James Fouche has won the king of the mountains jersey at Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux. The four-stage-in-three-day race saw Fouche also finish the race in 7th place overall after two very strong final stage performances combined with the accumulation of bonus seconds earlier in the race.
Belgium was once again host to racing for the Team WIGGINS Kiwi who lined up at Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux after his previous outing in New Zealand colours at Gent-Wevelgem/Kattekoers-Ieper. The first stage of this year’s race was a 136.4km journey from Pecq to Flobecq that concluded with two 20km circuits.
It was in the opener that James Fouche chose to make his mark, entering the day’s two-man breakaway and staying clear for almost the entire stage. After 66km of racing the gap for Fouvhe and Marten Kooistra of SEG Racing Academy was a sizeable 5.30mins and the pair showed that they were more than up for the challenge of fending off the peloton over the five categorised climbs before the finish. The peloton rallied together though, and despite Fouche enjoying a 3.25min lead with his breakaway companion at 20km to go, the gap then toppled and after a very tense final 10km the two were caught with just 3km remaining.
Jasper Philipsen of Hagens Berman Axeon won the stage with Fouche in the bunch and still losing no time overall. Despite crossing the line 54th, Fouche sat in 5th place on GC after his time bonuses accrued through the day and also held a commanding 23 point lead in the king of the mountains classification after day 1.
Day 2 from Tournai to Leuze-en-Hainaut was 162.8km in length and of the four stages was the one for James to consolidate his position. There were no more points gained but his lead was already a substantial one. There were points on offer for the race’s individual time trial, with the Cote de la Croisette coming early on in the 9.6km between Frasnes and Saint-Sauveur. Fouche’s lead was a strong one and the speed of Belgian rider Stan Dewulf did nothing to dent the Kiwi’s KOM lead. Dewulf took the stage in 14.19mins, with Fouche posting a strong 12th place 32 seconds back which saw him sit in 10th on GC going into the final stage.
The final stage from Chateau de Moulbai to Beau Site (Saint-Sauveur) took the field 91.3km on a challenging course that culminated in an uphill finish. Fouche was unlikely to be challenged for the overall KOM crown but he took care to notch up a few more points and take his tally up to 66 points, 33 ahead of Marten Kooistra who maintained second place. Stan Dewulf again took the stage accolades with small time gaps throughout the top 20 or so. James Fouche’s climbing legs took him to 10th on the stage, and a leap up the GC in the finale to 7th overall.