French early season races: Tour Méditerranéen review

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The Tour Méditerranéen was wide open going into the final stage with the leading riders separated by a few seconds and the first ten on general classification separated by just one minute. In a nail-biting finish, Thomas Lovkvist (IAM) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) were left tied on time at the end of the four stages. Victory was awarded to the Swede on count-back – his first win since 2009 and his new Swiss team’s maiden win. Peraud was runner-up and Francesco Reda (Androni) took the third spot on the podium.

Final stage winner Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) won the points jersey, Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli) was best young rider, while neo-pro Theo Vimpere (Big Mat) was king of the cols.

Race summary

The in-form Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) won the opening day’s 141km stage from Limoux to Gruissan in a bunch sprint, beating Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) into second place with Maxime Daniel (Sojasun) third. The three-man break of the day had slipped away early on but was pulled back by the sprinters’ teams with 10km to go.

The powerhouse that is Lars Boom (Blanco) took victory – and the overall lead – in 32:35 on the 24km fast and largely flat individual time trial from Cap d’Agde to Mon-Saint-Clair. A nifty manoeuvre which saw former cyclo-cross world champion Boom change bikes at the foot of the only climb to the finish, gave him the edge over former Belgian time trial champion Maxime Monfort (RadioShack Leopard), who finished second 22 seconds down, with Anthony Roux (FDJ) third at 36 seconds back.

Not long after the stage finished, the riders discovered that Friday’s third stage from Marseille to Saint Remy de Provence was going to be an unscheduled rest day.

According to La Provence – the local press – Friday’s parcours in the finishing locale of Saint Rémy de Provence couldn’t be secured and, after failing to find an alternate route, the stage had to be cancelled.

Racing resumed on Saturday with a 151km stage from Rousset to Toulon, including the traditional mountain finish atop Mont Faron, which typically decides the Tour’s general classification winner. Sadly, my tip for the stage win – fellow Brummie Dan Martin – and his teammates awoke to find themselves without steeds!

Former mountain biker Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) attacked in the final 5km of the climb up Mont Faron to take his maiden professional road win. The last time the race finished here in 2011, Peraud was runner-up to now-retired David Moncoutie (Cofidis). Monfort assumed the race lead with a one-second advantage over previous leader Boom while Thomas Lovkvist (IAM) moved up to third overall.

An early eight-man break included friend of VeloVoices Geoffroy Lequatre (Bretagne-Seche) but race leader Boom’s Blanco team never allowed their lead to extend much beyond three minutes and the last of the escapees was safely back in the main pack before the final ascent. Peraud’s teammate Matteo Montaguti led him up the climb in the company of Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol), who subsequently faded. Francesco Reda (Androni) and Bauke Mollema (Blanco) led home the pursuing pack.

On Sunday’s concluding stage Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) went on the attack again on the final climb, just overhauling Reda in the last few hundred metres. with Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finishing third.

There was a large escape group of 17 riders but the presence of perennial escape artist Jeremy Roy (FDJ), at only 1:30 down on GC, ensured they were never given too much leeway. Roy, Blel Kadri (Ag2r) and Jon Izagirre (Eusklatel) broke ranks on the Col du Tanneron and were later joined by others from the original break but they were all subsumed back into the peloton for the final charge up to Grasse. Reda was the first to go on the offensive but he was ultimately matched and overhauled by Roelandts. Meanwhile, Lovkvist had managed to give both Monfort  – who finished fourth overall – and Boom the slip to move himself up to top spot.

Analysis & opinion

A beaming victor, Thomas Lovkvist (image courtesy of IAM)

A beaming victor, Thomas Lovkvist (image courtesy of IAM)

A quick gander at the general classification reveals a number of riders who have clearly benefitted from the move to new teams. Not least the overall winner, Thomas Lovkvist, who has re-emerged from the Sky chrysalis as an IAM butterfly to record his first win since his 2009 triple. Stephen Roche, on the podium for the presentation ceremony, will have been delighted to see his son Nico’s move to Saxo-Tinkoff beginning to bear fruit with a strong ride to fifth overall. Likewise, Alexandre Geniez, who had an uncomfortable final season with the Argonauts, finished ninth for new team FDJ.

Two final thoughts. I loved the new spotty sleeved maillots at this year’s Tour and I’d like to wish Marco Pinotti (BMC) a speedy recovery from his time trial crash in which he fractured two ribs and injured his shoulder.

General classification

1. Thomas Lovkvist (IAM) 12:27:24

2. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) same time

3. Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) +0:11

4. Maxime Monfort (RadioShack Leopard) +0:16

5. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:20

6. Bauke Mollema (Blanco) +0:30

7. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) +0:41

8. Gustav Larsson (IAM) +0:50

9. Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) s/t

10: Arthur Vichot (FDJ) +1:06

Link: Official website

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