Navigator’s Action At Vendee
– Reported by Navigators Cycling Team –
Tour de Vendee (France – 1.3)
While Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France winning team was having success at the Amstel Gold, America’s top TT2 was in western France to contest the 31st Tour de Vendee. As one of the last of the French selection races
leading up to the Tour de France, the French teams in particular, had a lot at stake. Cool temperatures, a driving rain, and 50km/hr wind gusts welcomed the 140 rider field as it left the Napoleon square in downtown
La-Roche-sur-Yon. The 201.4 km UCI 1.3, was contested on a 188.8 km course followed by 3 laps of a demanding 4.2 circuit in town. A 1km uphill finish was the reward for the hearty that would make it to the end.
As an added bonus to stimulate aggressive racing, the “Yves Cougnaud” trophy would be awarded to the day’s best “sprinter”. Ten sprints, located at the top of the courses most difficult climbs, awarded points to the top
three in each sprint. With the first sprint at 20.9 km, the action started early. As the skies cleared, and the roads began to dry, Navigators’ Chris Baldwin took the first sprint,and shortly after, a two-man break of Ivailo
Gabrovski (Jean Delatour) and Petrov Andonov (Boavista), escaped and soon built a sizable lead. With the gap growing to nearly 4 minutes, the pair captured most of the sprint points, with Gabrovski taking the lead. As the main group approached the mid section of the course, the strong wind and speed of the chase were beginning to fatigue many riders, but it was the
sharp, steep climb into St Michel that shattered the field to bits. The ensuing series of short steep climbs would spread the field over several kilometers. At the 100km mark, the leaders had been absorbed, but the lead
group was now less than thirty riders. Chris Baldwin, Tom Leaper, and Ciaran Power represented the Navigators. The group rode to 4 minutes before
backing off the pace,and as the lead group relaxed, a chase group of 25 began taking back the deficit. The gap was down to 1min 30 as the leaders began the climb to Cote du Fuiteau, but the warning siren had sounded, and a series of attacks eventually set 4 riders clear. Bon Jour’s Walter Beneteau was joined by Collstrop’s Geert Omloop, Lotto’s Christophe Detilloux, and Navigators’ Tom Leaper. A chase group of Franck Bouyer (BonJour), and Bradley McGee (FDJ), was just in front of a 16-man pursuit. Bouyer managed to drop McGee, and powered across to the leaders, giving
BonJour the advantage, although non of the other French teams had made the definitive move. As the 5 entered the circuit in Roche, a series of orchestrated attacks by the BonJour riders finally released Bouyer at the start of the third and final lap. Navigators’ Leaper tried three times to break clear, but each time Bon Jour’s other man (Beneteau) brought the others back to him. Bouyer stayed clear to the finish to the delight of the thousands of French fans, while his teammate took the sprint for second ahead of Omloop, Detilloux, and Leaper. Navigators’ Baldwin finished the day in 12th, continuing the team’s impressive showing on foreign soil.