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The Tour Med 2010: a messy race won by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

Added: sunday 14 February 2010 at 19:41:00
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    The Tour Med 2010: a messy race won by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)From Wednesday till today the 37th Tour Méditerranéen took place between Carcassonne and the Mont Faron in Toulon. After Luis Léon Sanchez' victory in 2009 -which was already preceded by a victory for Iván Gutiérrez- this cycling raced finished with a third victory for the Caisse d'Epargne team: Alejandro Valverde, who came to the start as one of the favorites, won this race which didn't really completely worked out as planned!

    1st stage: Wednesday 10 February 2010 - Carcassonne > Sauvian - 95 km

    The last minute changes already started with this first stage: originally planned over a 123 kilometers distance, an arrêté préfectoral finally obliged the organisers to make it 28 kilometers shorter at only 5 days from the start. This stage thus became very short, followed an almost completely flat route; with the wind playing a big role and with ice cold temperatures it had a big influence on the general classification of this Tour Med 2010.

    Indeed, only 20 riders finished within the first group in Sauvian of whom no less than 4 riders of the Spanish team with a French sponsor, Caisse d'Epargne (Mathieu Drujon (6th), Alejandro Valverde (7th), Arnaud Coyot (13th, all three at 10 seconds) and José Garcia Acosta who finished 18th at 49 seconds). On its blog the team spoke about a winning strategy: indeed, Yvon Ledanois was the only one who proposed his riders to go out and discover the first kilometers of the stage and the riders in red and black than decided to attack ride from the start to break up the peloton.

    Yauheni HutarovichFinally Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux), who already won two stages of the Tour Med last year, crossed the finish line first in Sauviac. He was followed by William Bonnet (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) 4 seconds later and the French rider finished 2 seconds ahead of Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana).

    Another favorite, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) finished 14th, at 10 seconds from the stage winner, just like Alejandro Valverde. The other favorites were in the peloton which was led by Anthony Roux (Française Des Jeux) who finished 21st with for example Christophe Le Mével (54th, Française des Jeux), Cyril Dessel (77th, AG2R La Mondiale), Robert Gesink (80th, Rabobank), all at 2'08". Michael Rasmussen (107th, Miche, back in France after a 2 year suspension after the Tour de France 2007) and Amaël Moinard (108th, Cofidis) finished in a second peloton at 6'27".

    Arnaud Molmy (Roubaix Lille Métropole) abandoned during the stage.

    2nd stage: Thursday 11 February 2010 - Peynier > Trets - 170 km

    The second stage on Thursday started in Peynier which will also be the start city for the 6th stage of Paris-Nice 2010 on Saturday 13 March, for a stage towards Tourrettes-sur-Loup.
    In the Tour Med the stage led the riders to Trets, 170 kilometers further, with two climbs of the 2nd category: the Col des Portes after 43 kilometers and the Col de Valfere at a bit over 80 kilometers from the finish.

    Jussi VeikkanenIf the riders thought it was cold during the first stage, they had bad luck this Thursday: the temperatures didn't exceed the 0°C during this stage and they even had snow; the finish was about one and a half hour delayed compared to the original schedule.

    Second stage, second bad surprise for this Tour Med: the leading group was taken back but the riders who were in the front of the peloton were badly guided and thus left the race route in the diversion instead of going straight up to the finish line. They have been credited the same time as the winner but they didn't have any chance anymore in the bunch sprint which was won by the Finish rider Jussi Veikkanen who thus took the second stage victory for Française des Jeux in this 37th Tour Med and who took the leader's jersey at the same time (thanks to the bonification seconds). Veikkanen finished ahead of Fabien Bacquet and Yohan Mombaerts, both riding for BigMat Auber 93.

    In the general classification Veikkanen thus took the first place, ahead of William Bonnet (Bbox Bouygues Telecom - +0'04") and Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana - +0'06"). Among the favorites Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) were the highest ranked riders (7th and 8th) at 10 seconds.

