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After a waiting game for Katusha, Kristoff was given the perfect lead-out by Guarnieri in the reduced bunch sprint at the end of the GP Ouest France-Plouay and managed to hold off Ponzi and Navardauskas to take the win

Photo: Sirotti








30.08.2015 @ 19:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) continued to build his impressive classics palmares when he took a dominant win in the GP Ouest France-Plouay. After his Katusha team had played a waiting game, it all came back together for a reduced bunch sprint where the Norwegian powered clear and easily held off Simone Ponzi (Southeast) and Ramunas Navarduaskas (Cannondale-Garmin) to take the win.


Last year an unstoppable Alexander Kristoff went into the GP Ouest France-Plouay as the overwhelming favourite after he had won the Vattenfall Cyclassics one week earlier. However, his Katusha team was unable to bring a late 7-rider break back and so his sprint win was only good enough for 8th.


After failing to defend his title in Hamburg, Kristoff was determined to finally make things right in the French one-day race and this time his Katusha team had a different strategy. Gambling a lot more, they allowed other teams to do the dirty work and then kept themselves ready for a potential bunch sprint.


That approach turned to be the right one as things came together for the Norwegian when the final attackers were brought back under the flamme rouge. From there, the outcome was never in doubt as the Katusha leader powered down the finishing straight to take another big one-day win.


At the start of the 17km finishing circuit, a front trio of Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Silvan Dillier (BMC) had a 20-second advantage over the peloton which was led by Nikolay Trusov (Tinkoff-Saxo) and a Cult rider. Luke Rowe took over for Sky and led the peloton onto the first of two climbs where his teammate Nathan Earle hit the front.


Meanwhile, Lutsenko attacked and was joined by Dillier while Wellens was unable to keep up with them. Hence, Lotto Soudal played their next card with Tiesj Benoot who made an attack that also included Fabio Felline (Trek), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) and Davide Rebellin (CCC) but his group never got clear. Felline and Wout Poels (Sky) were the next to try and it was the Dutchman who got clear.


Poels got a small advantage but was passed by a flying Fabio Sabatini (Etixx-QuickStep) who was joined by three riders including Elia Viviani (Sky). However, that group was caught with 8km to go when the front duo was still 10 seconds ahead.


Sabatini changed tactic and started to ride on the front while everybody was fighting for position for the final climb. It was Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) who led them onto the slopes 10 seconds behind the front duo.


Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) launched a strong attack and joined the front duo while Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), Greg Van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), a Cult rider Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) and Benoot used the false flat at the top to take off. Marco Marcato (Wanty) and a few more joined the action but the move was neutralized as there was no cooperation.


Benoot and Van Avermaet went again and they caught Lutsenko who had been dropped. The trio joined Breschel and Dillier who sacrificed himself with a teammate.


Vanmarcke, a CCC rider and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) took off in pursuit and it was the latter who bridged the gap. However, it was only 5 seconds as Katusha and Trek were chasing hard in the peloton.


Van Avermaet made a last desperate attack as they passed the flamme rouge but it was all back together as IAM had now taken control. A Southeast rider briefly hit the front before FDJ did the lead-out for Anthony Roux. However, Jacopo Guarnieri and Kristoff moved up next to them and then the Norwegian launched his usual long sprint to take the win, holding off Simone Ponzi and a fast-finishing Ramunas Navardauskas.


With the GP Ouest France-Plouay done and dusted, the next WorldTour classic is the GP Quebec which is held on Friday, September 11. The next major race in France is the GP Fourmies which takes place next Sunday.


A circuit race

The 2015 edition of the GP Ouest France – Plouay was held on the same 229.1km course that was used for last year’s race. First the riders would do 8 laps of a 26.9km circuit that included the climbs of Cote du Lezot and Cote de Ty Marrec and they ended the race by doing one lap of a shorter 13.9km circuit that included both climbs. The final ascent was located just 4km from the finish and from there it was mainly downhill until the final 300m that were slightly uphill.


It was a cloudy but dry day in Plouay when the riders gathered for the start of the second biggest French one-day race. They got it off to a fast start with several attacks but already during the first lap, five riders managed to get clear.


Five riders get clear

Frederik Backaert (Wanty), Anthony Delaplace (Bratgne), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r) and Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek) managed to escape and they were allowed to get a massive advantage. At the end of the second lap, they were already 11.12 ahead but gradually the peloton got up to speed.


At the end of the fourth lap, the gap had been reduced to 7.40 and at the completion of the fifth lap, the peloton had come even closer, reducing their deficit to 4.52. At the end of the next lap, it was 3.46 as Luke Rowe (Sky), Loic Vliegen (BMC) and Nikolay Trusov (Tinkoff-Saxo) were riding strongly on the front.


Dillier is aggressive

With 60km to go, the gap was down to 2.40 and now the attacking started when Stig Broecks (Lotto Soudal) took off. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was also part of the action but had no success.


BMC wanted to make the race hard and sent Dillier and another rider off in two different moves. Then it was Broeckx who gave it a go and he was joined by Michael Schär (BMC), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Yves Lampaert (Etixx) and a Southeast rider while Danny Pate led the chase for Sky. They caught Jauregui who had been dropped.


Katusha take control

There was no cooperation in the group which was caught and instead Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) and a Cofidis rider tried. Katusha took control with Rudiger Selig before Etixx-QuickStep took over with Lampaert.


As they hit the Ty-Marrec, the gap was only 45 seconds and as they hit the false flat at the top, Dillier went again. Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Christopher Juul (Tinkoff) and Broeckx joined the move but they had no success. Dillier tried again before Sebastien Turgot and Loic Chetout made a move but Tinkoff-Saxo brought it all back together with Manuele Boaro.


The peloton splits

The peloton had split and it was a 30-rider group that was led by Boaro and Schär which had a 10-second advantage over the peloton as they crossed the line with 44km to go. At this point, the front group was caught. IAM were chasing desperately and made the junction as they hit the first climb.


Dillier attacked again and was joined by Francesco Gavazzi (Southeast) but it was Wellens who sprinted past him. Philip Deignan (Sky) took off in pursuit while Martin led a small group back to Diller and Gavazzi.


Seven riders get clear

Clarke, Dillier, Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Lutsenko and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) came out of that group to pick up Deignan and join Wellens. They quickly got an advantage of 25 seconds while Europcar started to chase with Voeckler. Etixx-QuickStep also came to the fore with Stijn Vandenbergh and Lampaert and they slowly started to get closer to the front septet.


With 32km to go, the gap was down to 15 seconds and now Trek were also chasing with Hayden Roulston and Gregory Rast. IAM came to the fore with a single rider too and as they hit the Ty-Marrec for the penultimate time, the gap was only 7 seconds.


Lots of attacks

It was now a big fight for position but it was Martin who came out on top, leading the group onto the climb. Here Lutsenko accelerated and only Dillier and Wellens could match his pace while Deignan was in lone pursuit. The rest of the group was caught.


Marcato, Matteo Trentin (Etixx) and Felline attacked and were joined by Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) and Marco Haller (Katusha) before they caught Deingan. More riders made it across but it was soon brought back, with Felline making another unsuccessful move. This is when Cult and Tinkoff-Saxo took control and led the peloton across the line 20 seconds behind the leaders to start the final lap.



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