On Friday, the Groupama-FDJ team started its Canadian stay as usual with the Grand Prix de Québec. French champion Valentin Madouas proved quite attentive in the last lap of the race but couldn’t prevent a reduced bunch sprint after a very controlled day. Arnaud De Lie dominated the sprint, and Quentin Pacher crossed the line in 25th place. On Sunday, the Grand Prix de Montréal should bring a more open race on a more demanding course.

The peloton knew exactly what to expect on Friday, for the opening of the Canadian Grand Prix in Québec. The traditional 12.6-kilometre circuit in the city therefore included the short climbs of la Montagne and des Glacis as well as a last kilometre slightly uphill. In total, a little more than 200 kilometres and almost 2,500 meters of elevation gain were to be covered. “We had two options at the start, Valentin and Jake,” said Sébastien Joly. “We also imagined an aggressive race due to the rain. In the end, and fortunately because it is always better to have good conditions on a circuit like this, it did not rain. On the other hand, it led to a traditional race in Québec. The teams with fast sprinters managed to control, whereas we could have imagined a much more offensive race with the race.” Four riders broke away after ten kilometres and led the race for more than three hours without really threatening the peloton: Mathias Vacek, Mauri Vansevenant, David Lozano and Gianmarco Garofoli. Their attempt ended more than forty kilometres from the finish, with a bit more than three laps to go, and the peloton then became much more nervous. Unfortunately, Groupama-FDJ entered the last hour of racing without Jake Stewart, as the Briton was forced to retire after a crash.

“The most important thing is that our guys are doing well”, Sébastien Joly

Reuben Thompson followed some moves in the bunch, but everything remained quite together. Some attacks did occur, but the gap was never made. “The race was to be decided in the final, so we had to save energy all day and really wait for the last laps to make the difference,” said Valentin. “We knew that some sprinters could make it, so we had to try to anticipate while waiting for the last moment. Unfortunately, we didn’t really find the opening.” After being perfectly positioned in the last lap by Lars van den Berg and Kevin Geniets, the French champion followed the strongest in the final hills, but again, the pack did not really split apart. Entering the last kilometre, around fifty men were still up there, and everything came down to the final sprint. Arnaud De Lie crushed the competition, and Quentin Pacher was the first man from Groupama-FDJ to cross the line, in 25th position. “Given the nature of the race, we couldn’t do much better,” explained Sébastien. “In addition, we lost Jake, who was our best card in the sprint. The guys positioned well, they were quite in the mix, everyone did his job well, but it was still difficult to get something out of this finish without a fast man.”

Valentin Madouas, a recent winner of the Bretagne Classic, also finished in the first peloton. “We tried to give our all in the final sprint, but we were a little too far back and we got blocked by riders coming from behind,” said the French puncher. “We gave our best so there are no regrets. The legs were good, and I think a lot of the riders on the team took confidence. The whole team worked well all day and I think we’ll do great in Montréal.” “It puts us in good conditions,” confirmed Sébastien. “The most important thing is that our guys are doing well. Valentin feels good, and he will be our best card on a circuit which will suit him even better. The other good news is that Jake has gone through exams, and everything is ok. He should be at the start on Sunday, so we should have seven riders, which is important in a race of this level.”

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