French Day in Willunga: Coquard takes the lead

Bauhaus and chess man hanging on the edge of the wind

By Felix Mattis


Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) wins stage 4 of the Tour Down Under in Willunga. | Photo: Cor Vos

01/21/2023 | (rsn) – Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) celebrated his first WorldTour stage victory at the start of his eleventh professional season. On Saturday, the 30-year-old Frenchman won the fourth section of the 23rd Tour Down Under (2nd UWT) in a sprint down the straight with a lead of several bike lengths ahead of prologue winner Alberto Bettiol (EF Education – EasyPost) from Italy and his French compatriot Hugo Page (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty). Fourth, a third Frenchman, Paul Penhoet (Groupama – FDJ).

“I waited a very long time for this victory – ten years, I couldn’t win in the WorldTour. I win a lot of races, but never in the WorldTour. It makes me very proud and happy,” beamed Coquard in the first interview with the winner, after many colleagues had congratulated the sprinter from Saint-Nazaire.

In 2015 on the Champs-Élysées, he finished second in the big sprint, and in 2016 in Limoges, he was only beaten in the photo-finish by Marcel Kittel during the 4th stage of the Tour de France. Coquard’s big win had almost worked several times, but in Willunga the WorldTour-level triumph finally came.

Marius Mayrhofer (DSM) and Kim Heiduk (Ineos Grenadiers) confirmed their good early form of the last few days and crossed the finish line at the foot of the famous Willunga hill in eighth and ninth place, the first since the 23rd edition of the Tour Down Under of many editions need not be climbed.

The wind becomes Schachmann’s loss

The 4th stage was characterized by strong wind and high speed. The peloton rode at an average speed of 46 km/h over the 133 kilometer distance. Wind belays also formed along the way, with Stage 1 winner Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and the overall best German Maximilian Schachmann (Bora – hansgrohe) trailing behind and having nothing to do with the ending. from the scene. They finished just four minutes behind Coquard.

Schachmann, however, was the only driver in the top 12 overall to be left behind. At the top of the Tour, things changed little with Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) continuing to lead 15 seconds clear of Sunday’s final finish at Mount Lofty. However, the second is now Simon Yates (Jayco – AlUla), who obtained a second bonus in an intermediate sprint, passing Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) who was now in the same time frame.

Fourth overall, 45 seconds away, remains Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), who continues to lead the junior ranking. Michael Matthews (Jayco – AlUla) also defended his points classification leader’s jersey as he was sixth in the stage. There has been a change of leadership in the mountain ranking, which is now led by Mikkel Honoré (EF Education – EasyPost).

Here’s how the race went:

Five kilometers after the start, Jonasutsch (EF Education – EasyPost) launched the first attack of the day, but was initially unable to escape. The peloton was too alert and fast because of the strong winds. Butrutsch did not give up, tried again after twelve kilometers in vain and finally escaped successfully after 26 kilometers. Daryl Impey (Israel – Premier Tech) followed him.

After 51 kilometers, uzz won the mountain’s first prize at the foot of Willunga Hill, which was omitted this year, ahead of Impey and Honoré, who wore the mountain jersey on Saturday as a representative of Vine.

Just five kilometers later, the peloton suffered a big tear at the edge of the wind. About sixty pilots were part of the first group. Tauch and Impey covered 46.8 kilometers in the first hour of racing, but due to the windy stint behind them it wasn’t enough to go further than 73 kilometers. There the duo was put in place by the first part of the main peloton, who were then 1:15 minutes ahead of the second peloton.

Bauhaus and Schachmann not in the first windy season

Besides Bauhaus and Schachmann, the 13th overall sat in this second platoon. Kaden Groves (Jayco – AlUla) and Stage 2 winner Rohan Dennis (Jumbo – Visma).

With 36 kilometers to go, Honoré obtained the second category 4 mountain prize of the day and therefore also the top of the mountain classification on his 26th birthday. Shortly after, it looked like the first two big pelotons of riders were going to meet again, as the gap between the Bauhaus group and almost 30 kilometers before the end was reduced to 30 seconds.

But even this last burst did not succeed and the gap widened further after the last intermediate sprint at Aldinga Beach directly on the coast. In that sprint, which Page won, Yates secured third place and the bonus second that propelled him past Bilbao to finish second overall.

Now Willunga was in a constant battle for position, where the objective was to sprint for the day’s victory on the final uphill stretch. The favorites in the first peloton were Caleb Ewan (Australian national team), Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Matthews. But Ewan and Hayter had obviously lost too much power along the way and couldn’t hold the top positions for the last two kilometres.

Bettiol almost obliterates Liepins

Matthews was well ahead, but on the final corner, 300 meters from the line, Cofidis driver Alexis Renard led the field – with his sprinter Coquard in fourth place. The little Frenchman launched his final sprint exactly at the 200 meter mark and immediately created a wide gap. Even Matthews couldn’t keep up.

Only Bettiol was about as fast in the end, but the Italian came from too far and therefore had to settle for second place. On the way, he almost tripped the Latvian Emils Liepins (Trek – Segafredo) by touching him when overtaking. Liepins had to step off the pedals with both feet and narrowly avoided a massive crash.

Coquard, however, noticed none of this and rode to his big triumph up front – with a lead of several bike lengths.

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