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Gerrans victorious in GP Ouest France

Simon Gerrans (Cervélo TestTeam) took his biggest win of the season to date by comfortably outsprinting the rest of a five-strong breakaway group. The Australian beat last year's winner Pierrick Fedrigo (BBox Bouyges Telecom) into second place, with Paul Martens (Rabobank) in third. The breakaway group was completed by Anthony Roux (Française des Jeux) in fourth and Daniel Martin (Garmin-Slipstream) in fifth, just three seconds ahead of a charging peloton led home by Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne).

The final stages of the race were peppered with attacks and attempted breakaways, but it wasn't until the final five kilometres of the 219.2-kilometre race that pressure from Gerrans pulled a handful of riders clear that any of them really looked like succeeding. The Cervélo rider's acceleration on the long exposed climb - the straightest and widest part of the 19.1-kilometre circuit - pulled Fedrigo and Martens clear of the splintering peloton. Martin, and later Roux, managed to bridge across to make five up front, and between them they managed to hold off the main field, still almost a hundred-strong.

More accustomed to solo victories - and with many of his major results on uphill finishes - Gerrans was under no illusions as to the magnitude of the task in beating a fast rouleur like Fedrigo, who has a Tour de France stage victory to his name this season. The fact that the Frenchman was the defending champion, though, played into the Australian's hands.

"Not really, actually," Gerrans told Cyclingnews on whether he'd expected to win, "but I know the pressure was on Pierrick, so I made him do most of the work in the last kilometre there and that sort of played into my hands a bit."

The Cervélo TestTeam started the day with a number of cards to play, and even the loss of one of its aces in the mid part of the race still left plenty of options, as Gerrans explained. "Thor [Hushovd] wasn't on such a good day and he stopped about halfway through the race, so it was left up to [Xavier] Florencio and myself to try and attack, which we did on the last couple of laps. Also, Ignatas Konovalovas and Dominique Rollin did a fantastic job of controlling the bunch and making sure it was all back together for us."

Despite a lazy start to the race - for all but the early breakaway riders - the speed in the later stages over the undulating and twisting circuit, with parts exposed to the stiff Breton breeze, made the race a very hard one in the end. "Yeah, it was a tough day," Gerrans said. "Lampre did its best to make the race really hard for [World Champion and last year's runner-up, Alessandro] Ballan, I think. There was a lot of attacks. Katusha was riding a really strong tempo and Astana the last two laps, so yeah, it was a tough race."

In taking third place, Martens was happy with what can be seen as the biggest result of his career so far, and for him marks another steady improvement as he builds towards the big target of the year. "Last week I showed at the Tour du Limousin [where he took two 3rd places], I showed that I'm quite a good finisher; and my shape is really good because next week starts the Vuelta and it's the main goal for me," Martens told Cyclingnews.

Rabobank - and particularly Robert Gesink - had been very active in the breaks in the latter stages of the race: a planned tactic that worked well for Martens when the decisive break finally came. "We had the tactics that I was the only one who can wait for the final," he said, "and we know that Robert Gesink can go, and go, and go, he never stops. So I said if you feel good then go, you don't have to wait for me, I will come.

"Then on the last climb I put everything that I had and I went to Simon and to Pierrick and just kept going because I know that if we finish with 50 guys I'm chanceless, but with 10 guys I have a big opportunity; and we saw what happened."

With the peloton fast on the heels of the breakaway riders, Martens had no thoughts of trying to race tactically for fear of getting caught, only to finish nowhere and waste his efforts. "I was riding 100 percent," he said, "because I was the only one who had a chance from our team, so at that moment I just wanted to make the group as small as possible. I didn't race really for the victory because it's a one-day classic and I never did really a [good] finish. If I saw that we were only four guys then I knew 'okay, it's possible to get 3rd', because I know how fast Fedrigo or Simon are.

"Everything is possible, but you have to be realistic and standing on the podium for me is a very big victory."

The early break gains a massive advantage

The long break of the day happened midway through the second 19.1-kilometre lap of 12-lap event as Hector Gonzalez Baeza (Fuji-Servetto) and Angel Mate Mardones (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) escaped. They were quickly pursued by two Frenchmen in the shape of Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) and Laurent Lefevre (BBox Bouyges Telecom) - defending the race that the team has won for two successive years. A sleeping peloton allowed the leading pair to open a colossal gap of 9:33 by the time they crossed the line for the end of the lap.

On the third lap, the four échappeurs joined forces and continued to build their lead, which peaked at over 12 minutes before the combined forces of Cofidis, Astana and Lampre began to work to peg them back. By the end of lap seven, Astana super-domestique Sergio Paulinho in his trademark turquoise glasses - so reminiscent of July's Tour de France - led the peloton across the line just 3:20 behind.

