Marco Marcato takes a fast Paris-Tours from a three-man break
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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Marco Marcato takes a fast Paris-Tours from a three-man break

by Ben Atkins at 9:53 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Race Reports and Results, Paris-Tours
Italian outpaces Laurens De Vreese and Niki Terpstra after an attacking day in the Sprinters’ Classic

marco marcatoMarco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) took victory in the 2012 edition of Paris-Tours, as the breakaway artists had their day again in the Sprinters’ Classic. The Italian was the fastest of the three riders that remained from a larger group that had torn itself from the front of the peloton in the complicated final 25km of the predominantly flat race, and managed to hold off a disjointed chase to contest the finish on the Tours’ famous Avenue de Grammont.

Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) managed to stick to Marcato’s wheel as he made his dash for the line but - protesting halfheartedly as the Italian moved a little across the road - could not come past on the line. Netherlands champion Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), whose fierce pace had pulled the group clear in the first place, was unable to match the pace of the other two and sat up before the line and settled for third.

Behind the three leaders a lone chase from John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) - trying vainly to be a victorious sprinter in the Sprinters’ Classic in an most unconventional fashion - crossed the line exhausted to take fourth place six seconds later, with the rest of the chasers led in by Laurent Pichon (Bretagne-Schuller) behind him.

“This is by far the greatest victory in my career,” said Marcato afterwards. “The team believed in me and I am very grateful for the work they did. It is amazing to start the winter with such a great final result.”

The break of the day came when eleven riders managed to escape the peloton in the early kilometres of the race. In the group were: Sylvain Chavanel and Jérôme Pineau (both Omega Pharma-Quick Step) Karsten Kroon and Michael Mørkøv (both Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Jannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun), Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Laszlo Bodroghi (Team Type 1-Sanofi), Arnaud Gérard (FDJ-BigMat), Koen De Kort (Argos-Shimano), and Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank). By the 55km point, the group was four minutes clear, but this was as far as they were to get.

As the peloton was bearing down on the group on the approach to the final 30km Mørkøv attacked and went away alone. A few kilometres later, the surge from Terpstra pulled Marcato, De Vreese, Pichon, Sébastien Turgot (Europcar), Julien Berard (AG2R La Mondiale) and Roy Curvers (Argos-Shimano) across to him.

On the small hills that punctuated the final ten kilometres Terpstra, Marcato and De Vreese dropped the rest, while Degenkolb managed to bridge to teammate Curvers behind them. A new chase group formed as Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) forced the pace at the head of the peloton, but the three leaders were working well together on the damp twisting approach to Tours and were holding onto their advantage.

Across the River Loire with three kilometres to go they still had a 30 second advantage, so Degenkolb jumped clear of the chasers and tried to close them down alone. The German had them in sight as they began to look at one another in the final kilometre, but just ran out of power as they began to fight it out for the line.

Terpstra opened up his sprint first, but was quickly passed by Marcato, who had De Vreese locked on his wheel, and the Italian managed to hold on to take what was the biggest victory of his career to date.

The break goes early but doesn’t get far

Chavanel was the first rider to make his move, after just five kilometres, and after 15km he managed to get clear with Talabardon and Hepburn. Steadily they were joined by the rest of what was to become the eleven-man group and, but the time they had ridden 55km were four minutes clear; it began to immediately come down slowly however and, at the 100km point, the advantage was just 2’50”.

With 100km to go the gap to the eleven leaders was down to two minutes, but that was where it was to be allowed to stay. Into the closing stages of the race however, Bretagne-Schuller and Team Sky began to increase the pace at the front of the peloton, and the lead began to shrink once more until, with 35km to go, it was just 45 seconds.

A few kilometres later, and with the gap little more than 30 seconds, Mørkøv went alone and the rest of the group drifted back into the peloton. Inside the final 25km Terpstra attacked the peloton, and was followed by Turgot, Marcato, De Vreese, Pichon, Berard and Curvers.

Europcar and Omega Pharma-Quick Step were in station on the front of the peloton, and watched the counterattacking group go away. Inside the final 18km the group had caught up with Mørkøv - who immediately went to sit on the back - but, as Saur-Sojasun began to pull the peloton behind them, they were just 24 seconds ahead.

The BMC Racing Team of 2011 winner Greg Van Avermaet then came forward to control the new breakaway and, with 15km to go, it was holding the gap at 14 seconds. This was where the course left the wide, straight roads however, and became far more complicated, so the breakaway group was able to open its lead to 19 seconds as it approached the final ten kilometres.

A crash in the peloton with 12km to go brought down a number of riders, but none of the race’s favourites appeared to be affected.

The winning trio forges ahead as the late hills disrupt the chase

As the group hit the Côte de Beau Soleil, Mørkøv was immediately dropped by the rest of the group, as Terpstra, Marcato and De Vreese pushed on. Over the top with nine to go, the three riders were 20 seconds clear as Degenkolb, then Adam Blythe (BMC Racing), broke away from the head of the peloton in pursuit.

On the Côte de l’Epan with just over seven kilometres to go, the gap to the three leaders was up to 32 seconds as Blythe was picked up by the peloton. Degenkolb was still clear though, and was chasing down the splintering group ahead; Keukeleire then forced the pace and pulled a new group clear and, on the damp and complicated descent, began to close the front three down.

With five kilometres to go Degenkolb caught up with Curvers, who began to drive the group once more in pursuit of Terpstra, De Vreese and Marcato. This group was caught by Keukeleire’s group, but progress on the three leaders was slow.

As leading trio crossed the Loire with three kilometres to go they were still more than thirty seconds clear, so Degenkolb attacked again in lone pursuit. Under the two kilometre banner the German was still 20 seconds behind them, but was gradually closing as they began to look at one another a little on the entry to the final kilometre.

As they turned onto the Avenue de Grammont they were almost at a standstill and Degenkolb was gaining; Terpstra looked over his shoulder however and, seeing the shadow of the big German bearing down on them, launched his sprint.

Marcato had been waiting for somebody to make their move though, and quickly moved past the Dutch champion with De Vreese on his wheel; knowing he was beaten Terpstra sat up. Moving to the left of the road, then back to the middle, Marcato managed to hold off De Vreese - who raised his arm in half-hearted protest at the Italian’s movement - and Marcato took a relatively easy victory.

An exhausted Degenkolb crossed the line six seconds later, and Pichon outsprinted Van Avermaet and Marcato’s Vacansoleil-DCM teammate Björn Leukemans a further six seconds behind him. Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun) led the rest of the breakaway riders over the line after 19 seconds, while Blythe beat French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) in the bunch sprint for 15th, 25 seconds behind the winner.

Result 2012 Paris-Tours
1. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM
2. Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator
3. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano @ 6s
5. Laurent Pichon (Fra) Bretagne-Schuller @ 12s
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
7. Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur-Sojasun @ 19s
9. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Zdeněk Štybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step


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