De Lie earned it

May 5 th 2024 - 17:22

The 40th edition of the Tro Bro Leon was animated for a long time by a seven-man breakaway, which, as in the last two years, included the amazing Morné Van Niekerk (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93). The final rider in the breakaway, the South African, was only caught with 6.5 km to go, just as Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) launched his attack on the legendary ribin de la ferme. Only Pierre Gautherat (Décathlon AG2R La Mondiale) managed to stay with the Belgian before the express return of American Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech), who had dominated the roads of Paris-Tours last October. Even though the three riders were very close to each other, they were caught by six chasers just before the final kilometre. De Lie had it all to do again. But he still had enough energy to dominate the sprint ahead of Clément Venturini (Arkéa B&B Hotels) and Gautherat. The 22-year-old 'Taureau de Lescheret' thus exacts revenge for his runner-up finish last year when Giacomo Nizzolo jumped him at the line. He has finally won the Tro Bro Leon, a success made all the more pleasing by the fact that he had two punctures, forcing him into two frantic chases late in the race, with the help of his teammates.

Tro Bro Léon 2024 - Extended Highlights

The actual start of the 40th edition of the Tro Bro Leon was made at 11:59 am with a decent breeze and a few rays of sunshine filtering through the cottony sky. The 137-rider peloton was in no mood to leave any openings as the first attack came on the first of the 203.6 kilometres. A group of seven riders, including Morne Van Niekerk, who had already escaped from the field in the last two editions, took a 15-second lead before being caught at km 11 along the seafront on the scenic route. A group of five riders tried their luck but to no avail. Then, the break of the day came at km 22 under a brief drizzle.

Seven riders in the lead

The breakaway featured Kévin Avoine (Van Rysel-Roubaix), who had made several attempts since the start, his teammate Samuel Leroux, as well as George Jackson (Burgos-BH), Morné Van Niekerk (St Michel-Mavic Auber 93) and Jaume Guardeno (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA). The peloton dropped two minutes in the first sector, n° 29 - the numbering of the ribinoùs was reversed, a new wrinkle introduced this year. Nicolas Aluztiga (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alexander Konijn (Nice), who had been between the breakaway and filed for a long time, finally joined the leaders at km 39.

Avoine’s harvest

Avoine won the first of the three intermediate sprints at km 57 in Lanorven, ahead of Leroux and Van Niekerk. The gap peaked at 6m30s in the crossing of Landerneau, where Julian Alaphilippe had donned the Yellow Jersey in 2021 after winning stage 1 of the Tour de France. After two hours of the race, the average speed was 42.5km/h. The peloton, led by two riders from Q36.5, was 4m30s back at the race's midway point. In the heart of the sumptuous Ménéham natural site, on a narrow road nibbled by the dune, Avoine won the second sprint ahead of Leroux and Van Niekerk. The peloton also nibbled away at its deficit (3m5s). Three riders from Arkéa B&B Hotels - who wore a special black and white jersey this Sunday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Breton squad and the 40th anniversary of the race - now led the chase. But the gap grew to 4m4s.

Unlucky De Lie

Several riders suffered punctures in sectors 21 to 19, including Piet Allegaert (Cofidis), the runner-up in 2021, Konijn, who was dropped from the breakaway, and one of the pre-race favourites, Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dsnty). Nils Eekhoff (dsm-firmenich PostNL), third last year, took a tumble. Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) accelerated in ribin 18. The attacks were multiplying. Only about 30 riders remained at the start of the last 60 kilometres. The Groupama-FDJ team, led by Eddy Le Huitouze, set off to maintain an accelerated tempo, preventing De Lie's return. However, this was only temporary, as the gap was bridged with 50km to go. A little further on, at the first time by the finish line, the six frontrunners were only 1m06s ahead. Avoine took second place in the third intermediate sprint and secured his place in the classification.

Van Niekerk's resistance

De Lie put the hammer down in the "ribin de la ferme”, with 40km to go.

He made up the gap. However, he preferred to accelerate again at the summit, only to fall victim to another incident that dropped him by more than a minute. Up ahead, Van Niekerk dropped his last companions before ribin n°9. And he managed to regain some ground. Thanks to the work of his teammates, De Lie managed to catch the peloton with 16 km to go, while Cosnefroy made several attacks. Van Niekerk still had a 15-second advantage when the final lap bell rang with 12.6 km remaining over a peloton of some 40 riders.

The last word for De Lie

He was finally caught on the last section of the “ribin de la ferme”, at 6.5 km, just as De Lie launched another attack. Only Pierre Gautherat (Décathlon AG2R La Mondiale) managed to stay on his wheel before Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech) joined them. The three riders managed to pull together, but a group of chasers caught them before the red flame. The win was decided in a nine-rider sprint. And Arnaud De Lie had the last word, winning the Tro Bro Leon for the first time in his career a year after finishing runner-up.

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