Europcar's Saïd Haddou takes final day of Besseges, Anthony Ravard triumphs overall
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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Europcar's Saïd Haddou takes final day of Besseges, Anthony Ravard triumphs overall

by Jered Gruber at 6:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Thrilling final day decided by centimeters

At the start of the final stage of the Etoile de Besseges, the race was anything but decided. Race leader, Anthony Ravard (AG2R-La Mondiale) was on the same time as Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland, and Hoogerland's teammate, Marco Marcato, was only a breath behind.

The thrilling final day would conclude with seven, seven kilometer laps in Besseges.

After only ten kilometers, a break wrenched clear of the group, but it would never get much of a leash, as there was a general classification that needed deciding at the day's first intermediate sprint.

The group of Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Dominique Cornu (Topsport-Vlaanderen), and Pavel Brutt (Katusha) earned some time ahead of the field and pushed out to a maximum of two minutes over a Vacansoleil-led peloton, but with 50 kilometers remaining in the race, the break returned to the fold, and the potentially decisive intermediate sprint was on.

Race leader, Anthony Ravard, took the sprint over Marco Marcato and Jerome Coppel. The sprint win gave Ravard a valuable three second bonus and put him in a commanding position heading into the final sprint of the day and the tour.

Following the sprint, the pack eased up for a breath and a little relaxation, allowing another group to go up the road. Jeremy Roy made it two breakaway groups in two days with his second successful sniff of the move. He was accompanied by Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1), and Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun).

This time, the race was headed by AG2R back in the peloton.

Velonation diarist Bertogliati was happy to get in the break, which put a significant amount of pressure on AG2R from behind.

"I expected a sprint, because the course was really flat and the right riders from the right teams were in our break. It's always good to be in a breakaway, so that the team does not have responsibilities back in the peloton," said the Swiss time trial champion.

With two laps and 14 kilometers remaining, the leading quartet had a tenuous lead of 45 seconds. Seven kilometers later, as the bell was rung, the group had only 20 seconds. It wasn't long before the fighting foursome of Gusev, Bertogliati, Hivert, and Roy were retrieved just in time for the finish.

In a sprint decided by finish line camera footage, it was Europcar's Saïd Haddou, who took the day over Sven Jodts (Topsport Vlaanderen), Anthony Ravard (AG2R), and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil).

After wrapping up the overall win, the 27 year old Ravard could only talk about his team.

"It's a great reward for all my teammates, who did a great job. Today, they brought me back each time I was in trouble and had to deal with the climbs and the sprint. In the end, I modeled my sprint on Marcato's to ensure the overall standings. It may have cost me the stage victory, but it all played out in only a few centimeters."

As the humble, appreciative Ravard continues, he still forgets to even mention himself as he goes through each teammate that helped him throughout the week.

"My teammates have really been there for me throughout the week. The more experience riders like Martin Elmiger, Christophe Riblon, and Sebastien Minard advised me a lot. Others, like Maxime Bouet and Hubert Dupont, relieved me by getting into breaks. Romain Lemarchand was also there to support me."

Finally, Ravard takes a look at himself.

"It feels good to win as early as February. I hope to continue in this way - why not at the Tour Mediterranean? With this victory, the AG2R La Mondiale team defended its status on the World Tour."

Final Overall Standings:


1. Anthony Ravard (AG2R)
2. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) +7
3. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) +7
4. Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ) +15
5. Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) +19

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