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Sepulveda joined forces with Loubet to narrowly hold off a small chase group and finally beat his French rival in a sprint to win the Classic Sud-Ardeche; Felline won the sprint for third

Photo: Sirotti

CLASSIC DE L’ARDECHE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS

EDUARDO SEPULVEDA

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

FABIO FELLINE

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

JULIEN LOUBET

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
28.02.2015 @ 18:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne) confirmed his huge potential when he took his first professional victory at the Classic Sud-Ardeche. The Argentinean made it into a strong group, bridged across to lone attacker Julien Loubet (Marseille) and finally beat the Frenchman in a sprint to open his account in one of the hardest French one-day races.

 

In the early part of the 2014 season, Eduardo Sepulveda delivered several impressive results that made people wonder how far he could get in his debut Tour de France. However, the Argentinean was set back by injury that saw him miss La Grande Boucle and as he crashed later in the year at the Worlds, he never managed to build on his promising start.

 

With a fourth place in the Tour de San Luis, he has had an equally good start to his 2015 season but until today, his first professional win had always eluded. Today he finally broke the drought when he won the tough French one-day race Classic Sud-Ardeche.

 

After Etixx-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEDGE had worked hard to bring back a very strong early break, the two major teams were on the defensive when the riders hit the key climb of the Rocher du Sampzon for the second out of a total of three times. This created a very uncontrollable situation and at the top, a very strong group had formed.

 

The peloton was breathing down their next and so Julien Loubet (Marseille) and Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) attacked on the descent. They were joined by Pieter Serry (Etixx Quick Step), Ignatas Konovalovas (Team Marseille 13-KTM), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Arnaud Gérard, Sepulveda (Bretagne Séché), Fabio Felline (Trek), Damiano Caruso (BMC), Kevin Réza (FDJ), Daryl Impey (Orica), Ben Gastauer (AG2R), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Romain Combaud (Armée de Terre) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) to form a very strong group.

 

The peloton failed to organize a chase as all the major teams had riders in the front group and so the main group quickly got out of contention. Hence, it came down to a battle between the front group on the final lap of the circuit that contained two climbs.

 

On the Rocher du Sampzon, Loubet took off while Sepulved and Sicard formed a strong chase duo. The Frenchman never made it across but the Argentinean used his great time trialling skills to make the junction at the bottom of the final climb with 7km to go.

 

At this point, the chasers were more than 30 seconds behind and so Reza tried to bridge the gap alone. He got close but as the chase got organized, he was caught.

 

With 3km to go, the front duo were dangling just 10 seconds ahead but they managed to stay clear all the way to the line. Here Sepulveda emerged as the strongest while Felline beat Reza in the sprint for third.

 

The riders will get another chance to chase success when the hard French weekend continues with tomorrow’s Drome Classic. The course is even tougher than today’s and we can expect an even more selective race.

 

A tough course

The 15th edition of Classic Sud-Ardeche was held on a new 199.8km course with start and finish in Ruoms. The first part of the race was held on a hilly circuit with three categorized climbs before the riders reached the finish for the first time. They ended the race by doing three laps of a 23.6km finishing circuit that included the Cote du Rocher de Sampzon (2.1km, 8.9%) and the short Cote de la Vignasse (700m, 8%). The latter summited 6.1km from the finish and from there it was a flat run back to the line.

 

The riders could not have wished better conditions for the race as they took the start under a beautiful sunny sky but it was a rather chilly morning in France. David Menut (Auber 93) was the only non-starter when the riders rolled out through the neutral zone in Ruoms.

 

Lots of attacks

Right after the start, Cofidis set a hard pace as the first attacks were getting launched. Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r), Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) and Gregoire Tarride (Marseille) were the first to get a small gap but they were quickly brought back.

 

The attacking continued but after 7km of racing, it was still all together. Moments later, 5 riders escaped and as more riders bridged the gap, a 13-rider group suddenly had an advantage of 30 seconds.

 

A dangerous group

Axel Domont and Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2R La Mondiale), Julian Alaphilippe and Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quick Step), Daniel Summerhill (Unitedhealthcare), Yoann Paillot (Marseille 13 KTM), Jérôme Cousin (Team Europcar), Loïc Chetout (Cofidis), Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Kévin Ledanois (Bretagne - Séché) and Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni Giocattoli) had all made it into the move but BMC had missed out and so they started to chase. Their fast pace in the hilly terrain made the peloton split to pieces and it was a small 16-rider group that bridged across to the leaders.

 

Otto Vergaerde (Topsport Vlaanderen), Andrea Zordan (Androni) and Marco Benfatto (Androni) were far behind as the 29-rider front group sped ahead. There was no great cooperation though and so Alaphilippe took off alone.

 

Alaphilippe is brought back

The Frenchman managed to build an advantage of 20 seconds over the peloton which had regrouped after the hectic action and after 25km of racing, Alaphilippe was also back in the fold. However, the fast pace and the attacking continued and several riders like Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jonathan Dufrasne (Wallonie), Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie), Thomas Wertz (Wallonie), Lander Seynaeve (Wanty) and Alberto Nardin (Androni) got dropped.

 

At the bottom of the first climb of the day, Yoann Paillot (Marseille) and Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne) tried to get clear but they were quickly brought back. Instead, Yoann Barbas (Armee de Terre), Julian Arredondo (Trek) and Loic Chetout (Cofidis) made an attempt but only the latter insisted.

 

The break is formed

As they continued up the climb, Jerome Cousin (Europcar) sped past Chetout who was brought back and instead Walter Pedraza (Colombia) took off in pursuit of Cousin. Those two riders joined forces and later Jerome Mainard (Armee de Terre), Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) and Clement Penven (Marseille) also bridged the gap.

