Tour de l’Ain: Bardet takes the overall for maiden victory
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tour de l’Ain: Bardet takes the overall for maiden victory

by Kyle Moore at 8:53 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
Meersman, Duque, Bole, Sanchez, and Poels nab wins in French five-day event

Romain BardetThe Tour de l’Ain concluded on Tuesday, with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) chalking up the first victory of his career by taking the overall title ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Belkin). The five-day “Race of Friendship” in eastern France was celebrating its 25th edition, and now has its 25th different winner since beginning in 1989.

After knocking on the door throughout his one-plus years as a professional, Bardet finally opened it with the overall victory in the race. The Frenchman used a second place finish on the final stage to establish his victory margin, pulling out 1’25” on Sanchez, giving him a buffer of 1’13” over the Spaniard on the final podium. Bardet’s AG2R team-mate John Gadret took third overall.

Often on the attack, Tuesday’s results were Bardet’s best, along with a second place he earned in the same race last year. Coming off his first Tour de France, the 22-year-old spoke of his team’s recent successes, even as his own stock continues to rise.

“I’m very happy, because really this is a collective victory,” he stated. “Today everything went as we had planned in the briefing this morning. We knew there was a move to make and everyone has been involved. We’re still riding the wave of our good Tour de France and this victory rewards the efforts of the whole team.
This is my first pro win and it's pure happiness! I know the Tour de l'Ain and it is an event I've always enjoyed. I knew if I stayed focused after the Tour de France it was possible to maintain good form and perform well. That manifested itself today, so it’s nice!”

The Tour de l’Ain got underway on Friday night with a 4.5km prologue in Trévoux. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took it out for his fifth victory of the season.

Stage one came down to a sprint, which Leonardo Duque (Colombia) grabbed ahead of Yannick Martinez (La Pome Marseille). The victory erased a three-year winless streak for the Colombian. “It feels great to get another crucial win here, in the place where everything began for me,” Duque marveled afterward. “We have been working hard all season long, and now celebrating two great successes in ten days is really huge. Of course many things have changed in eight years, and I took more wins on my way, but this is also my first win with Team Colombia, so it’s really special. This success is for the whole team, who worked patiently for the whole season and is now starting to get rewarded, and of course for Colombia and our fans all over the world.”

Grega Bole (Vacansoleil-DCM) got a pesky losing streak of his own out of the way on stage two, nabbing his first win since 2011 out of a small group sprint. “Bole got dropped just before the top of the last climb, but he quickly managed to catch up in the descent. Then Wout Poels prepared the sprint and Grega easily took the win while Wout hung on for sixth. The way our guys are riding here is promising for the rest of the week,” team director Michel Cornelisse prophesized with two stages left.

On stage three, it was Belkin’s turn with Sanchez. He won on Monts Jura out of an elite eight-man group that arrived together. Belkin team-mate Tom Jelte Slagter grabbed the overall lead after the stage. “It was a wonderful day for us, with the stage win and the overall jersey," said team director Erik Dekker. "It was a very hard stage, with everyone attacking from the beginning. [Steven] Kruijswijk rode into a breakaway, but he was caught before the final climb, and that's where everything happened. Luis and Tom-Jelte made the front group. When Sanchez is in the front group like that, he always has a good chance to win. He showed today he is still fast. Sanchez rode smart. He made just that one move, and he was gone. It was wonderful."

Stage four featured the decisive Col du Grand Colombier, although it crested more than 30 kilometres from the finish. Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) won his third career Tour de l’Ain stage, going alone off the descent with Bardet and taking the Frenchman on the line. Slagter cracked and lost 2’17”, and the duo worked together to finish 1’25” ahead of the small group containing Sanchez.

“This is a great victory. It was quite a hard stage, but of course I knew the finish,” Poels admitted. “Working together with Bardet, who went for the win in the GC, went well. I’m glad to have been able to pull this off. It’s a boost of confidence for the weeks to come!”

The weeks to come should feature Bardet, Sanchez, Poels, and Meersman, as all are on long lists to start the Vuelta a España.

Tour de l’Ain General Classification Brief Results:

1, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) in 14hr09’22”
2, Luis Leon Sanchez (Belkin) at 1’13”
3, John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) at 1’15”
4, Sébastian Reichenback (IAM Cycling) at 1’37”
5, Stéphane Rossetto (BigMat-Auber 93) at 1’50”
6, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) at 1’55”
7, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) at 2’00”
8, Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) at 2’00”
9, Tom Jelte Slagter (Belkin) at 2’01”
10, Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 3’48”

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