GALA Tour de France 2014

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17th GALA Tour de France
invitational criterium for elite and U23 riders
03.08.2014 - Um Belval

In Deutscher Sprache GALA TdF 2014
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Nice reward for Ben Gastauer

Usually, the Post-Tour criteriums are designed to put the big stars in the spotlight, but this year at the Gala Tour de France, it was a team-player, a helper that was rewarded for his excellent work throughout the year, in front of massif line of spectators in the last straight line, while the rest of the course was rather spairly filled with fans. With Jean-Christophe Péraud, the runner-up of the latest Tour de France, Ben Gastauer had a perfect partner in his quest for the win: the AG2R tactics paid off and the home rider won only a few metres away from his former residence in Belval.

Unlike the last years, the organizers chose to hold the event on a Sunday with a double goal: attract more spectators to the race on one hand and have a larger support program on the other one. The first objective wasn't really achieved since they were only a few spectators more than last year to bear the unstable weahter conditions, but the support races were a real success with a few surprises: the visit of the Israel National team in the amateur race for instance or the domination of the UC Dippach riders in the novice event.

The first race of the day, for juniors, masters and elite without contract riders, had a rather international line-up since, in addition to the usual suspects from Luxemburg, Belgium or France, there were representatives from Italy, Great-Britain and Israel, with a full National team of seven riders. The foreigners eventually dominated the race with the first home rider coming in on position 11 only. The very first part of the race was marked by a spectacular crash after the first intermediate sprint, a crash that send several riders on the ground an a few of them to hospital, eliminating already Guy Gabay and Roy Goldstein from Israel. After the incident, the jury decided to cancel the next intermediate sprint for more safety for the riders and the race was thus held as a normal road race instead of criterium modus. The speed was nevertheless high and after an attack from Luxemburg's Robert Schmitt and France's Jean-Luc Wiesener, the peloton was splitt up already. They were about a dozen still at the front when the deciding break of two riders went away. It was composed by Aviv Yechezkel, a former junior national champion of Israel, as well as 18 year young Italian Jan Petelin, whose mother is from Luxemburg and who was Italian champion in the novice category down in 2011. The two of them created a gap of a few seconds on another duo, Belgian Christophe Gillardin and another rider from Israel, Ben Einhern, and a few seconds more on a group of 10 units driven by the riders vom CS Thionvillois. The win was finally decided in a sprint between the two riders in the break and Aviv Yechezkel was faster on the line than Petelin who had to settle down with second place and the title of best junior rider. 21 seconds later, Christophe Gillardin took third place while Britain Tom Yeangou won the sprint of the first little peloton for fifth. At 1'08", Joel Weirig finished in 13th place and was first master rider out of 10 participants in that category.

At 15 o'clock, while there were more and more spectators lining up behind the barriers, 16 novices and 4 women took the start of their race, but they didn't stay together for very long. It took only two laps to the riders from UC Dippach to send two of their members to the front, and they were soon joined by two more of their teammates. Felix Keiser, Raphael Kockelmann, Colin Heiderscheid and Michel Ries were though four of the same team at the front for a real show, putting all the other riders at a few minutes. They were eight chasing behind, but were never able to close the gap on the four leading riders who fought out the victory in a sprint. Colin Heiderscheid finally won several bike lengths ahead of Ries and Kockelmann. 3'10" minutes behind the winner, Felix Schreiber was the first non-member of UC Dippach when he won the sprint for fifth place while Laurence Thill, young lady from Luxemburg riding for the Belgian team of Maldegem, ended in 14th position as best women in the race.

In the meantime, a few dark clouds had appeared above Belval and just in time for the presentation of the pro riders, they started to throw their liquid down onto the earth. In only a few moments, the roads were empty: spectators and riders were all hiding in the buildings around and the finish line showed a rather depressing image with the rain pouring down and no spectators around at all. Fortunately, the rain didn't last very long and if the presentation of the riders was literally drowned, the start of the race took place under rather decent conditions. In fact, the weather was all right during the whole race and it was only at the award ceremony that the rain started again, causing most of the spectators to leave early.

But before that, there was the race and if Laurent Didier and Nicolas Roche led the peloton through the first lap at a rather slow speed, the battle didn't take long to begin. A group with Dennis Coenen, Guillaume Haag, Markel Irizar and Jean-Christophe Péraud broke away soon and, even if they didn't last very long at the head of the race, the move showed that the second of the last Tour had some ambitions in this race. More riders showed themselves after that: in his first race for the Leopard Development Team, Luc Turchi was very proud to show his new jersey in a break, together with the National champion of Portugal, Nelson Oliveira. But the two from Tinkoff-Saxo, Roche and Rogers, worked a lot at the head of the peloton, bringing back the wo leader after a lap or two. Three riders escaped after that, but even though they were allied to Tony Gallopin, stage winner and yellow jersey wearer in the last Tour de France, Benjamin Verraes and James Vanlandschoot, former and actual team-mate of Jempy Drucker, couldn't do much against a peloton led by the riders from Trek, Tinkoff-Saxo and AG2R.

It was all together again though at mid-race, but serious things started from them with a bigger group breaking away with two of the main favourites in it: Jempy Drucker and Frank Schleck were together with Schleck's team-mate Markel Irizar and the two Belgian riders Remy Mertz and Edwig Cammaerts. They were able to create a gap on the peloton that was led at that moment by the complete Leopard Developement team. But Drucker maybe was afraid of the tandem Irizar-Schleck and so the collaboration in the break was not at its best. Schleck reacted and the Luxemburg National champion took the lead of the race with Cammaerts, but it was already too late: the peloton was in their back and the were soon replaced by another bigger group: Jakob Fuglsang and Martin Mortensen, the two Danish riders licensed at ACC Contern, broke away with Michael Rogers and two more Belgians, the young and talented Walloons Jean-Albert Carnevali and Boris Dron.

But they also didn't work together very well, causing Michael Rogers to try his luck on his own, just like he did during his two stage victories in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, this summer. The three times time trial world champion put on a big performance since he resisted on his own and during several laps to a peloton led most of the time by Jempy Drucker and his two team-mates, Vanlandschoot and Habeaux, as well as the riders from Trek. The latter prepared a move from Frank Schleck who took off on his own before being joined by Ben Gastauer, Tony Gallopin, Nelson Oliveira and Jempy Drucker. Jean-Christophe Péraud also managed to bridge up to the group who joined Rogers at the front, so that they were now 7 riders leading. It was a royal escape with several of the pre-race favourites in it and in the peloton, nobody was willing to do the chasing anymore.

The win was to be decided between the seven of them, Rogers, Gastauer, Gallopin, Oliveira, Drucker, Péraud and Schleck, with an advantage for the two AG2R riders since all the other contenders in the break were not from the same team. Jean-Christophe Péraud didn't wait long to take advantage from this situation and he made a solo move, with Gastauer waiting in the wheels in the groupe behind. The former French National time-trial champion made a strong impression and with two laps to go, he still had a small gap on the next chasers, led by Miachal Rogers. But a little bit later, he was reeled in and the race was though to be decided in a sprint. But while the favourites looked at themselves and at the fast Drucker, Ben Gastauer created the surprise with a late attack. With his team-mate being very offensive during the race, Gastauer has had an easy race until there and still was very fresh: he created a gap and resisted until the finish line, where he even had the time to celebrate one of his rare wins.














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