One had to wait until the penultimate day to witness a bunched sprint at the end of the stage. In such a register all the possible emotions for this type of finish occurred heading closer to Zorgho: the chase of a little group of escapees, the preparation of a train with several wagons by the Alsace team, the confidence crisis of sprinter Mickaël Schnell slightly to keen to get his arms up in the air and the long wait after a photo-finish. It was finally Julien Tomasi who offered Alsace another victory, his second of the event after his success in Kaya. Concerning the Moroccans, the day finished, as expected, with the yellow jersey remaining in the team but also the pink jersey conquered by Mohammed Er Ragragui, the new leader of the points standing.
The collection continues. Some thought that the 110 kilometres of riding to go from Fada N’Gourma to Zorgho would look like a slight rest day after yesterday’s tough stage conquered by Adil Jelloul. But again, a conqueror’s spirirt could be witnessed in the Moroccan team who had decided to go for Vincent Viet’s pink jersey, one of the only jerseys not yet on Moroccan shoulders. The man in charge of the mission was Mohammed Er Ragragui who made the move in a breakaway group of seven riders. Three kilometres later, thirty riders were to enjoy a leading role including Vincent Viet well aware of Morocco’s intentions. At the intermediate sprint of Diapangou (km 14), the rider from the Essonne team was to lose his leading place for one little point.
A gruppetto gets organised
The pack was to bunch up again just after the sprint. The fast pace still led by the Morrocan squad started making things tough for many struggling riders. After just under 40 kilometrs of racing, only 45 riders remained among the main pack including all the Alsace and Moroccan men, the holders of the leading jerseys and the first 25 riders overall. For all the others, a gruppetto was organised.
A precious point for Er Ragragui
Kiba (Bur) and Appert (Fra – CEN) tried their luck and broke away at km 45. Their attempt only lasted around thirty kilometres until the following intermediate sprint where a new episode of the battle for pînk was to be held. Viet’s reaction allowed him to get back into joint leading position. But ten kilometres later in Sapaga, Er Ragragui claimed a precious point that gave him the lead again.
Tomasi, for just an inch
Immediately after a new breakaway group took off including the likes of Mahamadi Sawado (Bur), Karraz (Mar), Tall (Bur), Tekou (Cam) and Tomasi (Fra – ALS). The five men kept hope alive during twenty kilometres but were caught with 8 kilometres left. Several teams looked then decided to await a bunched sprint to fight it out, especially the Belgium and Alsace squads. Tomasi went back to work with the ambition to help out Mickaël Schnell in his defence of the green jersey. On the finish line, the Alsace riders slightly anticipated their joy without knowing if Lionel Syne’s last minute effort would be good enough. But the photo-finish said it all: for just an inch, Tomasi claimed the stage.
Text and pictures : Amaury sport organisation