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The Frenchman beats Golas and Gilbert in the sprint from a select front group after his team's designated sprinter Fonseca takes a wrong turn in the finale

Photo: Sirotti

FLORIAN VACHON

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NEWS

MICHAL GOLAS

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NEWS

PHILIPPE GILBERT

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NEWS
01.03.2014 @ 19:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Florian Vachon made it a great day for his Bretagne team when he won today's hard French one-day race Boucles du Sud-Ardeche. After an animated race that was dominated by strong climbers and Ardennes specialists, it came down to a sprint from a select front group where Vachon was playing the role of lead-out man for Armindo Fonseca but ended up winning ahead of Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) when Fonseca took a wrong turn.

 

Florian Vachon has taken the first win for his Bretagne team when he emerged as the strongest in the Boucles du Sud-Ardeche. In a very competitive race that included most of the best French climbers and Ardennes specialists, former world champions Philippe Gilbert and Cadel Evans (BMC), and a highly competitive Omega Pharma-Quick Step team with the likes of Jan Bakelants and Gianni Meersman, he emerged as the strongest in the final sprint.

 

However, it was certainly no given thing that the race would be decided in a sprint finish as the hard course made the race extremely aggressive. Only hard work from the BMC team managed to neutralize a very strong 6-rider group that had escaped on the penultimate climb, with the American team trying to set Gilbert up for a sprint win.

 

With 1km to go, the peloton finally managed to reel in Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Riccardo Zoidl, Julian Arredondo (both Trek), Arthur Vichot, Pierrick Fedrigo (both FDJ), and Remy Di Gregorio (La Pomme Marseille), and it all came down to a sprint from a select group of favourites. Vachon dutifully did his work as lead-out man for teammate Armindo Fonseca and hit the front perfectly with his sprinter on his wheel.

 

Fonseca, however, took a wrong turn, suddenly forcing Vachon to keep the speed all the way to the line. The Frenchman did it impressively as he held off Michal Golas and Gilbert to take a big win for himself and his team.

 

Most of the riders will be back in action tomorrow when another hard French one-day race takes place. With 9 climbs, La Drome Classic has many of the same characteristics as today's race and it will be another big battle between the puncheurs and the Ardennes specialists.

 

A hilly course

The 200km course for La Boucle du Sud-Ardeche took the riders from Bourg Saint-Andeol to Ruoms through very hilly terrain. 8 climbs were on the menu, with the final one, the Cote d'Uzer, coming 14km from the finish and preceding a downhill and flat run-in to the finish.

 

The race was off to a beautiful start under bright sunshine and in perfect weather conditions and this inspired several riders to go on the attack right from the gun. The first rider to get a gap was Flavien Dassonville (BigMat) who was quickly joined by Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport) but the trio didn't get far before getting caught.

 

The break is formed

Arthur Vanoverberghe (Topsport) and Jose Goncalves (La Pomme Marseille) were the next to try but they were quickly caught by a bigger 20-rider group. Goncalves, however, refused to give up and made an immediate counterattack.

 

The Portuguese battled on his own for a little while before he got reinforced when Walt De Winter (Verandas Willems) and Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie) bridged across. Dassonville set off in pursuit and the peloton appeared to be content with the situation, slowing down and allowing the riders to take off.

 

The gap grows

While the front trio quickly opened up a gap that reached 4.45 after 31km of racing, Dassonville kept losing ground. On the first climb, Goncalves briefly escaped on his own but he decided to wait for his two companions.

 

Dassonville didn't have much luck in his chase and after 41km, he was 1.45 behind. However, the front trio decided to wait for him and with 151km still to race, a front quartet was formed.

 

FDJ start to chase

They were now a massive 11 minutes ahead of the peloton which prompted FDJ to react. The French team started to chase, bringing down the gap to 7.50 after 69km of racing.

 

The riders now hit a windy section that blew the peloton to pieces, with a 30-rider front peloton being made. However, Belkin brought things back together but the gap was now down to 6.30.

 

A massive gap

Things calmed down again and the gap was allowed to come back up to 10.50 when 91km remained. As the situation now seemed to be a bit dangerous for the peloton, they finally upped the pace as it was now Europcar who took control.

 

Johnny Hoogerland (Androni) was one of the first riders to lose contact with the main group that was now riding a hard tempo in the hilly terrain. With 74km to go, the gap was down to just 4.20 as they peloton had cut it down by more than 6 minutes in just 20km.

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step up the pace

Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) attacked on his own and stayed in between the two groups for a long time until he was finally swallowed up by the peloton. Omega Pharma-Quick Step had now taken control and their fierce pace saw several riders lose contact from the rapidly diminishing peloton.

 

With 60km to go, the gap was 3.05 but it was coming down at a rapid pace. Dassonville fell off the pace and was quickly back in the fast-moving peloton where Europcar had again taken control.

 

FDJ and Europcar combine forces

With 50km to go, the front trio was still 1.32 ahead but as FDJ took control in the peloton it quickly dropped to less than a minute. Europcar was also back on the front, with Jussi Veikkanen and Bryan Nauleau doing a good job for the two French teams.

 

With 34km to go, the break was caught as the pace was now set by Jeremy Roy. A little later the riders hit the penultimate climb and it was now time for the race favourites to take action.

 

Ag2r set a fierce pace

Vichot made an attack but was quickly brought back as Ag2r's Ben Gastauer set a fierce pace on the front. When he had used his last bit of energy, it was his teammate Alexis Vuillermoz who took over while favourites like Jean-Christophe Peraud, Arnold Jeannesson, Cyril Gautier, Gilbert, Di Gregogio and Mikael Cherel had gathered near the front.

 

Peraud was the first to make an attack but he was quickly passed by Zoidl. The peloton now exploded to pieces, with Evans being one of the riders to get dropped.

 

Bardet takes off

Bardet took off in pursuit of Zoidl and drew clear a small group with Vichot, Fedrigo, Arredondo, and Di Gregorio. They managed to catch the lone Austrian while Gilbert, Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne), Peraud, Gautier, and Pieter Serry (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) formed a chase quintet.

 

The peloton was just 20 seconds behind the leaders while the chasers were at 14 seconds. On the descent, Gilbert tried to bridge across on his own but the former world champion didn't make it.

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step organize a chase

Behind, Omega Pharma-Quick Step had started to chase and they brought back the chase group. Gautier also lend a hand for Europcar as the gap was 16 seconds with 14km to go.

 

With Gilbert back in the fold, BMC also started to chase and on the climb it was Florian Guillou who set the pace for Bretagne. The gap constantly hovered around the 10-second mark as BMC were now the driving force in the chase.

 

Sanchez at work

Di Gregorio attacked on his own and managed to stay clear until the 8km mark when the front group reformed. Samuel Sanchez was now doing a lot of work for BMC and got some assistance from Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Caja Rural.

 

Amael Moinard (BMC) also did a lot of work and managed to bring the gap down to 15 seconds as they passed the 4km to go banner after it had briefly reached 20 second. However, the cooperation in the fron group was no longer there and Zoidl decided to make a solo attack.

 

The Austrian was brought back and when they passed the flamme rouge, the break was neutralized. Instead, it would all be decided in a sprint finish where Vachon ended up taking the win despite working as a lead-out man for Fonseca.

 

Result:

1. Florian Vachon

2. Michal Golas

3. Philippe Gilbert

4. Romain Bardet

5. Remy Di Gregorio

6. Cyril Gautier

7. Jonathan  Hivert

8. Julian Arredondo

9. Gianni Meersman

10. Pieter Serry

 

More results to come

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