The amateur riders have beaten the pros at the Tour de Bretagne as Sander Armee from Beveren 2000 won the final stage and Julien Fouchard of Côtes d'Armor-Maître Jacques claimed the overall classification of the 43rd edition of the race. Armee is a real estate agent in Leuven, Belgium, and Fouchard a student in engineering in Caen, Normandy. Fouchard passed his exams one week prior to the Tour de Bretagne.
Last year Fouchard declined an offer to turn pro with the Continental Roubaix team because he had to complete his studies. "I'm now available and I'd like to do it in the best possible conditions;" said the 23-year-old from Coutances.
"Our initial goal with the team Côtes d'Armor was to win a stage at the Tour de Bretagne." Fouchard said. He did it on Sunday in Fougères when the professional teams all made the mistake of letting him take a three and a half minute lead. "They have been wrong to not take me seriously," Fouchard said.
Fouchard might have profited from the local rivalry between Besson Chaussures and Bretagne-Schuller, the two Continental teams from Brittany. They expected Rabobank to close the gap for the winner of stage one Dennis Van Winden but they forgot that cycling isn't exactly made of the same scenarios in the category two events as when the field is only composed of professional squads.
"Never during the whole week I have panicked," Fouchard said. His amateur teammates, including former Tour de France participant Cédric Hervé who rode for Crédit Agricole and Agritubel previously, have always controlled the speed of the bunch. They were never surprised by race favourites Besson Chaussures who used the same tactic until the end, consisting of sending Jimmy Engoulvent in an early breakaway every day.
After winning stage five, Engoulvent, the former pro from Bonjour, Cofidis and Crédit Agricole, declared that he would gain "one and half to two minutes" on Fouchard during the time trial on the penultimate day, but he only got 14 seconds.
Engoulvent was fooled to the very end by the amateurs. He thought he'd get a second stage win in Quimperlé. Armee pretended to be tired but he found the strength to attack with 500 metres to go. The Belgian Armee hadn't cooperated much in the breakaway as he acted as a protector of Jan Ghyselinck's third place overall which was threatened by Engoulvent.
Côtes d'Armor and Beveren have showed to the professionals that they also knew how to win a bike race. The 2009 Tour de Bretagne has indicated that Timofey Kritskiy, Ghyselinck, Fouchard and points classification winner Alexander Kristoff from Norway have the potential to become good pro riders in the near future.
How it unfolded
The stage started very fast from Douarnenez - the town with three harbours at the extreme west of France - but the first breakaway launched by the Besson Chaussures riders didn't work out.
After 31 kilometres it was another story when nine riders went clear from the bunch: Cyrille Monnerais and Jean-Luc Delpech (Bretagne-Schuller), Dennis Van Winden (Rabobank), Sander Armee (Beveren 2000), Miyataka Shimizu (Meitan), Jimmy Engoulvent (Besson), Lars-Petter Nordhaug (Joker Bianchi), Volodymyr Starchyk (Amore e Vita) and initially Tom Copeland (Brest Iroise Cyclisme 2000), who couldn't follow the pace and was dropped.
The eight men got a maximum lead of two minutes on the bunch led by the six riders of Côtes d'Armor-Maître Jacques.
As the break reached the final circuit of Quimperlé and its grueling climb the gap was 1:25. The race leader was out of danger, even when Timofey Kritskiy (Katusha) accelerated with three laps to go. Fouchard came across to his group quickly after the climb.
At the front, Engoulvent looked to be the most likely candidate for the stage win but Armee was fresher. With 500 metres to go Armee attacked on the final climb and grabbed his second stage win while Fouchard comfortably retained his general classification lead.
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