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Having jumped onto the Frenchman’s wheel, Kittel came around Coquard and held off Bouhanni to win a close sprint at the GP de Fourmies; Bouhanni was second, Coquard third

Photo: Sirotti

BRYAN COQUARD

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GP DE FOURMIES

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MARCEL KITTEL

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NACER BOUHANNI

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04.09.2016 @ 19:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After having worked for Tom Boonen yesterday, Marcel Kittel proved that he is ready to lead Germany at the Worlds when he powered to victory in the GP de Fourmies. Having jumped onto the Frenchman’s wheel, he came around Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) in the bunch sprint and narrowly held off a fast-finishing Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to take his first win since the Tour de France.

 

This autumn is one of the most important in Marcel Kittel’s career. The German has what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win the World Championships but he finds himself in a hard fight with André Greipel in his quest to lead the German team.

 

Kittel needs to make the most of the next month to prove his form and after having punctured in the finale of EuroEyes Cyclassics, this weekend marks the start to his Worlds campaign. Hence, many were surprised when he decided to work for Tom Boonen in yesterday’s Brussels Cycling Classic, missing a big opportunity to prove himself.

 

Yesterday Boonen promised to work for the German in the next races and so the roles were reversed in today’s traditional revenge match, the GP de Fourmies. The Belgian didn’t disappoint as he worked hard to cover some late moves and so everything was ready for Kittel to prove himself in the final sprint. After a solid lead-out from Matteo Trentin, the German proved his form as he held off Nacer Bouhanni in a photo finish to win the biggest race in the Coup de France series.

 

The 84th edition of the race was held on the same 205km course that has been used for several years. The riders both started and finished in the city of Fourmies and did a number of different circuits. First they tackled a small circuit on the southern outskirts that included a single climb. Then they headed into the hilly terrain north of Fourmies where they tackled a total of three climbs. The race ended with five laps of the well-known 11km circuit that had a small climb just after the passage of the line. Then the riders stayed on a plateau until a descent led to the final kilometre which was flat.

 

The riders had cloudy and windy conditions when they gathered for the start and as it is the case for every Coupe de France race, it was a brutally fast opening phase. It took a lot of time for a break to be formed but finally five riders managed to get clear.

 

Laurens De Vreese, Andriy Grivko (AsTANA), Jens Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen), Dennis Coenen (Crelan) and David Menut (Auber 93) managed to build an advantage of 5 minutes after 60km of racing but very soon the sprint teams came to the fore. Etixx-QuickStep, FDJ, Cofidis and Roubaix all put a rider on the front and slowly they started to bring the gap down.

 

With 60km to go, the gap was still 2 minutes and this prompted Nippo-Vini Fantini to lend FDJ, Roubaix, Cofidis and Etixx-QuickStep a hand. That had an effect as the gap was down to 1.45 as they crossed the line with 55km to go.

 

As they went up the climb, Eduard Grosu (Nippo) attacked but he never get much of an advantage and instead Cofidis andFDJ went back to work. Nippo also started to chase again. Meanwhile, Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) spent valuable energy to rejoin the peloton.

 

At the end of the next lap, the gap was only 1.05 and Joeaar, Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo) and an FDJ rider set the pace during the next 11km to slowly bring the gap down to 25 seconds. As soon as they hit the climb again, Lars Boom (Astana) attacked and he briefly created a small group. However, it was the counterattack from a Delko and a Wallonie rider that worked.

 

There was no silent moment as lots of riders have it a go and so the pair and everybody else were soon brought back. Meanwhile, Menut was dropped from the front group.

 

The gap was down to 10 seconds and this prompted Coenen to try an attack but he failed to get clear and so the quartet was still together as they crested the summit of the climb. Alexey Lutsenko managed to bridge the gap and so Astana suddenly had three riders in the front quintet.

 

De Vreese and Lutsenko dropped their companions as they crossed the finish line to start the penultimate lap where the peloton briefly slowed down. That allowed the gap to go back out to 25 seconds.

 

The attacking soon stated again and surprisingly Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) was one of the riders to give it a go. The move failed and instead Etixx-QuickStep started to ride on the front with Rodrigo Contreras, Laurens De Plus and Boonen.

 

Lutsenko left De Vreese behind and went up the climb with an advantage of 25 seconds. He dug deep to stay ahead but it was hard to keep the hard-working Etixx team at bay. With 15km to go, his gap was only 15 seconds.

 

Floris De Tier (Topsport Vlaanderen) launched a strong attack and stayed ahead for a few kilometres but as they headed down the finishing straight for the penultimate time, he was brought back. Auber 93 was going full gas and as they crossed the line, Lutsenko was almost brought back.

 

The Kazakh finally had to surrender and instead a Topsport rider gave it a go. Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida) also gave it a shot but it was impossible to get clear until Grega Bole (Nippo-Vini Fantini) got a small advantage. He continued to ride on the front for a little while but then decided to sit up.

 

Suddenly a small group with the likes of Mohoric, Boonen, Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Bole, Filippo Pozzato (Wilier), Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) had a small advantage. After a bit of hesitation, several riders showed interest in keeping the move going and things were looking promising.

 

Petit suddenly got a small advantage at the end of the descent with 5km to go and he briefly considered to keep going. Ultimately, he decided to wait for the group but just as the junction was made, Bora-Argon 18 brought everything back together.

 

Bora lined four riders out on the front and it was Paul Voss who took a huge turn. The German quickly reacted when Mohoric attacked again and the Germans remained in control as they hit the final 3km.

 

The fight for position started as they got closer to the finish but that didn’t stop Rui Costa from trying an attack. Bora, Direct Energie and Etixx-QuickStep sprinted on the front in a hugely confusing phase befoe Cofidis took over at the flamme rouge.

 

Trentin brought Kittel to the front and was the first rider through the final turn and when he swung off, the German reacted when Petit and Coquard came past. Coquard got the perfect lead-out and Kittel had to make a small sprint to close the gap and then went again when the Frenchman launched his effort. The German easily came around but Nacer Bouhanni was in a perfect position on his wheel. The Frenchman started to move up on his left-hand side but just ran out of metres. No one dared to celebrate but Kittel crossed the line in first position, with Coquard completing the podium.

 

Samuel Dumoulin finished 9th, just ahead of Baptiste Planckaert, and so he now leads his Belgian rival by 11 points in the Coupe de France series. The next race will take place next Sunday at the Tour du Doubs.

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