By Jean-François Quénet in Bourges
French rookie Romain Feillu took his fourth win of the season in the bunch sprint in Paris-Bourges, taking on some of the peloton's best sprinters Thor Hushovd and Aurélien Clerc by starting his sprint far earlier than anyone expected and relying on a little crafty teamwork.
"I knew I could achieve something interesting in the sprint," the Agritubel rider explained. "The team rode to perfection. In preparation for my sprint, I didn't let go of Bichot's wheel. He placed me exactly where I had to be before the last curve. I accelerated and he stopped pedaling completely. He created a gap for me. That's how I won."
Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd took fourth behind the speedy young Frenchman, and confirmed that they were surprised at his early jump. "One of Feillu's team-mate surprised us. I should have paid more attention," Hushovd said. "I should have been more aggressive in the sprint. I thought 300 meters were too long for Feillu but it wasn't."
Feillu made his mark early on in his first year as a professional, going head to head with Tom Boonen in the sprints of the Tour of Qatar, and then making it into the top five of several sprints during the first week of the Tour de France. Paris-Bourges is his fourth win after the Boucles de l'Aulne, a stage of the Tour of Luxembourg and the overall classification of the Tour of Britain. "Before the season, I told my former team-mate Guillaume Levarlet (now with Auber 93 and next year with Française des Jeux), 'for my first pro season, I'll win between two and five races, I'll take part in the Tour de France and the world championship'. I've done all of that, it's fantastic. Now I say that I want more next year, although it might sound pretentious."
Feillu's season isn't quite done, as he will take part in Paris-Tours and the Chrono des Nations in Les Herbiers on October 21st, so he still has time to confirm his title as best French neo-pro.