 

Only Penven insisted in the attack and he was joined by Bonnafond, Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni) and Latour, creating very strong group. Later Alo Jakin (Auber 93) also got across and after 43km of fast racing, the peloton finally slowed down.

 

The peloton slows down

At this point, the gap was already 45 seconds and while Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) were among the riders to rejoin the peloton, it came out to 4 minutes after 50km of racing. The gap even reached 5.10 before Etixx-QuickStep started to chase.

 

At the 62km mark, they had brought the gap down to 4.15 but they allowed it to again get up to 5 minutes. As Topsport Vlaadneren also started to chase, however, the escapees again lost ground and at the top of the second climb, the advantage was only 3.55.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE start to chase

David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) did most of the work in the peloton and they continued to bring the gap down. Just after the feeding zone, it was down to just 1.35 but many riders stopped for a natural break, the gap went back up to 2.50.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE now started to chase and they clearly upped the pace. Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ) and Florian Giullou (Bretagne) were among the many riders who got dropped.

 

The gap comes down

Etixx-QuickStep ws the next team to ride hard and this caused more riders to get dropped. Victor Campeanerts (Topsport Vlaanderen) was among them while the gap again came down to 2.10.

 

With 80km to go, Orica-GreenEDGE were back in control and they had brought the gap down to 1.50 at the bottom of the Cote de Vignasse. As they crossed the line for the first time, it was down to just 1.30.

 

Etixx-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEDGE combine forces

Orica-GreenEDGE and Etixx-QuickStep were now sharing the workload and as the bottom of the Roche du Sampzon, they had the gap down to juts 1.05. While de la Cruz set a hard pace in the peloton, Zilioli got dropped from the front group and he was quickly absorbed by the peloton.

 

Latour got a small gap but he was quickly back in the fold while Nizzolo was again dropped from the break. The acceleration in the break had allowed the gap to get back up to 1.25 while Etixx-QuickStep were still setting the pace.

 

Vichot gets dropped

The peloton accelerated and the gap now came down to only 45 seconds. The pace was too much for Athur Vichot (FDJ) who surprisingly got dropped.

 

The gap stabilized around 30 seconds before Rolland decided to sit up. The rest of the break also gave up but just before the catch was made, Penven attacked.

 

A strong group gets clear

The young Frenchman managed to build an advantage of 28 seconds while Jakin, Latour and Bonnafond tried to rejoin him. At the bottom of the Rocher du Sampzon, the quartet was back together.

 

Remy Di Gregorio (Marseille), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Julien Loubet (Marseille) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) all tried to attack on the climb while Antonio Molina (Caja Rural), Anthony Roux (FDJ), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare), Bryan Nauleau (Team Europcar), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge), Tom Devriendt (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Serghei Tvetcov Androni Giocattoli), Théo Vimpère (Auber 93), Alexandre Blain and Benjamin Giraud (Marseille 13-KTM), Frantisek Padour (Androni Giocattoli), Nick Van der Lijke and George Bennett (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-GreenEdge), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Romain Le Roux (Armée de Terre) were among the many to get dropped. At the top a strong front group with Péraud, Mickael Chérel, Julien Bérard, Ben Gastauer (AG2R La Mondiale), Gautier (Europcar), Loubet (Team Marseille 13-KTM) Rigoberto Uran, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step), Romain Combaud, Quentin Pacher (Armée de Terre), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) and Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne Séché) had formed.

 

The decisive move is made

Loubet and Alaphilippe got a gap on the descent while the rest of the group was caught. Instead, a new big chase group with Pieter Serry (Etixx Quick Step), Ignatas Konovalovas (Team Marseille 13-KTM), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Arnaud Gérard, Sepulveda (Bretagne Séché), Fabio Felline (Trek), Damiano Caruso (BMC), Kevin Réza (FDJ), Daryl Impey (Orica), Gastauer (AG2R), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Combaud (Armée de Terre) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) got clear and they managed to rejoin the leading duo.

 

A 50-rider group was now 30 seconds behind the 15-rider group and they started to lose ground. With 26km to go, they were 44 seconds behind and this prompted Walter Pedraza (Colombia), Daniele Ratto (UnitedHealthcare) and Calvin Watson (Trek) to take off in pursuit.

 

Loubet attacks

In the early part of the final lap, Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthCare) and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie) also joined the chasers and as there was no cooperation in the peloton, lots of attacks were launched. At the bottom of the Rocher du Sampzon, the gap to the chasers was 55 seconds while the peloton was 1.36.

 

Loubet attacked on the climb while Alaphillippe got dropped and the former was the first rider to reach the summit. Duque also lost contact while Sicard and Sepulveda took off in pursuit.

 

Sepulveda makes it across

The Watson group had now been swallowed up by the peloton while Sepulveda has dropped Sicard. With 13km to go, the Argentinean was 8 seconds behind while the chase group was at 20 seconds and the peloton at 1.30.

 

The chasers were now down to Serry, Konovalovas, Sicard, Gerard, Felline, Caruso, Reza, Impey, Gastayer, Arroyo and Combaud but they seemed to lose contact while Sepulveda kept the gap at around 10 seconds for a while. Finally, however, he made the junction at the bottom of the final climb.

 

Reza takes off

The chasers were now 37 seconds back and this prompted Reza to attack. Gastauer and Combaud briefly joined him but at the top the FDJ rider was alone, 17 seconds behind.

 

With 3km to go, Reza was just 11 seconds behind while the chasers were at 34 seconds. Has the chase got organized, however, the FDJ rider was caught and the big group was now just 11 seconds behind.

 

Gastauer and Arroyo both tried to get across but they never made the junction. Meanwhile, the gao was coming down and at the flamme rouge, it was only 6 seconds. However, the pair managed to stay away and it was Sepulveda who took the win.

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