Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) beat Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) to win the 108th edition of Paris-Tours on Sunday.
The two had been part of an early breakaway in the 237.5km race that included Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura), Yoann Paillot (La Pomme Marseille), Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport), Julien Duval (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Pierre Gouault (BigMat-Auber 93).
With Giant-Shimano, FDJ and Tinkoff-Saxo in charge of the peloton, the race seemed destined to end in a bunch sprint. But Wallays and Voeckler were still off the front in the final kilometers as defending champion John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) tried in vain to organize a chase.
BMC’s Dylan Teuns launched a late pursuit, but with 2km to race the two escapees were still away and racing for the win.
Garmin-Sharp finally came forward in the bunch, but the chase was 38 seconds behind, 10 seconds behind the surging Teuns.
The chase gathered steam, sweeping up Teuns, as ahead, Voeckler took the front as the two breakaways rode under the red kite.
The Europcar rider led out the sprint as the chase closed in with 300 meters to go, but the 25-year-old Wallays made short work of the veteran Frenchman, easily coming around him on the left to take the victory, with Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol) taking the bunch sprint for third as 12 seconds back.
Wallays, who likewise won the under-23 edition of Paris-Tours in 2010, said he and Voeckler were clearly the strongest in the break.
“I had the chance to go in the right breakaway,” he said, adding that he followed Voeckler’s attack, betting on a two-man sprint finish.
“This is the first time I found myself in a breakaway with him, and I learned a lot,” Wallays said. “At 3km I understood that the victory would be decided between us.”
Voeckler was predictably disappointed, not least because it meant a winless 2014 for the 35-year-old Frenchman.
“A winless season, this is the first time since 2003,” he said. “Twice this year I broke a collarbone, each time against a car, never in the race. It takes time to recover.”