Tour de Langkawi: Bryan Coquard takes stage eight in the tightest sprint
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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tour de Langkawi: Bryan Coquard takes stage eight in the tightest sprint

by Ben Atkins at 3:22 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour de Langkawi
 
Olympic track silver medallist wins best road result to date

Bryan CoquardBryan Coquard (Europcar) took the best road result of his short career to date as he sprinted to victory at the end of the eighth stage of the 2013 Tour de Langkawi, between Kuala Terengganu and Tanah Merah. The Omnium silver medallist from London 2012 was led into the finishing straight by lead out man Kevin Reza, and hit the line side by side with Briton Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia).

Coquard managed to force his bike ahead of Fenn and Chicchi, to cross the line little more than half the circumference of his front wheel ahead. Fenn Edged out Chicchi by an even lesser amount to post his own best result of the race so far.

The previous day’s stage winner Andrea Guardini (Astana) was fourth, with New Zealander Rico Rogers (Synergy-Baku) also collecting his own - and his team’s - best finish to date.

“Firstly, I’m very happy to win a stage at the Tour de Langkawi,” said Coquard afterwards. “I knew I was able to go fast, but it’s really nice to win in a field full of so many good sprinters. It was a test for the beginning of my career; my coach Andy Flickinger told me that if I manage to win a stage here it would be very good.

“I thank the team, because they have worked a lot for me,” he continued. “It has produced a good result, not only today, but the work for the preparation of the sprint for the team has been good since the beginning of the race.”

Although Coquard already had two victories under his belt in 2013, in the Etoile de Bessèges in France, he joins the likes of Guardini and Alessandro Petacchi as sprinters that won their first big race in Malaysia.

“It’s very good to win here, but I don’t think I’m yet at the level of these riders,” he said. “I’m very young, I’m almost 21, and I have to improve a lot.

“I don’t want to sell the skin of the wolf before I’ve killed it,” he added.

The break of the day, which eventually escaped the peloton after a frenetic first 50km, came from Low Ji Wen (OCBC Singapore) and Liu Jianpeng (Hengxiang). The two riders managed to get 10’41” ahead by the stage’s halfway point, before being steadily hunted down by the combined efforts of Astana, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, and Garmin-Sharp.

With 20km to go the two breakaway riders still held a lead of 2’47” but, as the sprinters’ teams began to move into position, the peloton accelerated further and this evaporated quickly. Inside the final 15km Liu left Low behind, but he was picked up inside the final ten kilometres.

The sprinters teams then kept the pace high as they battled for position in the final kilometres, and Reza led Coquard down the right side of the road to take the victory.

The 164.5km stage was another simple one for race leader Julian Arredondo (Nippo-De Rosa), who was able to allow the sprinters’ to control the race. The Colombian ended the day safely in the peloton, with his 1’15” lead over Dutchman Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) intact.

A high speed start as everybody wants to make the break of the day

The eighth stage was expected to follow a similar pattern to the seventh, as it made its way further north along Malaysia’s east coast. The mostly flat parcours seemed ideal for a day for the sprinters’ teams to chase down a breakaway but, with heavy rain showers likely to fall on the peloton, and the possibility of crosswinds coming off the South China Sea, nothing was guaranteed.

The opening kilometres of the stage saw the entire peloton strung out in one long line as a multitude of riders tried to form the break of the day.

The first move to make any significant ground ahead of the peloton came from Junya Sano (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Seung Woo Choi (KSPO) and Li Fuyu (Hengxiang), who got clear after five kilometres. The trio was back in the fold at kilometre nine, however, and nobody else was able to escape for some time. Sunjae Jang (RTS) and Josapheus Rabou (OCBC Singapore) tried after 25km, but they too were pulled back before they could get far.

Finally, after 47km, Low and Liu got away and the peloton relaxed. Liu was the best-placed of the two riders, 16’31” behind Arredondo in 43rd place, and so the two-man break was finally deemed acceptable by the peloton.

By the 81km point the two riders had been allowed to build a lead of 10’48” before the Astana team took over the head of the peloton from Arredondo’s Nippo-De Rosa, and began the steady task of pulling them back.

The peloton closes in and the fugitives don’t stand a chance

With Vini Fantini-Selle Italia and Garmin-Sharp joining the chase, the leading duo’s advantage was down to 7’25” as the race entered the final 50km. It was still as high as 2’47” with just 20km to go, however, giving the two Asian Continental riders a slim chance of making it to the finish.

A subplot in the peloton chase saw Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) race to pick up the available bonus seconds at the three intermediate sprints of the stage.

“There’s seconds to take, so why not,” Haas told VeloNation after the stage. “There were two guys up the road, but you just have to keep trying to take those seconds if you can.

“The first time I was raced by one of the [MTN] Qhubeka guys [Eritrean Jani Tewelde - ed], the second on I was raced by some Singaporean guy [Fatahilah Abdulla (Indonesia) - ed] - I don’t know why he was racing - and the third one I just got off clear.”

While he only managed to pick up one bonus second in all, the Australian moved a little closer to fifth place Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang) in the general classification, while also opening a little more space between himself and Fortunato Baliani (Nippo-De Rosa) in seventh.

“So it was good to get the second,” Haas said.

Low was unable to follow Liu as they entered the final 15km, and the Chinese rider set off for the finish alone. One rider was no match for the charging peloton, however, and as more teams joined the chase, Liu was quickly caught.

“Today we waited because there sere only two guys in the break, and then at the end we tried to put Andy Fenn in a good position,” Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Carlos Verona explained to VeloNation afterwards.

“Today was better than the sixth stage, it was also difficult because the first part until 50km the break wasn’t done, so it wasn’t easy to control”

Into the finish the Astana, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Europcar teams were all battling for the front position but, as Kevin Reza led the Olympic medallist down the right side of the road, Coquard sprinted to victory.

Result stage 8
1. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar
2. Andy Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3. Francesco Chicchi (ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
4. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Team Astana
5. Rico Rogers (NZl) Synergy-Baku Cycling Project
6. Omar Bertazzo (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela
7. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Sharp
8. Hossein Nateghi (Iri) Tabriz Petrochemical Team
9. Anuar Manan (Mas) Synergy-Baku Cycling Project
10. Jani Tewelde (Eri) MTN-Qhubeka

Standings after stage 8
1. Julian Arredondo (Col) Team Nippo-De Rosa
2. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge @ 1’15”
3. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) MTN-Qhubeka @ 2’10”
4. Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-Sharp @ 2’32”
5. Wang Meiyin (Chn) Hengxiang Cycling Team @ 2’40”
6. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp @ 2’47”
7. Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Team Nippo-De Rosa @ 2’49”
8. John Ebsen (Den) Synergy-Baku Cycling Project @ 2’55”
9. Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) MTN-Qhubeka @ 2’58”
10. Amir Kolahdozhagh (Iri) Tabriz Petrochemical Team

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