At home, Valentin Madouas inevitably wanted to play a role in the Bretagne Classic this Sunday. In the last quarter of the race, the Brest puncher did show himself with a few attacks. Like the rest of the peloton, however, he never managed to catch a trio that broke away sixty kilometres from the line and eventually fought for victory. He then entered the home stretch in a chasing group and took 8th place at the finish.

“I had the legs to be with them”, Valentin Madouas

With Paris-Roubaix’ postponement, the peloton took the start of its first WorldTour French Classic of 2021 in Plouay. Although the traditional circuit has been abandoned since 2018, the riders still had a very challenging course of 250 kilometres to overcome on Sunday. The first climbs actually made it possible for a quartet including of Sébastien Grignard (Lotto-Soudal), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-Citroën), Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) to hit the front. “The pace was quite high from the start,” recalled Frédéric Guesdon. “There were four good riders up front, and with the tailwind, the bunch could not let them too much space. On the round trip, there was a headwind and the route was much harder and more technical”. The leading riders still managed to get a six minute-lead before the last hundred kilometers, as the main teams started to increase the pace. The peloton even came back just three minutes behind De Marchi and Hermans, the last men standing from the break, as it approached the gravel climb of the day. “We knew that the race would really kick in there, sixty kilometres from the finish,” added Frédéric Guesdon. And it did. From the bottom of the climb, the world champion Julian Alaphilippe launched an attack and was only followed by his teammate Mikkel Honoré, Tadej Pogacar and Benoît Cosnefroy.

It was a real turning point, and Valentin Madouas missed the right move for a few metres. “I made a small mistake in the sector trying to manage my effort a bit,” confessed the young man from Brittany. “At the bottom, some riders left a gap and we immediately found ourselves ten metres behind. I wanted to spread my effort because we started the climb very fast, but in the end we looked at each other a bit and got trapped behind. That’s a shame. I was ten metres away the entire climb and I know I had the legs to be with them”. From then on, it got much more difficult. Although Pogacar was dropped from the leading group, the remaining trio caught the breakaway’s survivors, and then got rid of them. “They immediately took thirty seconds and the peloton took a little while to organize and try to close the gap,” explained Frédéric. “In the end, it made the race a little calmer than expected as the peloton rode as a whole in the climbs. It was a bit of a frustration also, because we could have had a more lively race given the course”. Valentin Madouas also reported a factor that played a lot in the day’s scenario. “The headwind blocked the race a bit, even if the trio managed to go from far,” explained the local rider. “In the front, they rode well and managed their lead perfectly. In the back, we looked a bit at each other. We tried, but the wind still blocked the moves. It’s a pity for the race, it could have been even harder. In the final, I was waiting for the right moment to attack, but there was a headwind in the main climbs, so we couldn’t really go away.”

“I was hoping for a little better”, Valentin Madouas

As the bunch never managed to bridge the gap to the Alaphilippe-Honoré-Cosnefroy trio, Valentin Madouas made a few attempts, but the Deceuninck-Quick Step team also made sure of covering all the moves. Eight kilometres from the line, the Groupama-FDJ rider finally managed to open a gap, along with Connor Swift. “I tried to anticipate a bit because I knew I was not going to get a result in the sprint,” he added. “Unfortunately, I missed a corner on the downhill and lost Swift’s wheel.” The French puncher still managed to come over the last hill within a chasing group, but it was far too late to catch the leading trio. Benoit Cosnefroy grabbed the win in front, and about ten seconds later, Madouas secured eighth place on the day. “It doesn’t mean much,” he said. “I had quite heavy legs in the final sprint and I knew it would be hard for me”. Matching his best result from 2018, Valentin Madouas had a taste of unfinished business on Sunday night. “I have good feelings and it’s great, but it’s always annoying not to have a result to show for it, especially at Plouay,” he concluded. “Surely the race suits me quite well, but I was hoping for a little better. I had the legs to make a podium, so it’s a bit disappointing to be eighth”. “We have mixed feelings”, confirmed Frédéric, “as I think that Valentin had the legs to do much better. He tried a lot and still took 8th place. This is the day’s frustration”.

The young man will now head to the East of France, in order to take part in three one-day races next week that could suit him.

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