This year’s Tour du Haut Var-Matin attracted a stellar cast whose performances didn’t disappoint despite the contrasting weather, with glorious warm sunshine on Saturday and a chilly damp Sunday with outbreaks of rain and hail. Arthur Vichot (FDJ), already prominent in the early season races, beat off more fancied opposition with his consistency on both stages to take overall victory. He rather cleaned up on the jerseys too, claiming those for the points and best young rider. RadioShack’s Laurent Didier was king of the mountains and Blanco were best team. Vichot finished on the same time overall as Blanco teammates Lars Boom and Laurens Ten Dam but his superior placings saw him claim the crown with the other two second and third respectively.
Back with a bang (of thunder!), Norse God Thor Hushovd (BMC) buried his frustratingly dry 2012 season to take the first stage on a parcours perfectly suited to his powerful racing style.
Thor, the Norse god of war, allegedly patrolled the skies in a chariot pulled by two goats. Here it was his teammates Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato who brought him to the front with 200 metres remaining. Tour Down Under winner Tom-Jelte Slagter (Blanco) tried to jump him but Thor still had one more throw of the hammer to hold off him and the advancing Arthur Vichot to record his first win since September 2011.
On the opening undulating 152.7km sprint-friendly stage from Le Cannet des Maures, an early trio had built a lead of eight minutes before being hauled back on the first of the day’s two small climbs with 55km remaining. This prompted a flurry of attacks as the peloton headed for the final five circuits around the finish in La Croix-Valmer. BMC, ever present in the leading group, controlled the final charge and guided Thor to victory.
While Thor himself was delighted to confirm his form with a victory, an old friend perhaps said it best:
Today in Haut Var one of my oldest friends in cycling won- the official retour of” Thor the God of Thunder” i am so happy for him!
After Saturday’s thunderous bang, on Sunday we had a Boom: Lars Boom (Blanco), who sprinted across the finish line on the second and final stage – a 207km parcours around Draguigan reminiscent of a Belgian semi-Classic – to add to his stage two victory in the recent Tour Mediterraneen.
Arthur Vichot (image courtesy of FDJ)
Boom was one of the survivors of the day’s 15-man break which splintered in the circuit around the hill-top villages. Vichot, the day’s runner-up, only bridged across to the leaders on the run-in to the finish but managed to follow the decisive attack in the last 3km. Daniel Oss finished third.
Boom and Vichot were tied on aggregate time with Laurens Ten Dam but Vichot got the nod on account of his superior placings – third and second. Stage one winner Hushovd led home the peloton to finish fifth overall.
Vichot was delighted with his victory and confirmed:
This is a race that I had in mind since the beginning of the season, with a course that suits me perfectly. I had good legs since the beginning of the year. My team was at my service and I am proud to have met their expectations.
Analysis & opinion
A number of team managers will have departed the Var feeling quietly confident of their charges’ form ahead of next weekend’s double-header in Belgium. [Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne – Ed.] The length and climatic conditions of Sunday’s stage will have been excellent training for those forthcoming races.
Podium (l to r) Boom, Vichot, Ten Dam (image courtesy of official race website)
Most notably, BMC’s Thor Hushovd is getting back to his best and will soon be locking horns again with the other stage winner, Blanco’s Lars Boom, who has displayed excellent early season form. Indeed, in the search for a replacement sponsor the team have been firing on all cylinders. In addition, the management of both teams will have been delighted at the respective team efforts which resulted in those individual stage wins.
A number of French teams have been quickly out of the start gate, racking up points and wins both on home and foreign soil, none more so than FDJ who will have been delighted with Vichot’s overall win and the part played by his teammates, most notably team leader Perrick Fedrigo, who finished fourth overall. You may recall Vichot first came to the world’s attention when the Adelaide cycling club made him a viral star with their support in his maiden Tour Down Under in 2010.
Much to the disappointment of the crowd, one of the race’s much fancied runners, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was felled in Sunday’s slippery conditions thereby ending his race ambitions.