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The Belgian makes a great sprint on the uphill finishing straight in the Wallonian season opener and narrowly holds off defending champion Tsatevich and Bouhanni to win a very aggressive and animated race

Photo: Team Katusha

ALEXEI TSATEVICH

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NACER BOUHANNI

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NATURA4EVER ROUBAIX LILLE METROPOLE

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05.03.2014 @ 17:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Maxime Vantomme (Roubaix) took a big win for the small continental Roubaix team when he won today's opener of the Wallonian cycling season, Le Samyn, in a sprint finish. After a very animated and aggressive race, it all came down to a sprint finish on the uphill finishing straight in Dour and here Vantomme did an impressive sprint to hold off defending champion Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) and big favourite Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) to take the first win of his career.

 

At the end of the 2013 season, Maxime Vantomme was one of many professional riders who was unable to find a new team after his Crelan-Euphony team folded and he had to settle for a spot on the smaller continental Roubaix team in France. Today he proved that he may have benefited from the step down and the added responsibility when he proved his fast sprint in hard finishes when he won today's tough one-day race Le Samyn.

 

The race was a very aggressive and animated one, with constant attacks going off the front and constant reshufflings of the front groups taking place. However, it all came back together when the final escapee, Russian champion Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha), was caught inside the final kilometre.

 

At that point, FDJ hit the front with lead-out man Sebastien Chavanel who had the day's big favourite Nacer Bouhanni on his wheel and it all seemed that nothing could prevent the second win of the season for the fast Frenchman. However, he hesitated for too long and instead he was passed on the other side of the road by a wave of riders that was led by defending champion Alexey Tsatevich.

 

Vantomme was well-placed on Tsatevich's wheel and the duo went head-to-head in a close sprint while Bouhanni tried to make a comeback. There was nothing to be done for the race favourite though and he had to settle for third while his two rivals battled for the win. Tsatevich came fast at the end but there was no double win for the Russian as Vantomme just managed to hold him off to take the first win of his career.

 

Earlier in the race, Omega Pharma-Quick Step had tried to make a repeat of their splendid showing in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne when they had split the field on the cobbled Cote de la Roquette climb. At one point, a 10-rider front group with 6 riders from the Belgian team had formed but unlike last week's race, they didn't manage to keep the peloton at bay all the way to the finish.

 

The Belgian season continues on Friday when the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen kicks off with a prologue. The sprint-friendly race will have many of today's riders in attendance who look to battle it out in the time trial an two flat stages.

 

Wallonian season opener

After an exciting opening weekend, the Belgian cycling season continued with the first race on Wallonian soil when the teams lined up for the exciting one-day race, Le Samyn. The race kicked off in Frameries and ended 195.9km later in Dour. The first part consisted of 110km that took the riders from the starting city to the finish line and which contained 5 typical Belgian climbs of which some were cobbled. However, the scene of the real drama were the 4 laps of an 21.3km circuit on which the riders tackled the cobbled Cote de la Roquette and the Cote d'Audregnies.

 

Early in the race, a three-rider break escaped when Glenn Van De Mele (T.Palm), Romain Hubert (Color Code), and Nico Sijmens (Wanty) took off. The trio worked well together to build up a gap but FDJ had no intentions of letting things get out of control.

 

Boucher leads the chase

The French team put David Boucher on the front and he did a great job to keep the break under control. With 88km to go, he had brought the gap down to 2.50 and the peloton seemed to have everything under control in what seemed to be a straightforward sprint race.

 

That all changed when the riders hit the cobbled Cote de la Roquette for the first time. Omega Pharma-Quick Step were intent on creating some carnage and so Iljo Keisse hit the front to accelerate hard. He caught the rival teams unaware and at the top, he had created a small group that contained his teammates Andrew Fenn, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits, Julian Alaphilippe, and Petr Vakoc and a number of other riders including Tosh Van Der Sande and Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol), Romain Feillu (Bretagne), Julien Kaise (Color Code), and Roman Maikin (Rusvelo).

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step dominate the race

A small group was off in pursuit but didn't get any closer. At this point, the momentum of the OPQS group was broken when a crash brought down a few riders, including Feillu. As a consequence, a 7-rider group was formed, containing Maikin and all 6 Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders.

 

Vanendert and Kaise managed to rejoin the group which quickly made it across to the three leaders. Suddenly, a 13-rider front group had formed, with no less than 6 riders from Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

 

A team time trial

Maikin contributed a bit to the work but otherwise it was left to the dominant team to keep things going. The gap came up to around 20 seconds but in the peloton MTN-Qhubeka and Trek had organized a chase.

