Vakoc reigns in Classic Sud-Ardèche
Coming off a solid block of racing in Haut Var and La Provence, the Czech champion scored his first win of the year.
The writing was on the wall for some time now, more exactly in the past two weeks, which saw Petr Vakoč put on a strong ride in both Tour du Haut Var and Tour La Provence, races which he finished each time in the top five, taking home the best young riders jersey. Day after day, he improved his condition and came closer to the win, missing out on his maiden victory of the season for just a handful of seconds in La Provence. Fortunately, the 23-year-old he didn't have to wait too much until breaking the ice, the 182.7-km long Classic Sud-Ardèche providing him the ideal opportunity to do that.
The day has started with a five-man break which stayed at the front until the final 20 kilometers, the last rider to be caught being Odd Christian Eiking (FDJ) under the impetuous pace of Etixx – Quick-Step. While many were left behind, other cyclists attacked and forced a selection, among the ones to make it to the front being Petr Vakoč and Pieter Serry. First who tried to get clear from that reduced group was Serry, the 27-year-old Belgian being joined by three men. That move was a short-lived one, as they were reeled in on the last climb of the race.
On the descent, with just a few kilometers left to the finish, new attacks came, and one of these had Vakoč as protagonist. The Czech champion couldn't get a gap, but that didn't matter in the end, as in the run-in of Guilherand-Granges he proved to be the fastest and won ahead of Julien Simon (Cofidis) and Olivier Pardini (Wallonie Bruxelles), notching his first victory of the season and the team's 14th since January.
"It was a hard and demanding race, all the time up and down on narrow roads. The team did an absolutely amazing job controlling the escape, which allowed me to save energy until the real action began, with 16 kilometers to go. After Pieter was caught, I attacked inside the final 5 kilometers, but it came up to a bunch sprint, which I started early, with 300 meters to go, and managed to hold the others off", said Petr right after the finish.
Following his fifth victory in the pro ranks, the young Czech looks with confidence to the second French race of the week-end, Drôme Classic, scheduled on Sunday: "I feel great now and I'm very happy for finally taking a win, after being so close a couple of days ago. It's a special moment also because this is the first time I have won as pro in a sprint, which was something regular for me as an U23 rider. Tomorrow will be a race more or less similar. The terrain is hilly and this suits me, but also my teammates can have a go there. We have many riders in good condition, and this gives us many options."
Photo credit: ©Etienne Garnier