Bouyges Telecom takes second successive Ouest-France
By Ben Atkins in Plouay
Former French champion Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouyges Telecom) has become Plouay's new hero after winning the Grand Prix Ouest-France in a three-man sprint over Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne). The three riders were all that remained of a 17 man move that formed in the closing stages of the race.
Fédrigo's victory is the second in succession for the nearby Vendee-based Bouyges Telecom team after Thomas Voekler's solo dash for the line last year. It is also the Frenchman's biggest victory since his Tour de France stage victory into Gap in 2006.
"I have already won a stage of the Tour de France and been the champion of France [in 2005]," said Fédrigo. "So you could say that this victory in Plouay is the bronze medal in my palmares.
"I haven't completely recovered from the change in time zones," he said of his recent return from the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. "I still have concerns over catching up on my sleep. Luckily for me there was a big battle here today in Plouay."
Fédrigo, Ballan and Lopez Garcia arrived at the finishing straight together, despite attempts by the Caisse d'Epargne rider to escape in the closing kilometres. In the end, the Frenchman proved to be fresher than the other two riders and he won the sprint comfortably over Ballan. Lopez Garcia rolled in three seconds later having sat up after being unable to live with the speed of the others.
As expected, the race was punctuated by a series of attacks, the first of which went clear inside the first of the 12, 19.1 kilometre circuits. No break managed to get what one might regard as a decisive gap, and it was while the peloton almost had the leaders in sight on the penultimate lap that Fédrigo managed to bridge across to what turned out to be the winning move.
Alessandro Ballan was one of the strongest riders in the breakaway, able to stay with the leaders until the finish, but once again found that his sprint couldn't match that of his rivals. The 2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner found himself too tired to compete with the faster Frenchman in the slightly uphill dash for the line.
"It was a very hard race," the Italian said. "There were lots of attacks and we got away in the last lap and worked together until the final kilometres. Coming into the finish I was very tired and Fédrigo was very, very strong.
"There is nothing to say," he added later. "Fédrigo was the strongest today…I was too tired at the finish to be able to compete in the sprint. I paid for the efforts that I had made to stay at the front."
After trying to distance his two breakaway companions in the last few kilometres due to fears over their superior sprints, Lopez Garcia was indeed unable to compete and sat up in the final 100 metres. He coasted over the line to take third place after being one of the most aggressive riders of the race.
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