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French cyclocross champion attacks on difficult finishing circuit to take an impressive solo win while Europcar keeps its rivals in check to secure Pierre Rolland's overall victory

CIRCUIT CYCLISTE SARTHE

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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FRANCIS MOUREY

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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PIERRE ROLLAND

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05.04.2013 @ 16:11 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Francis Mourey finished off a successful week for the FDJ team in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe with a solo win on the final stage. Behind, Team Europcar controlled the peloton perfectly on a hard day, and the team's captain Pierre Rolland secured a convincing overall victory.

 

Francis Mourey is mostly known as a formidable cyclocross rider, but in today's final stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe he proved that he much more than that. With a gutsy attack on the penultimate lap of a hard finishing circuit, he quickly bridged the gap to an early breakaway group consisting of Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r) and Marco Canola (Bardiani).

 

Moments later, Meyer dropped off, and the same happened to Canola as they entered the final lap of the 13km circuit. With Mondory a well-known sprinter, Mourey knew that he had to get rid of his companion before the finish line, but he was unable to drop the sprinter on the circuit's main climb.

 

Instead, he accelerated inside the final kilometer, and the move was a successful. He just managed to hold off his rival and took his second professional win, the first one taken during his debut season in 2004.

 

Behind, a frustrated Jonathan Hivert (Sojasun) won the sprint of the peloton just 2 seconds behind the winner to take 3rd on the day while overall leader Pierre Rolland finished safely in the group to secure the overall victory. With each squad only consisting of 6 riders, his Europcar team had done a tremendous job all day to keep the numerous rivals in check.

 

Rolland's victory is his first ever overall triumph in a stage race.

 

Fedrigo puts Europcar under pressure

The 165,8km stage was a hard one in a hilly terrain and finished with 6 laps of a 13km finishing circuit. The circuit contained a difficult 700m, 12% climb, and the difficulty of the stage made it a perfect one to attack overall leader Pierre Rolland.

 

That was exactly what happened in the opening phase and after an aggressive start, a dangerous 19-man move gapped the peloton. Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ) had slipped into the break and with the multiple Tour de France stage winner only 20 seconds behind Rolland in 8th, the 6-man Europcar team was forced on the defensive.

 

The group managed to build up a gap of just under a minute before disaster struck for Fedrigo who fell out of the break due to a puncture. Moments later, the group was, however, caught, and it was all back together.

 

Ignatiev keeps trying

Relentless attacker Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) had been part of the earlier move, but refused to give up, and he put in another dig just as the break was caught. He was joined by Meier, Canola and Mondory, and the quartet was allowed to build up a gap of almost 3.30.

 

Behind it was always Europcar setting the tempo and as they approached the finishing circuit, they were joined by the FDJ team. The gap started to come down which forced the break to up the tempo.

 

With 45km remaining, Canola and Ignatiev were both momentarily dropped, but both managed to fight back on. However, disaster struck for the Russian who had an untimely puncture, and he was picked up by the peloton.

 

Mourey joins the leaders

On the penultimate time of the climb, Moruey attacked and he quickly bridged across to the front group. He upped the pace while Meyer fell off and on the last time up the climb, it was Canola who struggled to keep up.

 

Behind, Sojasun saw a good opportunity for Hivert in a bunch sprint form the drastically reduced group, and they went to the front in an attempt to catch the front duo. However, they ended up being unsuccessful, and instead Mourey soloed off the front to finally break his 9 year victory drought.

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