With the Lampre team so keen to provide a rare victory this season for it's World Champion, the breakaway was finally swallowed in the mid part of lap nine. The coming together of the peloton served as a cue for the French teams, especially BBox Bouyges Telecom, Française des Jeux and Cofidis to fire riders up the road, but no one was able to get clear until Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) and Danny Pate (Garmin-Slipstream) both managed a brief solo effort.

Finally, Ballan showed his hand on lap 10 with less than 50 kilometres to go, but the group of five, that also included Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Michael Albasini (Columbia-HTC), eventual fourth-placed Roux and Cyril Gautier (BBox Bouyges Telecom) never managed to gain more than approximately 15 seconds on the peloton, now led by Cervélo and Quick Step.

A brief lull with 35 kilometres to go was followed by another attack from Française des Jeux - this time the Tour's best Frenchman Christophe Le Mevel - but once again it was reeled back in after a few kilometres.

2007 winner Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouyges Telecom) then put in an inevitable cameo, which involved him getting a few metres ahead of the peloton during the post-catch lull, before drifting back again.

As the peloton approached the bell, a more likely looking group escaped containing Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Michele Scarponi (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni), but they too were left dangling a few precious seconds ahead of the bunch, with Liquigas to the fore in favour of sprinter Daniele Bennati. Mid way through the lap they were joined by Voeckler - meaning business this time - but never looked like succeeding, were caught, and the unheard of began to look almost likely: a sprint finish in Plouay!

Gesink attacked once more, inside the final 10 kilometres, and pulled Gerrans, Fedrigo, and Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux) with him. On the final exposed drag, with around six kilometres to go, the peloton reeled the group in, but Gerrans refused to be caught and attacked again. Fedrigo managed to go with the Australian along with Martens, and the three were soon joined by Martin. An attack from Anthony Roux saw him join as they rode under the flamme rouge. As the defending champion, the pressure was all on Fedrigo as the group came into the final few hundred metres. Gerrans came around the Frenchman to take victory by a clear bike length.

"I didn't even think of [Emma Pooley's victory yesterday] to tell you the truth," said Gerrans, "but yeah it's been a good weekend for Cervélo."

Full results
1Simon Gerrans (Aus) Cervelo Test Team5:58:53
2Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
3Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
4Anthony Roux (Fra) Française Des Jeux
5Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Slipstream
6Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:00:03
7Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
8Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana
9Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux
10Jesus Del Nero (Spa) Fuji-Servetto
11Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Team Columbia - Highroad
12Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
13Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quick Step
14William Bonnet (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
15Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.
16Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
17Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.
18Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
19Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
20Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
21Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
22Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.
23Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
24Dominique Rollin (Can) Cervelo Test Team
25Michael Barry (Can) Team Columbia - Highroad
26Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
27Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram
28Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Slipstream
29David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - N.G.C.
30Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Team Katusha
31René Mandri (Est) AG2R La Mondiale
32Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank
33Cyril Gautier (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
34Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
35Adam Hansen (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad
36Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
37Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step
38Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Française Des Jeux
39Markel Irizar (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
40Lasse Bochman (Den) Team Saxo Bank
41Michael Albasini (Swi) Team Columbia - Highroad
42Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
43Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
44Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
45Thomas Peterson (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
46Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
47Mathieu Perget (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
48Daniel Navarro (Spa) Astana
49Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence-Lotto
50Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
51Luca Solari (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
52Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
53Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.
54Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
55Francesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step
56Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Fuji-Servetto
57Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram
58David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
59Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
60Alberto Losada (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
61Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française Des Jeux
62Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom
63Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux
64Anthony Charteau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
65Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
66Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
67John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
68Alberto Fernandez (Spa) Fuji-Servetto
69Vincent Jerome (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
70Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
71Michele Scarponi (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
72Martin Velits (Svk) Team Milram
73Paolo Bailetti (Ita) Fuji-Servetto0:01:01
74Iker Camaño Ortuzar (Spa) Fuji-Servetto
75Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team Katusha
76Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
77Roman Kireyev (Kaz) Astana
78Davide Vigano (Ita) Fuji-Servetto
79Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step0:06:58
80Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas
81Nicolas Rousseau (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
82Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
83Christophe Brandt (Bel) Silence-Lotto
84Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha
85Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
86Christian Meier (Can) Garmin - Slipstream
87Michael Christiansen Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank
88Mickael Delage (Fra) Silence-Lotto
89Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervelo Test Team
90Jean-Eudes Demaret (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
91Jorge Azanza (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
92Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Team Katusha
93Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team Columbia - Highroad
94Alexander Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale
95Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank
96Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank
97Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team Saxo Bank
98Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas
99Pavel Brutt (Rus) Team Katusha
100Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas
101Timothy Duggan (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
102Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step
103Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank0:14:49

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