Etoile de Bessèges is a big race at the start of the French season. Not a Tour or Paris-Nice or Dauphine but significant enough to be a benchmark. In my view.
The race started earlier this week and so far (in typically French style) has been about renaissance.
Stage 1 saw former World Champion Mads Pedersen return to form and look ominous for the upcoming cobbled classics with a win on a climb that looked really impressive.
But it was stage 2 and 3 that got the home crowd wagging their tongues.
|2||PEDERSEN Mads||Trek – Segafredo||5||12||,,|
|3||JOHANNESSEN Tobias Halland||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||3||7||,,|
|5||BETTIOL Alberto||EF Education-EasyPost||4||0:04|
|7||SWIFT Connor||Team Arkéa Samsic||2||,,|
|8||MENTEN Milan||Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB||1||,,|
|9||CHAMPOUSSIN Clément||AG2R Citroën Team||,,|
Forgotten man of French cycling Bryan Coquard has moved across to Cofidis from B&B Hotels during the winter and most pundits saw this as a last big pay cheque and a swansong.
But he climbed (yes climbed) his way to win stage 2 leaving some real quality in his wake.
It was a brilliant return to form for a nearly man who lost his way as a sprinter before trying his luck in breakaways. This win is a really positive sign.
Today proved it was no fluke for the boys in red and white when Benjamin Thomas repeated the feat.
If you throw in Guillame Martins innovative and almost successful attack in the GP of Marseille at the weekend is this finally the return to form of one of the pelotons longest serving teams?
I hope so… but let’s give it another month and see. Just to be sure.