    3th stage: Friday 12 February 2010 - Greasque > Six Fours Le Brusc - 115 km

    In this 3th stage towards the sea side, the riders found -in addition to the cold- 3 climbs: the Col Pas de Couelle (2nd category) after only 21 kilometers, the climb in Mazaugues (3th category) 32 kilometers further and finally Le Camp du Castellet at about 35 kilometers from the finish.

    Nothing really difficult but the perfect occasion for the two favorites (Alexandre Vinokourov and Alejandro Valverde) to attack almost from the start of the stage. They were taken back at only a few meters from the finish so the stage finally ended in a bunch sprint, which was once again won by Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux) who thus equaled his score from last year. He finished ahead of Fabien Bacquet (BigMat Auber 93) and Mathieu Drujon (Caisse d'Epargne). 38 riders were part of the first group while the biggest part of the peloton arrived 7 seconds later, led by Alexandre Geniez (Skil Shimano).

    The general classification didn't really change.

    4th stage: Saturday 13 February 2010 - La Londe les Maures > "Biot" - "160" km

    You might be wondering why the finish city and the number of kilometers is shown between quotes: that is because of the organisation's decision at the end of the stage ... Indeed, the stage was neutralised after 114 kilometers, just after Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, apparently based on an arrêté préfectoral of the Alpes-Maritimes department who didn't want to give its green light for the stage finish in Biot because of the freezing rain which led to slippery roads.

    The organisation put up a finish line at this place, slightly climbing, and in the leading group Julien El Farès (Cofidis) took his chance to win a stage, ahead of the two other leading riders Robert GesinkJonathan Thiré (Bigmat Auber 93) and Dominique Cornu (Skil-Shimano). Riding 1'15" ahead of the peloton, this victory could have a had an important impact on the general classification but -while the jury confirmed El Farès' stage win (who declared after the race he didn't really see it as a stage victory: It doesn't give me the pleasure a stage victory usually gives. This feels like a day like any other), they also decided to rank all other riders with the same time as the stage winner.

    One of the initial favorites, Robert Gesink (photo, Rabobank) declared on his Twitter feed that the organisation apparently already knew right from the start it was impossible to normally finish the race from about 40 kilometers from the finish line because they didn't have the autorisation to do so. He regretted the fact that the riders hadn't been informed of this: the rider's interest should always be the first interest.

    5th stage: Sunday 14 February 2010 - La Ciotat > Toulon - Mont Faron - 126 km

    This was the most difficult stage with 2 climbs of the second category (the Col de l'Ange after only 10 kilometers and the Col du Corps de Garde at 16 kilometers from the finish) and 2 of the first category: the Col de l'Espigoulier close to Aubagne after 32 kilometers and of course the final climb of the Mont Faron in Toulon.

    Right from the start a leading group was formed by Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano) and Rémy Di Grégorio (Française des Jeux) but this group was very quickly taken back.

    In the climb of the Col de l'Espigoulier it started snowing but since the snow didn't stay this was of no danger for the race. After a first unsuccessful attempt to attack, Brice Feillu (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) tried again with Rémi Di Grégorio but the two leading riders are also quickly taken back.

    When it stopped snowing a new group of 6 riders was formed by Mikaël Chérel and Rémy Di Grégorio for Française des Jeux, Ludovic Turpin (AG2R La Mondiale), Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), Paul Martens (Rabobank) and Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana). Their gap went up to 2'40" and just before the final climb the group split up in two and in the climb only Turpin, Di Grégorio and Fofonov stayed ahead.

    In the final climb Rémi Pauriol (Cofidis), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Francesco Masciarelli (Acqua & Sapone) attacked and took back the 3 leading riders first. The Italian rider Masciarelli decides to give it a try and attacks. Alejandro ValverdeRobert Gesink (Rabobank) still thought he had a chance to win and attacked at about 2 kilometers from the finish. He was quite surprised when at only 50 meters from the finish, Alejandro Valverde jumped over him. Francesco Masciarelli (Acqua & Sapone) stayed ahead and won the stage ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale). Robert Gesink finished 4th ahead of Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team).

    Since Vinokourov finished 10th, the Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde won this Tour Méditerranéen 2010.

    The top 5 of the general classification is as follows:
    1/ Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
    2/ Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale)
    3/ Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana)
    4/ Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team)
    5/ Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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