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BikeNZ rider Jesse Sergent has won his second overall stage race victory on the pro tour when he took out the Tour International du Poitou-Charentes in France today.
The 23 year old from Feilding managed to finish safely in the peloton to retain his overall advantage on general classification for his Radioshack team in the five-stage tour.
The day was not without drama after Sergent punctured 15km from the finish but teammates Robbie Hunter and close friend and fellow Olympian Sam Bewley rode themselves to a standstill to get the leader back into the peloton on the final stage, a 171km super-fast stage to Poitiers. Teammate Yaroslav Popovych had given up his wheel with the Radioshack support car too far back to offer a quick change.
Sergent, the world champion silver medallist in the individual pursuit, set up the overall honours with a strong performance to claim the time trial yesterday. He is expected to play a central role in BikeNZ’s Olympic hopes on the track in London next year and his victory on the road today followed a win earlier in the season in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.
“What an incredible day,” said Sergent. “When I flatted everything looked over as the peloton was split in different parts at that moment and the team car was too far behind.
“With the support of Robbie Hunter and Sam Bewley who rode themselves ‘empty’ we managed to come back.”
Team Sky, taking advantage of the puncture, pushed second placed Alex Dowset into the lead on the road before Sergent responded. After getting back on to the leading bunch, another teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, who was second on general classification, abandoned his overall hopes to ensure the New Zealander to bridge up to the flying Sky attackers.
“My teammate brought me to that final climb and then I had to sprint as fast as possible to the line. Fortunately Dowsett could only take six seconds.”
“This victory was a nice collective performance,” said team director Dirk Demol.
“Afterwards we controlled the race and they did a perfect job. Then in the final 15km when Jesse flatted it was almost all of that work for nothing, but it all ended well.”
“I am especially glad that it all worked out as the team worked so hard,” said Sergent. “This was one of the fastest stages of this Tour and racing in France is always pretty tough. Attacks, attacks, attacks.”
Sergent will start on Monday (NZ time) in the Grand Prix de Plouay
Overall Classification Tour International du Poitou-Charentes:
Jesse Sergent (NZL, Team RadioShack) 15:14:40; 1; Alex Dowsett (Team Sky) at 18sec, 2; Michal Kwiatkowski (Team RadioShack) at 18s, 3.