FOUR IN A ROW
There has been some great racing on the tough circuit around Contern at the Souvenir Marcel Gilles, with very valuable winners. But with all due respect to Rick Meylender, solo winner in the minimes category, Mathieu Kockelmann, first in a very close sprint at the end of the cadet event, Tom Paquet, also the fastest in a sprint in the novice category or Claire Faber, who crossed the finish line hand in hand with her friend Elise Maes, it is above all the winning move of the Tooltime Preizerdaul team led by Maxime Weyrich that will be remembered from this second edition of the Souvenir Marcel Gilles. Four riders in the first four places, this is something very rare in the history of ACC Contern races. Even the them from Differdange hasn't done that in 2013 when they had taken possession of the complete podium of the Grand-prix OST-Manufaktur. Beyond the purely sporting aspect, it was a pleasant day under perfect weather conditions this Sunday in Contern, where many native riders had come to sharpen their condition in preparation for the national championships so important next weekend.
It were the races of the youngest riders that generated the most excitement in the morning with more than 50 competitors for the minimal and cadet categories at the start given by the former winner of the Flèche Wallonne Kim Kirchen. What a contrast with last year when only a dozen riders of these two categories covered their solitary laps at the end of the afternoon in the deserted "Weiergewan" Industrial Zone. The change of date seemed a good idea and the new old formula with a tough course seduced again at this year's Souvenir Marcel Gilles. The climb of Syren with up to 12 % gradient quickly made a selection in the races: the pelotons broke up and the strongest found themselves at the front. In the minimes category, Lenn Schmitz and Rick Meylender, both from CT Atertdaul, took the lead in the second of the three laps, with around thirty seconds advantage on a group of three riders with Leopold Strauss, Wayne Roden and Maxence Arnould as well as a small minute on a main peloton which counted hardly more than 8 units. These positions thus remained fixed until the end when Rick Meylender left Schmitz behind him in the last hectometers to take a solo win, 6 seconds ahead of his team-mate. A minute later, Wayne Roden won the sprint for third place, while Lena Lallemang finished first girl in position 13, just seconds ahead of Julie Kiesgen.
In the cadets category, a first selection also took place very early when, under the impulse of Mathieu Kockelmann, a group of four riders took the lead of the race. Kockelmann, Andru-George Vlad, Matteo Giampaolo and Mil Morang were the strongest as they increased their lead over a group of 14 riders, including the three excellent girls Liv Wenzel, Lena Carier and Anouk Schmitz. In front, Kockelmann accelerated several times and tried to get rid of his rivals, but the Vlad and the two from Dippach, Morang and Giampaolo, didn't let the rider form Team Differdange go away. Behind them, the small peloton had meanwhile exploded, reducing the number of direct pursuers to eight, then to four with three CT Atertdaul riders, Jonathan Kalweit, Liv Wenzel and David Lang, accompanied only by Noa Berton from UC Dippach. The decision for the victory fell in the sprint, a very tight sprint between Mathieu Kockelmann and Andru-George Vlad, in which the rider from Differdange rider was only a few centimetres ahead of the one from Cessange. Giampaolo and Morang followed at two lengths, while the first chasers, at more than four minutes, preferred to celebrate hand in hand Liv Wenzel's superb 6th place and girls's victory rather than to fight for the next places.
The novices' race was unfortunately marred by several crashes in the first lap, with Noah Kemp being the hardest hit. He had to be evacuated to hospital with a probably broken shoulder. The peloton was quickly dislocated, leaving eight riders in the lead, including three from Dippach: Alexandre Kess, Max Gilles, Simon Quievreux, Gilles Miny, Tom Paquet, William Lecerf, Jérôme Jentgen and Mats Wenzel. Kess and Quievreux being dropped during the last lap, they were six fighting for a victory that went to Tom Paquet. He has already won the final sprint of last year's event, but ended up in second place in a competition that, at the time, had been held as a points race. This year was the right one and Paquet could enjoy his victory, acquired more than a bike length of advantage on Jérôme Jentgen and William Lecerf.
