Zakarin gewinnt Tour d’Azerbaidjan

Justin Jules (La Pomme Marseille) won the final stage of the Tour d’Azerbaidjan, while Ilnur Zakarin (Rusvelo) won the overall title. Jules won the bunch sprint on Baku’s Freedom Square ahead of Youcef Reguigui (MTN Qhubeka) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC Polsat).

Zakarin successfully defended the leader’s jersey he won on the previous day’s Queen Stage. Vitaliy Buts (Kolss) and Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) rounded out the final podium.

“It was a very tough day and a hard circuit,” said Zakarin. “The team protected me in the stage and in fact in the whole race. My first thanks go to my teammates, who earned the victory.”

It was the first win of the year for the 28-year-old Frenchman, who had placed 12th on the race’s third stage. “The climbing on the laps was very difficult,” he said. “The selection today was done by the back of the race and not by the front.”

The King of the Mountains jersey went to Linus Gerdemann (MTN Qhubeka), best young rider was Robert Power (National Team Australia), the sprint jersey was awarded to Vitaly Buts (Kolss), and MTN Qhubeka was the best team overall. Samir Jabrayilov (Synergy Baku) was named the best Azeri rider.

There was no wind but a high temperature for the closing stage, which sing stage consisted of a 120 lap starting and ending at Freedom Square in Baku, and then six laps of a difficult circuit course through downtown Baku, including cobblestones and a category three climb – a short but steep climb up the cobbles of Old Town Baku.

By the 40 km marker, three riders had managed to put 40 seconds on the field. David de la Fuente (Torku), Samir Jabrayilov (Synergy Baku) and Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme Marseille) were finally successful in establishing a break. Their gap climbed steadily up to 6 minutes, before dropping after they hit the turning point on their way back to the closing circuits in Baku.

The field circled back to Baku and the start/finish line, crossing it and setting out on the first of the city circuit laps with a 4:05 gap. Vaubourzeix led the head group across to win the third sprint of the day,with the field flying along behind them, and the gap continually declining. It had fallen to 1:30 as they set out on the third lap.

Jabrayilov was dropped on that lap, and the peloton split as multiple attacks formed. The field was unwilling to let anyone else get away and the gap to the two leaders fell to under a minute.

The gap moved under a minute as the chasing teams scented blood. Two more riders jumped in chase, Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni Giacattoli) and Klemen Stimulak (Adria Mobil). With 26 km to go they caught the two leaders, and the foursome had a 40 second lead on the field.

They too were caught, and a small group of about 40 riders set out on the final lap of the race.

Download the photo here and here (copyright Mario Stiehl)

Stage 5 results
1. Justin Justin (FRA) Team La Pomme Marseille
2. Youcef Reguigui (ALG) MTN – Qhubeka
3. Adrian Honkisz (POL) CCC Polsat Polkowice

Final general classification
1. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) RusVelo
2. Vitaliy Buts (UKR) Kolss Cycling Team
3. Lluís Guillermo Mas Bonet (ESP) Caja Rural

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