A wild day of racing went down at the Tour de l'Avenir today. The race lead changed hands after Jan Bakelants of Belgium spent 207 kilometers off the front. For the last 52 kilometers, he rode solo. Bakelants won the stage, and leads American Peter Stetina in the general classification by just over a minute. Tomorrow's stage is a 21 kilometer crono around Blaye-les-Mines, which may allow Stetina to re-take the lead. The race concludes in the Pyrenees on Sunday, 14 September.
Today's stage, on the flip.
As is the norm, a break escaped in early kilometers of the stage. After round about 20 km, a group of ten had established a gap, and settled into the business of a long day out. Among the riders in the break were Biel Kadri of France, Jan Bakelants of Belgium, Stefano Pirazzi of Italy, Tejay Vangaderen of the United States. Few expected the overall lead to change. After all, Peter Stetina of the United States had a 2.27 lead over Jérôme Coppel of France at the beginning of the day.
Well, all did not go as expected. Over the climb at Chaude-Aigues, the break held 4 minutes over the main field, and the U.S. team began to work to minimize the gap. They had very nearly captured the escapers, when the break split over the côte de Lussagues, with Bakelants, Vangaderen, and Patrick Gretsch gaining a small gap off the front. With the majority of the break caught, the main field relaxed their efforts. That was all the leading trio needed and they upped their tempo and quickly stretched out their advantage. Five others from the original break remained suspended between the leading trio and the main field, and held their position until the finish.
After 160 kilometers of racing, Jan Bakelants attacked from the leading group of three. None of the others could follow. He quickly built up a lead of 1.40 over his pursuers and almost 6 minutes over the main field. Over the côte de la Malric, his advantage extended still further. Though Bakelants showed clearly the effects of his efforts, he did not crack. Under the 10 km banner, he held 2.40 over his former companions in the breakaway, and 5 minutes over the main field, who had whittled away some, though not all, of Bakelants's winning margin.
Bakelants won the stage, followed by Mitchell Docker at 3.10 and Maciej Paterski of Poland at same time. Marcel Wyss of Switzerland won the bunch sprint for 10th, some four mintues later. Bakelants currently leads the general classification. Two Americans trail him: Peter Stetina at 1.07 and Tejay Van Garderen at 3.21.
Tomorrow, the crono!
This post is drawn from the coverage at velo101.com.