Grand-Champ, France - After a day full of various team’s attempts to make a breakaway stick, Rui Oliveira endured the pains of an early stage crash to finish in 7th place Saturday at Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste.
Team director Axel Merckx was on-hand for stage 4 as the team makes final preparations for the second part of the season and gears up for the Amgen Tour of California which starts on May 13th.
“There were attacks all day long with nothing really sticking,” said Merckx. “There was a 22 rider break with 3 of our guys in there, but nothing really substantial. It was an aggressive, really, really fast race. I think they averaged like 44.5 kph, so really hard. The guys did well today.”
With 10 km remaining in the 162 km stage, Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix-Lille Métropole) launched an attack and eventually saw it to the finish, winning the stage ahead of Rasmus Tiller (Joker-Icopal) who finished in second. Stan DEWULF (Lotto-Soudal U23) was third.
Merckx described the huge crash that occurred on a small downhill section after the peloton regrouped with the 22 rider breakaway. Joao Almeida and Oliveira were caught up in the crash. Initially, Oliveira was not correctly listed in the first posting of the results because he had to change bikes after the crash and his transponder wasn’t on his spare bike.
With some chest/rib pain, medical staff advised Oliveira to get examined at the hospital after the finish.
Zeke Mostov and Jonny Brown finished with the peloton, 0:24 behind Antomarchi. Herman Dahl (Joker-Icopal) remains the race leader, while Mostov dropped one spot into 6th in the GC, 0:18 behind Dahl.
“It’s hard to tell what the next few days will hold,” said Merckx. “It’s a really fast race and there’s a lot of aggressive riding. It can change at any time and also requires a lot of energy from the guys and other teams to cover the moves. It’s hard to rectify a move that’s gone when you’re not in it because you’re only 6 guys. If a couple of guys are tired, well, it’s tough.”
With rain in the forecast for Sunday’s stage and maybe Monday’s, Merckx believes the weather could be an additional factor as the race draws to a close.
“The last two days are always hectic,” said Merckx about the 7 day stage race in Brittany. “Guys start to collapse the last couple of days, which is partly what the race is designed to do. At some point it’s going to be completely shattered apart.”
(Header image of Rui Oliveira by Davey Wilson.)