Carlos Betancur won the opening stage of this year’s Tour du Haut Var today, with a late attack inside the final kilometer that caught veteran sprinter John Degenkolb and his teammate Samuel Dumoulin off guard.
How the Race Unfolded
Today’s 151 kilometer stage from Le Cannet des Maures to La Croix Valmer, featured a mostly flat route that contained three climbs along the way – concluding with four laps around of 6.1 kilometer finishing circuit with a slight uphill finish.
Shortly after the race began, a four man breakaway group containing Gert Joeaar, Thomas Rostollan, Rodolfo Torres, Joe Perrett and Florian Guillou, got underway.
At the 26 kilometer mark, the escapees had established a lead of approximately four minutes over the peloton. At that point, Giant-Shimano decided to initiate a chase. And, with some help from Europcar, by the 29 kilometer mark, they had succeeded in reducing the gap to around three minutes.
In the escape group, Rostollan beat Torres and Guillou in the first intermediate sprint. However, Guillou in turn beat Torres and Rostollan during the day’s first climb to claim the maximum bonus points of the day. Rostallan, however, bounced back and subsequently won the second intermediate sprint.
Meanwhile back in the peloton, Degenkolb experienced a mechanical problem that consequently interrupted the chase. This in turn prompted Giant-Shimano to up their pace. And, by the 56 kilometer mark, they had reduced the escapee’s gap to 2:15.
Just before the second climb of the day, Joeaar suffered a puncture. However, the Estonian rider managed to rejoin the group, while Guillou proceeded to beat his companions over the top of the ascent.
At that point, the breakaway group’s lead had dwindle to a little more than a minute over the chase. As a result, attacks from within the breakaway group started to occur.
Perrett and Torres were the first two riders to attempt an attack to no avail. However, a determined Torres refused to give up, and on the ascent, he set off on his own – subsequently building up a slight lead of 18 seconds. In the meantime, Rostollan fell off the pace.
After Torres crested the summit alone, the escapees, to include Rostollan, came back together. However, with 28 kilometers remaining, the quintet was reeled in by the peloton.
This prompted Thomas Vaubourzeix to initiate an attack of his own from within the newly consolidated peloton, while Theo Vimpere set off in pursuit of him.
Vimpere was quickly reeled back in, but Vaubourzeix continued to maintain a slight lead of 18 seconds over the chase. And, by the second lap of the finish circuit, he had increased his gap to 22 seconds. However, with 13 kilometers remaining, a determined Giant-Shimano team caught the French rider. After that, everything came back together again.
From there, Quentin Jauregui decided to make a go of it on his own, with Di Gregorio, Brice Feillu and a third rider in pursuit. Only Di Gregorio and Feillu were able to bridge themselves to Jauregui.
The trio then managed to build up a gap of 25 seconds over the peloton, while teams chased in earnest. And, as they entered the final lap, they managed to increase their gap to a full half minute.
However, inside the final kilometer, Giant-Shiman, along with the help of three 3 Ag2r riders succeeded in shutting down the breakaway.
At that point, everything appeared to be set for Degenkolb to seize the win. But, much to his surprise, Betancur launched a late acceleration that left the German sprinter unable to respond.
With today’s victory, Betancur assumes the position of race leader – with a 203.4 kilometer scheduled for tomorrow that will feature numerous steep climbs throughout the day, to include Cote des Tulieres just 20.5 kilometer from the finish.
1. Carlos Betancur 3.42.00
2. John Degenkolb
3. Samuel Dumoulin
4. Armindo Fonseca +0.03
5. Mikael Cherel
6. Cyril Gautier
7. Fran Ventoso
8. Cadel Evans
9. Maxime Vantomme
10. Jerome Pineau +0.06
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