The women's race was dominated by competitors coming from teams who are used to ride at the highest level, but it was especially the young Marie Schreiber who showed a great race, accompanying the best until the end to win in the category of beginners. Under the impulse of Elise Maes, the female peloton split into two parts at the very beginning, and Schreiber was able to hold on to the leading group with Maes, Claire Faber and Anne-Sophie Harsch. After that, she stayed in the small leading group and even took the lead of the race in the sixth lap, her last one, to cross the finish line alone in the lead, a few seconds ahead of her elders who still had an extra lap to complete, and more than five minutes ahead of the second in her category, Lis Nothum, who also was able to match up with some more experienced competitors. The peloton of these women had thus quickly been split in two parts, with Elise Maes, Claire Faber and Anne-Sophie Harsch taking the lead with Schreiber and leaving it to the girls of the TWC Maaslandster team to chase behind them, together with Carmen Coljon and the young Nina Berton, the only representative of the junior category in this group. Tjarco Cuppens' team included among others the bronze medalist of last year's U23 New Zealand time-trial championships and her fellow countryman and other specialist agains the clock, Amanda Jamieson, 2017 U23 National Road-race Champion and bronze medallist at the world junior championships in Richmond, USA. But the Dutch multi-national collective was also represented by the Luxemburgish Anne-Sophie Harsch at the head of the race and therefor maybe did not really making an intense pursuit. But in the leading group, Harsch was dropped by Faber and Maes on the very last climb of the "Syrener" and was therefore unable to fight for the victory, a victory which went to Claire Faber, who crossed the finish line hand in hand with her friend and second in the race, Elise Maes. Behind the two Luxemburgish girls, the TWC Maaslandster made a group shot by taking the positions three to six, in front of the young junior Nina Berton.
As for the other races, the men elite, juniors, U23 and masters race was also very animated from the beginning. Three riders quickly found themselves at the front: the young Mathieu Kockelmann from CCI Differdange as well as two riders from Tooltime Preizerdaul, the also young Félix Schreiber and Maxime Weyrich. They quickly took a minute lead over a group of fifteen riders, a group in which the cooperations was not very good. Understandable, because besides Arthur Kluckers (VC Schengen), Noah Fries and Ken Conter (LC Tétange), Ryan Cortjens (Iko Beobank), Misch Leyder (VC Diekirch), Loîc Bettendorf (CT Atertdaul), Scott Thiltges (LG Alzingen), Lex Nederlof (NEX CCN Cycling Team), Rick Stemper (CCI Differdange) and Rik Karier (Velo Woolz), there were no less than five other Tooltime Preizerdaul riders in this group with Jacques Gloesener, Mike Diener, Lex Reichling, Ben Philippe and especially Tim Diederich, double national champion and, on paper, favourite number one in the race. The next and slightly bigger group led by boys like Pol Weisgerber, Charly Petelin or Jonas Andersen, Kim Andersen's son, was already following at nearly three minutes before mid-race. In front, Félix Schreiber and Maxime Weyrich managed to get rid of Raphael Kockelmann to continue their road as a duo, still with a good lead on the next chasers.
Under the eyes of Andy Schleck, several riders tried to relaunch the battle behind them like the always offensiv Misch Leyder, like the former Grand-prix François Faber winner Arthur Kluckers, the other junior Loïc Bettendorf, well motivated within a week before the national championships which are contested at home, cyclo-cross specialist Ryan Cortjens, third in the Grand-prix COMAT last October, just a stone's throw from the finish line, Ken Conter, before his trainee adventure at the prestigious club of Chambéry or the valiant Lex Nederlof, an old friend of Marcel Gilles and still in excellent condition despite his fifty years. But the team-mates of the leading duo were there to make the attempts fail, especially Lex Reichling and Tim Diederich who didn't let anyone break away and made sure that the rhythm decreased regularly in the group, between the attacks. A group that was therefore losing more and more time on the two leading riders and was even under threat of a return from the next peloton, less than a minute away from them. The decision thus fell between Weyrich and Schreiber, the two leading men, who battled out the win on the last climb of the day. Felix Schreiber, who had made a lot of efforts so far, had to let his team-mate go away and Maxime Weyrich won solo, 17 seconds ahead of his Schreiber. Behind them, Tim Diederich and Lex Reichling had managed to leave the other riders behind them for a historic four in a row of their team. Arthur Klucker won the sprint for fifth place and best junior ahead of Bettendorf and Cortjens, three and a half minutes behind the winner.
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