 

FDJ put Jussi Veikkanen on the front and as MTN stopped their effort, he and Laurent Didier (Trek) were doing allt he work. MTN returned to assist a little later while FDJ also added Benoit Vaugrenard and Trek Stijn Devolder to the chase.

 

The break is caught

That amount of manpower was too much and with 56km to go, the break was back in the fold. Instead, Omega Pharma-Quick Step launched another rider up the road but Thomas De Gendt had no success.

 

The next time up the Cote de la Roquette, Omega Pharma-Quick Step tried again as Julian Alaphilippe and Julien Vermote put down the hammer. At the top, they had created a small gap with a few more riders but were quickly brought back.

 

De Gendt takes off

De Gendt made another attack and this set the scene for several new attempts from riders like Devolder, Isaychev, Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty), Joeri Stallaert (Veranclassic), and Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek). They got  nowhere, however, but a little later De Gendt took off again.

 

This time he was joined by his teammate Keisse, Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Martin Reimer (MTN). The quartet managed to get a nice gap but when De Gendt put the hammer down on the Cote d'Auregnies, only Gougeard was able to stay with him.

 

CCC lead the chase

Several riders tried to bridge across until CCC Polsat started to chase. The Polish team kept the gap stable at around 15 seconds but when they stopped, the gap quickly grew to 45 seconds.

 

The lull in the peloton was used by several teams to launch new attacks, with Preben Van Hecke (Topsport) opening the action. Lotto tried to bring things back to order and a little later Beppu and Devolder started to chase for Trek.

 

The chase is unorganized

On the Cote de la Roquette, a small group escaped from the peloton but as there was no big cooperation, they were quickly swallowed up. The increased pace, however, saw the gap come down to 30 second swith 29km to go.

 

Again Lotto and Trek started to chase but soon after new attacks were launched. Isaychev was again part of the action and even though they got nowhere, the increased pace saw the gap come down.

 

New attacks

Maxime Le Montagner (Bretagne) was one of several riders to try a move and as the attacking continued, an acceleration from Devolder finally brought an end to the front duo with 22km to go.

 

Katusha were keen to ride aggressively and they launched new attacks with Viacheslav Kuznetsov and Isaychev. Roubaix, Cofidis, Fenn, and Devolder were also part of the action but no one had any success before Anton Vorobyev attacked for Katusha.

 

A new break is formed

He was joined by Kristof Vandewalle (Trek) and Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix) and a little later Romain Lemarchand (Cofidis) and Julian Kern (Ag2r) also made the junction. Sergey Lagutin (Rusvelo), Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r), and Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) were the next to bridge across before Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC) and Greg Henderson (Lotto) were the final ones to bridge across.

 

The 10-rider group managed to build up a 20-second gap as MTN and Omega Pharma-Quick Step started to chase. For a brief moment, the momentum went out of the chase until MTN again resumed responsibility.

 

The chase gets organized

Ignatas Konovalovas and Vermote did a huge work for MTN and OPQS and with 12km to go, FDJ also added Jussi Veikkanen to the team of chasers. At that point, the gap was 20 seconds but there was no big cohesion in the front group.

 

Marycz was the first to try an attack but on the Cote de la Roquette, he was passed by Mondory, Delfosse, and Lagutin. The Pole rejoined them on the descent but moments later, the 10 escapees were back together.

 

The front group disintegrates

Vermote was doing an awful lot of work in the peloton when Kuznetsov made a surprise attack. He was quickly called back to order but he was countered by another unsuccessful move from Fenn.

 

There was no longer any organized chase as Laurens De Vreese (Want) tried to bridge across on his own. Meanwhile Delfosse and Planckaert tried to take off but they were quickly passed by Monfory who made a solo attempt.

 

Mondory gives it a go

When he was brought back, his teammate Kern gave it an unsuccessful go while behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step and MTN were now chasing hard, with Van Keirsbulck being particularly active.

 

With 5km to go, the break was almost caught and so Henderson gave it a go. When he was brought back, Mondory tried his hand as Vorobyev had now fallen off the pace.

 

The riders join from behind

Mondory was caught by Marycz, Delfosse, Vandewalle, and Lagutin while the rest of the break was caught. Delfosse took off on his own and stayed clear for a little while before he was joined by a bigger group that contained Isaychev, De Vreese, Lagutin, Florian Senechal (Cofidis), Jasper Stuyven (Trek) and Henderson.

 

Isaychev gave it  a go on his own and while the rest of the group was caught, he passed the flamme rouge as the lone leader. However, the uphill finishing straight took its toll and as FDJ and Trek were chasing hard, he was caught with 500m to go.

 

This was when Chavanel launched his lead-out and all seemed to be in place for another Bouhanni win. However, Vantomme had different plans and he made an impressive sprint to relegate the favourite to a minor spot on the podium.

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