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After a late attack from Voeckler, 20 riders sprinted for the win in the finale stage of the Tour du Gevaudan, with Vuillermoz coming out on top; Pinot finished second and won the race overall

Photo: Sirotti

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TOUR DU GÉVAUDAN LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON

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27.09.2015 @ 16:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) continued his impressive 2015 season by winning the final stage of the Tour du Gevaudan. After two passages of the Montee Laurent Jalabert had whittled the main group down to 20 riders, he beat Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport) in the sprint while second place was enough for Pinot to take the overall victory.

 

With an 11th place in last year’s Giro d’Italia, it was already evident that Alexis Vuillermoz was a great talent. However, one thing was missing: victories.

 

In 2015, Vuillermoz has fully confirmed that he has the killer instinct to win races, most notably when he won the Mur de Bretagne stage in the Tour de France. He also won the GP Plumelec, using his great puncheur skills.

 

However, he took one big win in 2014 as he came out on top in the final stage of the Tour du Gevaudan whose two passages of the brutally steep Montee Laurent Jalabert and flat final 20km make it tailor-made for a rider who can both climb and sprint. Today he repeated that performance to make up for the disappointment of not being able to follow the best in yesterday’s summit finish.

 

As they approached the climb for the final time, a breakaway with Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Axel Domont, Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Mikel Bizkarra (Murias Taldea), Ignatas Konovalovas and Julien Loubet (Marseille) had a 45-second advantage over the peloton. Europcar upped the pace with Romain Guyot as they hit the climb. Again Madrazo attacked from the break and he quickly put 15 seconds into his chasers who split to pieces. Konovalovas emerged as the nearest chaser, followed by Edet.

 

In the peloton, Romain Bardet set a hard pace for Ag2r and quickly brought back everybody but Madrazo, Konovalovas and Edet. Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) took over and made sure that the two chasers were back in the fold.

 

A 20-rider group had emerged 30 seconds behind the lone Madrazo when Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne) launched an attack. However, he was caught before they got to the top where Elissonde led Pinot, Voeckler, Vuillermoz and Rossetto across the line.

 

Impressively, Madrazo managed to extend his advantage to 50 seconds but as Marseille and Ag2r started to chase, he lost ground. However, he was still 30 seconds ahead with 10km to go.

 

With 5km to go, the gap was still 22 seconds and it was 18 seconds with 3km to go. That’s where Thomas Voeckler launched his expected attack and he managed to get clear.

 

At the passage of the flamme rouge, Madrazo still led Voeckler by 50 seconds but the 20-rider peloton was hot on their heels. Both riders were brought back and it came down to a sprint where Vuillermoz came out of top, with Pinot and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport) completing the podium.

 

Second place was enough for Pinot to take the overall victory with a  10-second advantage over Voeckler, with Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) rounding out the podium. Pinot won the points classification, Angel Madrazo was the best climber and Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) the best young rider. Caja Rural was the best team.

 

The Tour du Gevaudan was the final French stage race of the season. Attention now turns to the final Coupe de France race, Tour de Vendee, next Sunday.

 

A tough final stage

After yesterday’s big summit finish, the Tour du Gevaudan ended with another very hard stage that brought the riders over just 146km around the city of Mende. After a lumpy start, the riders tackled a category 1 climb at the midpoint before they descended back to Mende. In the end, they did two laps of a circuit that included the famous Montee Laurent Jalabert. The final passage came 20.7km from the finish and from there it was mainly downhill and flat.

 

Like yesterday, it was sunny when the riders gathered for the start. Two riders were absent as neither Remy Di Gregorio (Marseille) nor Francis De Greef (Wanty) signed in this morning.

 

A break is formed

As expected, the race got off to a fast start and it was a very strong group that was formed after the early attacking. After Eduard Prades (Caja Rural), Rayane Bouhanni (Cofidis), Romain Guyot (Europcar), Laurent Evrard (Wallonie-Brussels) and Pierre Gouault (Auber 93) had been reeled in, a 15-rider break with Heinier Parra, Prades (Caja Rural), Hubert Dupont, Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Laurent Evrard (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Theo Vimpère (Auber 93), Mikel Bizkarra, Aritz Bagües (Murias Taldea) and Julien Loubet (Marseille 13-KTM) escaped. That was too dangerous for Europcar who brought them back after 10km of racing.

 

The attacking continued and it was Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Axel Domont, Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Giovanni Bernaudeau, Pierrig Quémeneur (Europcar), Mikel Bizkarra (Murias Taldea), Ignatas Konovalovas and Julien Loubet (Marseille) who were next to escape. Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) and Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) tried to bridge the gap but they never made it.

 

Bretagne and Wallonie in control

The gap stayed at around 45 seconds for a while before the peloton took a breather. This allowed the gap to go out to 2.30 before Bretagne started to chase with some assistance from a Wallonie rider. The slowly started to bring the break back as they hit the first big climb. With 100km to go, the gap was 1.55.

 

Madrazo led Kadri, Konovalovas, Quemeneur, Domont and Bernaudeau over the top with a 1.50 advantage over the peloton which was still led by Bretagne and a single Wallonie rider. As they hit the Montee Laurent Jalabert for the first time, it was still 1.46 and it was now Rayane Bouhanni setting the pace for Cofidis.

 

Madrazo gets clear

Bretagne riders Florian Guillou, Frederic Brun, Jean-Marc Bideau and Christophe Laborie again joined forces with Wallonie rider Kevyn Ista as they went up the climb. Meanwhile, Quemeneur was dropped from the break where Madrazo was doing some damage. Bernaudeau was next to lose contact and then the Spaniard got clear in a solo move.

 

At the top, Madrazo was 30 seconds ahead of his chasers who were led across the line by Kadri followed by Domont, Edet, Bizkarra and Loubet. Further back, lots of riders had been dropped from the peloton which was 1.40 behind.

 

The peloton accelerates

Madrazo decided to wait for his chasers while Parra attacked from the peloton, building a 10-second advantage over the bunch which was now 2.20 behind. However, the Colombian was soon brought back as were Quemeneur and Bernaudeau.

 

Bretagne were still in control and they accelerated hard as the peloton approached the climb for the second time. At the passage of the finish line, the gap was only 46 seconds. Moments later, they hit the climb where the final action unfolded.

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