A group of four riders that included former US collegiate champion Alister Ratcliff (3M) Boris Vallee (ColorCode-Biowanze) Antoine Demoitie (Ventilair-Steria) and Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana CT) escaped from the peloton early in the stage and controlled the early racing. The 21-year old Kozhatayev dominated the climbs as he took an astonishing eight KOM sprints today (out of 10) as he easily racked up enough points to take home the overall climber's jersey. With a little over 75 kilometers left, a group of three that included Ruben Zepuntke (Rabobank Devo), who was just 25 seconds off the lead of Craddock, attacked and eventually bridged to the breakaway. With 55km to go, Silvestre's Leopard-Trek ramped up the pace as they were keen on bringing the breakaway back so that Silvestre could have a chance at taking the overall back from Craddock. Within 15 kilometers, Leopard-Trek shut down the breakaway and at 31 kilometers to go, Silverstre won the 4th intermediate sprint of the day, which put him level with Craddock on the G.C.
Not to be outdone by Silvestre, Jeroen Lepla (Ventilair-Steria) attacked the group and tried to get a gap for the 5th intermediate sprint but was quickly brought back. As soon as he was brought back, Lawson Craddock and three other riders attacked right before the Col de la Croix Jubaru but the gap was brought back following the descent on the backside of the climb. At the 5th sprint, Silvestre was able to gain 3rd place and was now just one second ahead of Craddock. Not satisfied with 2nd place, Craddock once again attacked before the Jubaru climb, this time solo, and was joined by two riders and they led over the climb with just 10 kilometers to go. The move was short lived as they were swept up with 8 kilometers to go. As the kilometers wound down, a sprint finish was inevitable and in the end, Color Code-Biowanze rider Florent Mottet, a rider I mentioned in my preview, was able to come out on top over Daniel McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23) and Asbjorn Kragh (Denmark)
|Fabio Silvestre resplendent in yellow|
Top 10 (stage)
- Florent Mottet (Color Code-Biowanze)
- Daniel McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23)
- Asbjorn Kragh (Denmark)
- Marco Benfatto (Astana CT)
- Dylan Groenewegen (De Rijke-Shanks)
- Edward Theuns (VL Techniks)
- Rick Zabel (Rabobank Devo)
- Eugenio Alafaci (Leopard-Trek)
- Maxime Farazijn (EFC-OPQS)
- Otto Vergaerde (Ovyta-Eijssen)
Top 5 (G.C.)
- Fabio Silvestre (Leopard-Trek)
- Lawson Craddock (USA) +1"
- Jeroen Lepla (Ventilair-Steria) +2"
- Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) +6"
- Eugenio Alafaci (Leopard-Trek) +16"
I cannot praise the racing by both Leopard-Trek and the USA National squad enough. Leopard-Trek had three riders within the top 15 but they had their game plan of getting Silvestre bonus seconds and they stuck to it and made it happen. The USA national team did pretty much everything possible to keep Craddock in yellow but when you come up against a better sprinter, what can you do?
- Craddock really impressed me this week. He changed his approach this season and started out slower than usual and focused much more on building his base. After yesterday's afternoon stage and his aggressive riding today, he really proved himself that he could be one of the big American riders for the future.
- Jeroen Lepla was a standout performer this weekend. After yesterday's stage, he said that he had a great winter and felt that he had jumped up another level with his training. It definitely showed this weekend as he was active in every stage.
- Silvestre will be getting a pro contract next season. He was 4th overall at Tour de Normandie and his performance here really showed that he is ready for the next level.
- Florent Mottet surprised me as I thought this course would be too hard for him. Mottet took his 2nd win of the year while Daniel McLay continued his impressive early season with his 2nd place here today.