no longer in the race: The China Huasen Cycling Team had been losing riders steadily, and had only one rider in Saturday's stage. He did not appear at the start for the finale.  

 

This closing stage consisted of a 120km lap starting and ending at Freedom Square in Baku, and then  six laps of a difficult circuit course through downtown Baku, including cobblestones and a category three climb – a short but steep climb up the cobbles of Old Town Baku.  

 

The group stayed together for a long time, putting down a blazing pace of 55 km/h. Lots of riders tried to get away, but were unable to. A big crash at km 34 took Adria Mobil's Primoz Roglic.   But by the 40 km marker, three riders had managed to put 40 seconds on the field. David de la Fuente (Torku), Samir Jabrayilov (Synergy Baku) and Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme Marseille) were finally successful in establishing a break.

 

Their gap climbed steadily up to 6 minutes, before dropping after they hit the turning point on their way back to the closing circuits in Baku.   De la Fuente won both intermediate sprints along the way. The gap narrowed, but stayed at 4:15 at the feeding zone (km 103).  

 

The field circled back to Baku and the start/finish line, crossing it and setting out on the first of the city circuit laps with a 4:05 gap. Vaubourzeix led the head group across to win the third sprint of the day.  

 

The peloton was strung out in single file, flying along. The pace was high enough that the first riders were dropped, and the gap dipped to under four minutes. In fact, it had fallen to 2:40 by the next time over the finish line.  

 

Caja Rural led the chase, and a group of 12 tried to  break out as the gap dropped to 1:30, and it stayed at 1:35 at the next crossing of the start/finish line. With four laps to go, Jabrayilov was dropped from the lead group,  and a number of riders broke out to get to the front. The field was unwilling to let anyone else get away and the gap to the two leaders fell to around a minute.   

 

About 45 riders were still in the field as they set out on the fourth lap, with the gap ranging from 50 seconds to 1:10. This time through the Old Town proved costly, as numerous riders punctured and Turku's Bekir Baki Akirsan crashed.   

 

With two laps to go, Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni Giacattoli) and Klemen Stimulak (Adria Mobil)  gave chase, and the gap from the two leaders back to the reduced field narrowed even more. They caught de la Fuente and Vaubourzeix with 26 km to go, and a gap of 40 seconds over the chasing field.  

 

But Vaubourzeix was soon dropped, and the gap dropped, too. Zilioli too was dropped, with Luis Mas (Caja Rural) taking his place. The field continued to give vigorous chase, with Synergy Baku, Torku and CCC Polsat at the head of things.   

 

With 18 km to go everyone had come together, with about a 40 man strong peloton heading out together on the bell lap. There were more attacks along the way, which were pulled back, with the field determined on the anticipated bunch sprint.  

 

Finally the greatly reduced group of about 30 came around the final corner and dashed in to the finish, with Justin Jules of La Pomme Marseille taking the win. 

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