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Belkin duo makes it into select lead group in tough mountain stage and the Spaniard launches decisive move under the flamme rouge to take the win while the Dutchman finishes 2nd to take over the leader's jersey

LUIS LEÓN SÁNCHEZ

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TOM-JELTE SLAGTER

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TOUR DE L'AIN

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12.08.2013 @ 16:49 Posted by Malte Philbert Jessen

Belkin dominated the first mountain stage in the Tour de l'Ain as the team took a fantastic 1-2 with Luis-Leon Sanchez and Tom-Jelte Slagter. The duo made it into an 8-rider lead group that was set to decide the stage and Sanchez launched a devastating attack under the flamme rouge to take the win while Slagter finished 2nd to take the overall lead.

 

On the day where Mark Renshaw won the first stage of the Eneco Tour, Belkin also dominated the racing in France as the Dutch team took a fantastic 1-2 in the first mountains stage of the Tour de l'Ain. Luis-Leon Sanchez proved that he is getting into his best form the Vuelta by launching one of his trademark attacks from a select group with 1km to go and no one was able to catch back the strong Spaniard.

 

Behind, his teammate Tom-Jelte Slagter showed his fast kick by holding off Romain Bardet (Ag2r) in the sprint for second as he reached the finish alongside his French rival, Kenny Elissonde, Thibaut Pinot (both FDJ.fr), John Gadret (Ag2r), Sebastien Reichenbach (IAM) and Stephane Rossetto (BigMat). That was enough for Slagter to take the overall lead from Fabio Felline (Androni) who had fallen off the pace along the way.

 

Slagter takes his lead into tomorrow's final stage that is also the queen stage and features the landmark climb of the race, the Col du Grand-Colombier. From the top 38km of downhill and rolling terrain remain and so nothing will be decided until the final day of racing.

 

A fast start

The 136,4km stage gave the riders their first taste of the real mountains in this year's race as the stage featured two early climbs that were only appetizers for two big category 1 climbs and the gradual 10km uphill straight to the finish. The race was off to an extremely aggressive start as attacks went in both sides of the road and the riders covered more than 44km during the first hour despite the tough terrain.

 

Niels Wubben (Rabobank), Loic Desriac (Roubaix) and Wilson Marentes (Colombia) made up the first breakaway but they were quickly brought back. The next to get a noticeable gap were prologue winner Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and David Le Lay (Sojasun) but they were equally unsuccessful.

 

An unsuccessful move

Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) was extremely aggressive in the first part of the stage and he was the next to escape alongside Alexis Guerrin (France Espoirs). The latter fell off the pace on the day's first climb while Juan Manuel Garate (Belkin), Gregoire Tarride (La Pomme Marseille) and Rudy Kowalski (Roubaix) made it across just after the top. A little later Matthias Brändle (IAM), Geoffroy Lequatre (Bretagne) and Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (France Espoirs) also joined the move but ultimately it was all brought back together.

 

Keizer refused to give up and so he launched a new attack, this time alongside Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin), Fabian Wegmann (Garmin) and Antoine Lavieu (La Pomme Marseille). That ended up being the tight move as they managed to build up a gap of 1.10.

 

FDJ chases

However, FDJ had big hopes for today and so they asked Laurent Mangel and Francis Mourey to start to chase, the team putting their faith in climbers Elissonde and Pinot. The team led the main group onto the day's first big climb with a gap that hovered around the 1-minute mark.

 

On the lower slopes, Keizer fell off the pace and a little later Wegmann also had to give up. Kruijswijk was now really driving it up the climb and so Lavieu also lost contact. As the lone Dutchman crested the summit, he was more than two minutes ahead while his former companions were all picked up by the peloton.

 

Ag2r and Omega Pharma-Quick Step chase Kruijswijk down

Many riders had fallen off the pace on the climb and Ag2r made sure that no one got back by putting the hammer down, the team working hard to set up Bardet for the win. They were later joined by Omega Pharma-Quick Step who saw an opportunity for Devenyns to win the race overall.

 

Those two teams gradually reeled Kruijswijk in and the Dutchman was back in the fold when they started the second of the day's two big climbs. Race leader Felline was now in difficulty and lost contact with the main group.

 

Tschopp launches first attack

Johann Tschopp (IAM) was the first to attack and he was joined by Elissonde and Bardet to form a lead trio. The Swiss instigator of the attack fell off the pace while instead Pinot and Reichenbach made it across. A few moments later, Gadret joined the leaders while Tschopp dug deep to also get back on.

 

That was when Belkin showed their cards and Sanchez and Slagter were joined by Rossetto to form a trio that made it up to the leaders to form a 9-rider front group.

 

Broken collarbone for Tschopp

Behind, Devenyns was in lone pursuit and the Belgian made it across on the descent while his teammate Pieter Serry, Wout Poels (Vacansoleil) and Clement Chevrier (France Espoirs) chased a little further behind. Drama ensued when Tschopp crashed and had to leave the race with a broken collarbone.

 

Devenyns fell off the pace on the final climb up towards the finish and when the 8 remaining leaders reached the final 5 rolling kilometres, the attacks started to go in both sides of the road. Bardet was the first to try and later Pinot (twice), Gadret and Rossetto and made small moves.

 

Elissonde launched the first promising offensive but the Frenchman was reeled in just as they passed the flamme rouge. That was when Sanchez launched a perfectly timed counterattack to take the win while Slagter won the sprint for 2nd to move himself into the overall lead on a beautiful day for Belkin.

 

Results:

1. Luis-Leon Sanchez 3.27.58

2. Tom-Jelte Slagter +0.01

3. Romain Bardet

4. John Gadret

5. Sebastien Reichenbach

6. Thibaut Pinot

7. Stephane Rossetto +0.04

8. Kenny Elissonde +0.09

9. Pieter Serry +2.13

10. Wout Poels

 

General classification:

1. Tom-Jelte Slagter 10.53.53

2. Luis-Leon Sanchez +0.04

3. Stephane Rossetto +0.20

4. Romain Bardet +0.22

5. John Gadret +0.23

6. Thibaut Pinot +0.25

7. Sebastien Reichenbach +0.28

8. Kenny Elissonde +0.30

9. Dries Devenyns +2.18

10. Wout Poels +2.26

 

Points classification:

1. Fabio Felline 34

2. Yannick Martinez 34

3. Grega Bole 27

4. Tom-Jelte Slagter 26

5. Luis-Leon Sanchez 25

 

Mountains classification:

1. Steven Kruijswijk 27

2. Bert-Jan Lindeman 20

3. Kenny Elissonde 15

4. Antoine Lavieu 13

5. Matthias Brändle 13

 

Youth classification:

1. Kenny Elissonde 10.54.23

2. Clement Chevrier +2.22

3. Merhawi Kudos +3.00

4. Heiner Parra +3.13

5. Gregoire Tarride +6.05

 

Teams classification:

1. Belkin 32.45.10

2. Ag2r +5.35

3. BigMat +8.49

4. Saxo-Tinkoff +14.13

5. Colombia +19.09

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