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The Frenchman attacked with 12km to go and narrowly held off a three-rider charge from behind led by Wout van Aert (Belgium).
As Van Aert reconnected with Laporte’s back wheel in the final metres, the two sprinted for the line, with Laporte holding on for the win atop the Col du Vam. Olav Kooij (Netherlands) finished third, and Arnaud De Lie (Belgium) fourth.
“It’s hard to believe,” Laporte said later. “It was a crazy final. I felt good and I thought, ‘Ok, if I go to the sprint with guys like De Lie and Van Aert it will be hard to win. I tried and it worked.”
“It was more by heart because it is hard to predict a race like this, and I didn’t think so much. I just fought. It’s crazy to win a jersey like this. It’s hard to believe. I have to give this victory to my French team and my family. I also think of Nathan [Van Hooydonck]. I think he will be happy to see me in this jersey.”
Laporte formed part of a decisive late-race breakaway that included his teammate Sandy Dujardin (France), and Belgian pair De Lie and Van Aert as well as Mads Pedersen and Andreas Kron (Denmark), Kooij and Mike Teunissen (Netherlands), John Degenkolb (Germany) and Rasmus Tiller (Norway).
Great Britain and Italy, nations not among the breakaway, were forced into a position to chase as the move gained 30 seconds into the last lap.
Laporte then attacked the selection with 12km to go in a similar move that netted Mischa Bredewold (Netherlands) the victory in the previous day’s elite women’s road race.
Laporte quickly gained 15 seconds, but the gap was reduced to 12 as he raced into the bottom of the Col du VAM. As he pushed over the steeper slopes of the ascent, Pedersen and Kron and then Van Aert and De Lie tried to close the gap before the top.
Over the cobbles, Laporte looked back to see Van Aert, De Lie and Kooij in pursuit, and the trio closed down much of his lead in the final metres.
Van Aert launched his sprint, nearly catching Laporte, but the Frenchman responded with one last surge to the line to take the victory.
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