Bryan Coquard pipped both Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) to win stage two of the Tour de La Provence.
Winless in 2021, Coquard has now won two races this year, opening his account at Etoile de Bessèges last week, today capitalising on some good work from his Cofidis team.
After Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) launched, Coquard came steaming through, shadowed by Alaphilippe in his slipstream and Ganna attentive, knowing he only held a four-second GC lead over the Frenchman.
Coquard's legs held, however, keeping the world and time trial champions at bay and crossing the line first.
Alaphilippe's second-place finish sees him halve his GC deficit to two seconds ahead of the mountain test tomorrow, which should be too difficult for Ganna and will instead see Alaphilippe defend a first victory of the season from the likes of Colombian Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), who finished sixth today and won this race back in 2020.
How it happened
Richard Carapaz was the sole rider who failed to take the start of stage two, the Ecuadorian returning a Covid positive, a second, unfortunate DNF for him this year already.
Rudy Barbier (B&B Hotels KTM) won the intermediate sprint as the attacks started to unfurl, and after another 15km Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies) and Gougeard (B&B Hotels KTM) found themselves off the front, chased by Evaldas Siskevicius (Go Sport - Roubaix Lille Métropole), Tony Hurel (St Michel - Auber93) and Kevin Besson (Nice Métropole Côte d'Azur).
These breakaway riders eventually came together, the peloton relaxing into a gap of three and a half minutes, increasing by another minute as Cofidis, Movistar and Astana marshalled the front.
Besson took maximum KOM points atop the Côte de Lauris ahead of Ourselin, Hurel winning the second intermediate sprint of the day, and the Col de la Mort Imbert coming up next.
Besson had moved himself up to the joint lead in the KOM competition with his climbing so far today, and on the Mort Imbert Ourselin also joined the party, moving into the virtual lead as he went over the top first, a little over 50km remaining on the stage.
The winding-in process of the breakaway began soon after, the gap heading down toward the two-minute mark.
Siskevicius was the first to be dispensed with up front soon after the start of the Col de l’Aire dei Masco, and soon it was only Gougeard and Ourselin left up the road, Cofidis trying to animate things behind.
Ourselin was again first to the summit, sealing the KOM jersey for tomorrow, the peloton now breathing down his neck, a minute behind with 25km remaining.
10km later and Gougeard dropped Ourselin, soon wrapped up by the bunch, as Gougeard held strong, taking 46 seconds into the final 10km.
Quick-Step moved to the front of the peloton, Ag2r also present, as the gap came down to under half a minute with 5km to go, and Gougeard would only be caught 3km later. Ganna moved himself up to the front as the finale neared, Pierre-Luc Périchon hitting out but easily marked by Dries Devenyns.
Pierre Latour then made a break for it, but Coquard seamlessly moved with his compatriot, then opening up his sprint and tailed by Alaphilippe and then Ganna latching on, but the Frenchman held firm and took his second win of the year.
Tour de La Provence 2022, stage two: Arles and Manosque (180.6km)
1. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Cofidis, in 4-19-42
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at same time
3. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
4. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies
5. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic
7. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel - Premier Tech
8. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar
9. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r Citroën
10. Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) TotalEnergies, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, in 7-45-43
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at two seconds
3. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 14s
4. Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan, at 16s
5. Mattias Jensen Skjelmose (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 25s
6. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at same time
7. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 27s
8. Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at same time
9. Damien Touzé (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 30s
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 32s
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