Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ronde de l'Isard Stage 2: Lotto drops bombs on Itera; takes overall lead for Vervaeke.

So remember when I said Alexander Foliforov was prone to being inconsistent and he was good for a one-off ride but when the pressure got turned up, say by a red/white Belgian team, he couldn't handle it? Yeah, it was pretty specific and I'm pretty sure I can read the future.

The stage win itself was dominated by the remnants of the late breakaway but the main GC fight was from behind as Lotto-Belisol was set on smashing Ivan Drago and giving everyone freedom and capitalism...okay, I might have gone slightly off track and into the plot of Rocky IV. Overnight leader Alexander Foliforov had his Itera-Katusha teammates but the Russian has been prone to big highs followed by dramatic drop offs that make him a slightly volatile talent. Foliforov and his young teammate Ildar Arslanov were headed towards a big meltdown on the slopes of the Hospice de France climb.

The stage started out with a few different attacks under stormy skies, which brought with it a slew of mechanicals that affected Tiesj Benoot and Hernan Aguirre. It took over an hour for the first attack to stick and it included a few hitters including Juan Felipe Osorio (4-72 Colombia), Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery CF) and Justin Mauch & Logan Owen (USA National), among others. The Itera-Katusha led peloton was not letting them get much of a gap and the maxium the group of 9 got was only 2 minutes. 

The gap began to drop as they went up the Col de Mente with rain showers thundering over top of them. Osorio, Latour and Frederik Plesner (Denmark) emerged as the leaders while attacks were being launched from the peloton behind. Diego Ochoa jumped out of the peloton and essentially bridged solo up to his 4-72 Colombia teammate Osorio and company on the slopes of the Mente. With chasers behind including the yellow jersey, Louis Vervaeke and others, Ochoa attacked his new break mates and was able to go over the summit solo.
With Ochoa descending in front alone, riders started to make their way off the front. First it was Paul Sauvage (CR4C Roanne) followed shortly by Jeff Perrin (USA national) along with Latour, Quentin Pacher and Loic Bouchereau. Ochoa was going strong out front will the quintet worked well to distance themselves from the favorites group heading into Bagneres de Luchon. Lilian Calmejane (Vendee U) attacked with Romain Campistrous (Occitane CF) out of the yellow jersey group and bridged their way up to the chasing quintet. On the lower slopes of the Hospice de France climb, Calmejane, Campistrous and Bouchereau, who were all teammates last year, attacked together and made their way up to Ochoa. Once the climb began to steepen at the Pont de Joueu turn, Campistrous rode away from Campistrous and Bouchereau, who were joined by Perrin.
Behind, Brecht Ruyters was leading Louis Vervaeke to the steepest section of the climb and then it was Tiesj Benoot's time to shine. With 3km to go and the breakaway up front, Benoot just hit the overdrive button and he, Vervaeke and Maxime Le Lavandier just rode away from Foliforov like he was standing still. The Russian was on an off day as he was just left for dead by the rest of the yellow jersey group shortly after.
Ahead, it was Calmejane who rode up to Campistrous and proceeded to go right by him. The grades on the climb were sickening with 2km to go. 13% average in place and there was no respite. Downslope, Benoot and Vervaeke rode Le Lavandier off their wheel and were chugging along like a Belgian freighttrain into the heart of the Pyrenees. Perrin was still going along and was catching up to Campistrous, who was grimacing like a demon. Under the red kite, Benoot and Vervaeke were still 1'40" down on the front group. A light snow replaced rain and began to fall on the climb while the overheating riders struggled on.

Lilian Calmejane took an impressive victory solo while it was Vervaeke, who was going at an incredible rate, who came in 2nd just 24 second behind Calmejane. Perrin came in 3rd just behind Vervaeke while Benoot, the powerhouse that lead Vervaeke to the GC lead, came in 4th just a few seconds down. The next GC rider to come in was Le Lavandier in 6th, who was 49" seconds down on Vervaeke but was able to shoot up to 2nd on GC at 1'05". 
The big losers on the day were Team Ecuador's Jaime Roson, who finished 4'09" down on Calmejane, and obviously Foliforov, who rolled in 5'14" down and ended any overall GC ambitions he might have had as he now sits 4'36" down on Vervaeke. Others who had strong performances were Bernando Suaza, who shot up to 5th overall after a top 10 ride, and Patrick Olesen, who put in another strong performance with a 10th place that has him 7th on GC. Jeff Perrin rose to 10th overall after his awesome ride up the Hopsice du France climb while Chris Putt, in his first European foray, is now sitting 14th overall after 2 top-20 riders on uphill finishes.

Ronde de l'Isard 2014 - arrivée de l'étape 2 by radio-velo Saturday will feature a split stage with a flat to rolling morning stage of 82 kilometers followed by a 17.7 kilometer TTT in the afternoon. Lotto-Belisol definitely has the talent to consolidate the overall lead in the TTT while Vendee U and Itera could also do well. The morning stage...well I think it has Loic Chetout written all over it but you never know.

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