Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) was able to successfully defend his Paris-Bourges title from last year by sprinting to the victory once again today. Alexander Porsev (Katusha) was 2nd in the photo-finish while 3rd went to Rudy Barbier (Roubaix Lille Metropole).
The 66th edition of the Paris Bourges pretty much went according to the race preview script with a reduced peloton sprinting for the victory after the wind had cut the peloton in half coming into Bourges. The 5 rider early escape that formed had little chance of surviving today with a consistently high pace in the peloton, thanks largely to the continual fight for position with crosswinds in the back of everyone’s mind.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka relished the higher pace as our African Team did well to maneuver our sprinters into position at the key points of the race. The first significant split came with 50km to go when Cofidis and Direct Energie where leading the peloton. Only 80 riders would be able to stay in contention after this tough section and our African Team were in good stead with Kristian Sbaragli, Ryan Gibbons, Youcef Reguigui, Adrien Niyonshuti and Johann van Zyl all pushing on in the lead group.
With the French teams driving the pace on home soil, the break was caught well before the final and all the other squads were left to jockey for position behind the likes of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie). Bouhanni (Cofidis) was undoubtedly the race favourite and the battle for his wheel with 2km to go was fierce, but it was a battle our Italian had won.
Under the 1km to go kite Sbaragli was poised to come off the wheel of Bouhanni but the Frenchman misjudged the final corner and led his followers, including Sbaragli astray. Katusha then found themselves in the driving seat for the last 500m but it was Bennett who came off the wheels of the Russian team to take the win. While Bouhanni gave up on the sprint finish Sbaragli kept on going and would end with 9th place. Our young stagiaire sprinter Gibbons, did well to be in the mix on a tough day to cross the line 16th.
Kristian Sbaragli – Rider
I was in a really good position with 700m to go, riding on the wheel of Bouhanni. He took the final corner too fast though and ended up going straight. I had to brake and then try to speed up again but so close to the finish it was impossible to get back up to speed. So today I lost the chance for a podium result.