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After a seventh place yesterday, Vallee took the biggest win of his career in the bunch sprint of stage 2 on the Tour de Wallonie; Boonen finished second and retained the lead while Maikin rounded out the top 3

Photo: Lotto Soudal

BORIS VALLÉE

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TOUR DE WALLONIE 

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24.07.2016 @ 17:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Boris Vallee continued what has been a very successful first season at Fortuneo-Vital Concept when he claimed the biggest victory of his short career on stage 2 of the Tour de Wallonie. In the bunch sprint on the lumpy circuit in Le Roeulx, he beat Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) and Roman Maikin (Gazprom-Rusvelo) but second place was enough for Boonen to retain the lead.

 

In 2014, Boris Vallee turned professional with the Lotto Soudal team but his two years in the WorldTour were never a big success. As a young sprinter, it was hard to get many opportunities in a team that was dominated by André Greipel and also included fast riders like Kris Boeckmans, Kenny Dehaes and Jens Debusschere.

 

For the 2016 season, Vallee moved to France to join the Fortuneo-Vital Concept team and that move has paid off. In the first part of the year, the Belgian has shown his potential as a sprinter, winning three stages in 2.2 races in France.

 

Today Vallee took another step up the sprinting hierarchy. After a solid seventh place yesterday, Vallee beat some of the best sprinters in the world in the second stage of the Tour de Wallonie, a 2.HC race on the UCI calendar.

 

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the riders headed into slightly hillier terrain on stage 2 which brought them over 182.7km from Saint-Ghislain to Le Roeulx. Again a flat start leads to hilly middle section. Here the riders tackles two category 3, one category 2 and one category 1 climb. However, there were no categorized climbs in the final 73km and the stage ended with two laps of a 12.3km circuit. Here there was a small climb at the midpoint which was expected to take the sting of the legs of some of the sprinters.

 

All the riders who finished yesterday, were present as the peloton gathered under a sunny sky. As it was the case yesterday, they got the race off to a brutally fast start with numerous attacks but after 15km of attacking five riders managed to escape. Franck Bonnamour (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Mamyr Stash (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Boris Dron (Wanty), Ludovic Robeet (Color Code) and Antoine Warner (Wallonie) worked hard to build a 20-second advantage before the peloton allowed them to ride away.

 

As the peloton took a breather, the gap went out to 4.34 at the 25km mark and it was still growing. After 34km of racing, it reached a maximum of 6.15. In general, it was a fast start as the riders covered 45.4km during the first hour.

 

While Yauheni Hutarovich (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) rejoined the peloton after a puncture, Stash beat Bonnamour and Dron in the first intermediate sprint. Etixx-QuickStep took control in the peloton and slowly started to bring the break back. At the 67km mark, they had reduced the gap to 5.30 and it was down to 4.30 when Robeet beat Warnier and Bonnamour in the firsy KOM sprint. Here Dron and Stash were dropped and they reached the top 25 seconds behind their former companions.

 

The group didn’t work well together and as they hit the next climb, Bonnamor was left behind. Warnier beat Robeet in the KOM sprint while Dron passed Bonnamour to take third, with Stash picking up two points for being fifth. The three dropped riders joined forces to form a chase group but they were already 1.01 behind while the peloton was at 5.30 with 90km to go.

 

Warnier also beat Robeet in the third KOM sprint while Dron rolled across the line in third. However, his group was losing ground and found itself 1.30 behind at the 110km mark. At this point, the peloton was still at 5.25.

 

Robeet beat Warnier in the second intermediate sprint where Stash picked up the final bonus second 1.35 later. At this point, however, the race started to heat up as the peloton headed into a crosswind section. Luckily, Kenny Dehaes (Wanty) managed to rejoin the peloton after a puncture.

 

At the 123km mark, the gaps were 2.15 and 4.10 respectively but the peloton was coming back fast. They soon caught the three chasers and as they entered the final 50km, they were less than 3 minutes behind.

 

With 40km to go, the peloton was just 1.55 behind the leaders and it was now IAM and FDJ leading the chase, working hard for Jonas Vangenechten and Arnaud Demare respectively. However, the French team was set back massively when Odd Christian Eiking and Ignatas Konovalovas hit the deck.

 

The incident didn’t slow the peloton much down and so the gap was only 46 seconds at the first passage of the finish line. Robeet and Warnier did their best to stay away but with 18km to go, it was all back together.

 

Direct Energie and Wallonie hit the front as they started the final lap, working for their respective sprinters Thomas Boudat and Baptiste Planckaert. The pace was so fast that no one could escape and it was a big fight between the sprint teams.

 

IAM and FDJ took control as they approached the finish but disaster struck for the French team as Demare suffered a puncture. He managed to rejoin the peloton with 3km to go and even managed to get back to the front where Etixx-QuickStep was now dictating affair.

 

Etixx-QuickStep did their best to deliver Tom Boonen to a second consecutive win but this time he had to settle for second. Vallee emerged as the fastest, with Roman Maikin completing the podium.

 

Second place was enough for Boonen to retain his lead as he now has a 6-second advantage over Vallee. He faces a much harder challenge in the third stage which offers a tougher finale than we have had in the first two days. Most of the 200.3km between Braine l’Alleud and Vielsalm are relatively flat as there are only a category 2 and a category 3 climb on the menu during the long trek from the start to the finish. However, the stage has a nasty sting in its tail as it ends with two laps on a 16.7km circuit that has a category 2 climb (4.5km, 5.6%) 6.6km from the finish.

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