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Bagdonas 11th in Etoile de Besseges opener

Posted 01 February 2012

 

by Cilllian Kelly

Today's opening stage of the Étoile de Bessèges was won by Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) with An Post-Sean Kelly rider Gediminas Bagdonas holding out for 11th place in the bunch sprint in Bellegarde.

The stage was animated by severe crosswinds which blew the peloton apart on several occasions and a succession of crashes, one of which took down An-Post Sean Kelly’s Mark McNally.

Ronan McLaughlin fared best of the two Irish riders in the race finishing the stage in the main field. Sean Downey had a tougher day in the saddle losing 3 minutes and 12 seconds in the testing conditions.

"Fast, windy, scary and complete madness with some crashes," was how Downey summed up the stage afterwards while McLaughlin remarked that he had "carried my life around in my hands for 3.5 hours" with reference to the wind, speed and crashes that dominated the stage.

The peloton splintered into three groups inside the closing 25 kilometres with Bagdonas making the cut in the lead group which contained some big names riders like Pierre Rolland, Rein Taaramae and Bjorn Leukemans. 

The lead group was eventually reeled after the FDJ-BigMat and Team Type 1 combined to share the grunt work at the front. 

As the riders went under the one kilometre to go barrier, the favourite to take the sprint was the German speedster Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i). 

Kittel though had to settle for fourth place behind Bouhanni with Jean-Pierre Drucker (Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda's) second and Bobbie Traksel (Landbouwkrediet) third.

Having won a stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo last year, this was just the second ever win of Bouhanni's career. 

The young Frenchman will  wear the leader's jersey into stage two which sees the riders travel 149km from Nîmes to Saint-Ambroix where the weather is again expected to be wet and windy. 

There are two second category climbs on the route, but with the last of these coming almost 100km from the finish of the stage, a bunch sprint is again the most likely outcome. 

This stage has been part of the Étoile de Bessèges race since 2006 and has come down to a mass sprint finish on each occasion.

Results:

Etoile de Besseges, Stage 1: Beaucaire – Bellegarde, 148 kilometres

1. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) 3:30:25
2. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Accent Jobs–Willems Veranda’s)
3. Bobbie Traksel (Landbouwkrediet)
4. Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i)
5. Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM)

An-Post Sean Kelly Team:

11. Gediminas Bagdonas
23.  Kenneth Vanbilsen (Belgium)
38. Niko Eeckhout (Belgium)
65. Pieter Ghyllebert (Belgium)
88. Ronan McLaughlin (Ireland)
121. Mark McNally (Great Britain)
129. Sean Downey (Ireland) at 3 minutes, 12 seconds
136. Stijn Ennekens (Belgium) at 10 minutes, 09 seconds

General classification after stage one:

1. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) 3:30:15
2. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Accent Jobs–Willems Veranda’s)
3. Bobbie Traksel (Landbouwkrediet)
4. Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i)
5. Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM)

An-Post Sean Kelly Team:

15. Gediminas Bagdonas (Lithuania) at 10 seconds
27. Kenneth Vanbilsen (Belgium)
40. Niko Eeckhout (Belgium)
65. Pieter Ghyllebert (Belgium)
88. Ronan McLaughlin (Ireland)
121. Mark McNally (Great Britain)
129. Sean Downey (Ireland) at 3 minutes, 22 seconds
136. Stijn Ennekens (Belgium) at 10 minutes, 19 seconds

 

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