Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tour de Normandie: Shake your Caen Caen

Heading into the final stage, Alex Peters (SEG Racing) and Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems) were tied for the GC lead with Peters taking the nod due to stage count back. It came down to the shortest stage of the race of 155 kilometers through some usual Norman weather for March - rain and winds that gusted to 40 mph. It was like Gent-Wevelgem except no one was blown off their bikes and the race was decided on the line, not 50 kilometers out.

The race began slowly but soon a solo attack by Gaeten Bille (Verandas Willems) went out to soak up time bonuses for Dimitri Claeys. Bille put in a hard ride with tough winds, which would usually be something that would be forgotten into the footnotes. Alexis Bodiot (Armee de Terre) and Tim Vanspeybroeck (3M) attacked in tandem to get up to the lone rider but were never able to make the junction. The wind wiped against the peloton with such ferocity that after 100 kilometers, the majority of which were near the sea front at Omaha Beach, only 30 riders were left in the peloton.

After the big right hand turn and heading towards Caen, Bille was returned to the peloton with 35 kilometers left. The race was in tatters but it wasn't until Floris Gerts (BMC Development) launched an attack on the outskirts of Caen that the race really got on edge. Gerts, the winner of the Dorpenomloop Rucphen, was 29 seconds down on GC and quickly got a gap that was up to 35 seconds at one point.

Gerts was riding like a man possessed on the front with the chase in the peloton behind disorganized. Three local laps around the hippodrome totaled just 10 kilometers but heading into the final lap, Gerts still had a 25 second lead. With some luck, that could have been enough to get him the win. The peloton surged to life and Gerts' lead was slipping dramatically but it was too little too late and the Dutchman was able to cross the line solo for his 2nd win of the year.

Don't cry. You won!
Behind, the GC race was coming down to the bonus seconds on the line. Peters is a climber and his sprint is well...just alright. Claeys on the other hand is a kermesse king and has been a handy sprinter for years on all levels.

Claeys wins the GC thanks to the 6 bonus seconds for 2nd place.
Claeys took the sprint for 2nd and Peters finished mid-pack and the bonus seconds was how the race was decided. Claeys, the first Belgian winner, added his name to the winner's list of the Tour de Normandie that includes British legend Paul Curran, Ekimov, Hushovd, Sammy Dumoulin, Kai Reus (x2), Thomas Dekker and current BMC professionals Silvan Dillier and Stefan Küng.

While SEG racing was denied their first UCI win of the season, they were able to finally get a UCI podium thanks to Alex Peters stage placings and 2nd overall. Hackney-born Peters won the best young rider overall while fellow teammate and U23 Koen Bouwman won the KOM classification.

Other storylines...

-BMC Development wasn't able to make it 3-in-a-row in the Tour de Normandie but they did leave the race with bookend stage wins. Tom Bohli finished off a consistent week with 6th overall.

-Rabobank Development was decimated by illness and injury as 5 out of their 6 riders left the race before the 5th stage. The team's lone finisher was first year U23 Peter Lenderink, who finished a respectable 28th overall.

-U23s had a very respectable week with 5 riders in the top 10 with Peters (2nd), Daniel Hoelgaard (4th), Tom Bohli (6th), Gerts (9th) and Owain Doull (10th). Along with 4 stages wins, it was a good weeks for the young bucks.

-Teams that underperformed? Itera-Katusha, Lotto-Belisol U23 and Armée de Terre.

-The last stage saw 37 DNF/DNS riders. Only 66 finishers with Estonian Oskar Nisu (VC Rouen 76) last on GC at 52'13" back on Claeys.

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