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GALA Tour de France 2015

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18th GALA Tour de France
Invitational criterium for elite and U23 riders
02.08.2015 - Um BELVAL

In Deutscher Sprache GALA 2015
in deutscher Sprache
en Franšais GALA 2015
en Franšais

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REPORT:

Dramatic finals on the finishing straight

For the first time in three years, for the first time since the GALA Tour de France takes place in Belval, there was no rain. Eventually, the sun was shining brightly on the beautiful place around the renovated former blast furnaces and sunburns were more probable this year than the use of umbrellas. There were also more people in Belval than in 2014, a few more, but most of them went home a little bit disappointed after the race: it wasn't fan favourite Bob Jungels who won the race, even if he was still leading on his own with a few hundred meters to go, but Zdenek Stybar managed to reel him in just before the line for an unexpected und beautiful win.

The race program was similar to last year and at one o'clock, they were around 40 riders from the categories elite without contract, juniors, U23 and masters who took off for their criterium with intermediate sprints and a winner designed by the points collected in these sprints. The big head inivited the few spectators who were already there at that moment to find a nice place in the shade, but the riders on their side didn't opt for franiente: after one lap already, the peloton was splitting up with Bartolo Polizzotto and Kevin Geniets being the first attackers. A few laps later, it all came together again and Pascal Triebel tried his luck on his own, leading the race for an impressive half a dozen of laps. But the younger riders accelerated the pace yet again and for Luxemburg's masters champion, it became difficult to resist at the front. Attacks were going on at the front of the race, but none of them was decisive and most of the riders stayed together until the end: they were still around 30 together at the front at the sound of the bell, among which Tiago Da Silva had most of the points on his account. But with double points to win in the last sprint, there was still some suspense for the victory. But Da Silva really was the strongest today and he won also the last sprint, taking the overall win ahead of Kevin Geniets and Colin Heiderscheid. Suprisingly, they were three juniors on the podium, with another three of them in the Top 10. Their older colleagues were way off the pace with a fourth place for the best elite rider (Bartolo Polizzotto) and position eleven only for the fastest U23 rider (Michael Feller). In between them, the two masters Pascal Triebel and Christophe Gillardin also showed a strong race in this battle of the generations.

14 riders only took the start of the second race of the day, with three girls among them for the good news. Women's cycling goes upwart, also in Luxembourg, and the ladies showed a strong performance by staying with the boys until deep in the final. As of the first lap, four riders accelerated and exploded the peloton: Arthur Kluckers, Nicolas Kess, Misch Leyder and Rik Karier were leading, but six chasers were not far behind them, led by the riders from Velo Woolz. Soon, they were 12 to regroup at the front, among them the three ladies Laurence Thill, Lara Carier and Elise Maes. Attacking continued with national champion Rik Karier being the most active rider, but even if the small peloton was strung out on several occasions, it didn't break and only a few riders were distances. They were nine to battle out the win in a final sprint, among them also Elise Maes as best feminine contender. Nicolas Kess was fastest out of the bunch and he won with half a wheel advantage on Misch Leyder and Arthur Kluckers, while the best lady was ninth in the classification, at the end of the group.

They were 33 to line up for the main race, the invitational criterium of the GALA Tour de France, among them the announced stars, but also some motivated young guns. But after a slow fist lap to warm up, the younger ones were aleady under pressure since it was surprisingly the pros who launched the first attacks: Yauheni Hutarovich, Laurent Didier, Pirmin Lang and Nicolas Roche had a little gap and the U23 riders from the Leopard Developement Team had to chase behind them in order to stay in contention. Two laps later, the gruppetto was compacto again, but Didier and Lang had the legs on fire: they attacked yet again and formed a new leading quartett with Jakob Fuglsang and Lang's team-mate Mathias Frank, several metres ahead of the peloton that was led by Wallonie-Bruxelles. The cat and mouse game went on for the whole race with lots of attacks but no break that was able to stay away for more then two or three laps. Laurent Didier was among the most offensive riders and found quite often at the front, which earned him the title of most agressive rider but also a few points in the intermediate sprints classification. Other contendes were motivated by this classification and fighted for the points. Zdenek Stybar among others who won a sprint ahead of Bob Jungels, but also Lo´c Pestiaux of Wallonie-Bruxelles. The young Belgian won two intermediate sprints in a row and went past Didier for the overall win. The speed was still high in the peloton and with the numerous turns and rythm changes, the peloton slowly started to split up. 12 riders were leading with five laps to go, among them a few of the pre-race favourites: Bob Jungels, Laurent Didier, Ben Gastauer and Tom Wirtgen from Luxembourg, the two IAM Cycling team-mates Pirmin Lang and Mathias Frank, the two Tour de France stage winners, Stybar and Cummings, the young Belgain Remy Mertz, Johan Coenen from Team Differdange as well as Jakob Fuglsang and Nicolas Roche. The rest of the bunch was nearly half a minute back and did not seem in contention for the win any more. At the front of the race, Bob Jungels tried his luck on his own and despite a small advantage only, he managed to defend it turn after turn. With only one loop to go, Luxemburg's National champion was still leading on his own, but Zdenek Stybar, Stephen Cummings and Mathias Frank were chasing as a trio not far behind him. There was suspense until the very end: Bob Jungels was still leading on his own as he turned into the finishing straight, but the three chasers were immediately behind him. Stephen Cummings started the sprint very early, but Stybar came out of his wheel and bridged up to the Jungels. Shouts of deception in the audience: Zdenek Stybar passed their favourite only ten metres form the line for an unexpected victory, ahead of Jungels, Cummings and Frank. Remy Mertz won the sprint of the next chasers and Ivan Centrone was first of the main pack, around 30 seconds behind the winner and multiple cyclo-cross world champion.

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