Julien Simon bursts to victory in the GP de Wallonie
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Julien Simon bursts to victory in the GP de Wallonie

by Ben Atkins at 11:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Race Reports and Results
 
Frenchman escapes a select group in the final kilometre to win race in Namur’s citadel

julien simonJulien Simon (Saur-Sojasun) took his fifth, and arguably most prestigious, victory of the season as he escaped a select breakaway group in the final kilometre to win the GP de Wallonie. The 26-year-old Frenchman, who finished second in the previous year’s edition of the race, was part of a group of six riders that forced its way clear on the final, steep climb to the citadel above the town of Namur. He jumped clear inside the final kilometre, and managed to hold off the attentions of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) all the way to the finish.

Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM), whose teammate Marco Marcato had created the final selection with two kilometres to go, managed to hold off Luca Paolini (Katusha) to take his second straight third place in the Walloon semi-Classic.

"I must confess that I had some doubt!" an ecstatic Simon exclaimed at the finish. “We had a scare before the finale, because the crosswind; normally, [the peloton] wouldn’t have split, but there were holes to plug and we had to ride. I was forced to sacrifice Brice Feillu and Jonathan Hivert; this was not a good sign…

“I saw that they had given everyhing when we were finally back on the first group,” he explained, “and after that other teams are had to work and I got myself near to the front.

“Then we arrived at the foot of the Citadel of Namur; from there, I know it by heart…” he added. “I managed to put myself in a good position, and I knew exactly which spot I was going to attack. The break went and I followed; I felt that I still had the energy and I wanted this victory so much!

“When it came to the part of the climb that I had identified, I gave everything,” he concluded. “I didn’t think about it. In the last turn, I saw that it was good! I beat some big names, but it is a victory for the team. I thank them all."

The 203.1km race was peppered with breakaways, with a 25-strong group escaping in the first half of the race. This was chased down in the closing stages, only for a second large group to go, but it was the acceleration from Marcato on the final climb to the finish that created the decisive split.

With the Italian were team captain Leukemans, Simon, Van Avermaet, Paolini and French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat). Leukemans took over into the final kilometre, but was countered by Paolini as the pave dropped a little and other riders - including Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) - began to close the gap.

The jump from Simon with less than half a kilometre to go left them all behind however and, although Van Avermaet managed to get onto the Saur-Sojasun rider’s wheel, he was unable to come past and the Frenchman sat up to celebrate the first in the race victory for his countrymen since Pascal Poisson in 1987.

Result GP de Wallonie
1. Julien Simon (Fra) Saur-Sojasun
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3. Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM
4. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
5. Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
6. Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
7. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Belgian National Team
8. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
9. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
10. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM

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