Although the long ride between Nîmes and Carcassonne, over nearly 220 kilometers, proved lively at some points this Friday, it still ended with an anticipated mass sprint expected and another victory for Mark Cavendish, who equalled the record of Tour de France stage wins. The riders of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team were able to safely complete this thirteenth stage and are now looking forward to the climbing stages to come.

In Nîmes this Friday morning, there indeed were doubts about the potential day’s scenario. For about thirty kilometers, that doubt was maintained before a three-man breakaway including Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextAsh) and Omer Goldstein (Israel-Start Up Nation) made the situation much clearer. “A small breakaway went after a nice fight at the start of the race,” said Valentin Madouas. “We were careful with the big groups, but we did not want to enter in a breakaway of 2-3 riders, as the objective is to save energy for the hard stages to come”. “There was a bit of wind”, continued Yvon Madiot. “It made the race more nervous. However, the sprinters’ teams controlled quite well and there was not too much action. However, the route was quite tricky and we had to cross some narrow villages. We had to remain careful”. Once the day’s trio got clear, the peloton just set a decent tempo a few minutes behind and the stage then continued without notable events until the last sixty kilometers. “A big crash then split the bunch in a downhill section”, said Valentin. “Fortunately, we were not involved. Stefan was blocked, but he didn’t crash. Then we knew it was going to be windy in the final, so that it would be very tense. Our goal was to protect David from the crashes, but we got involved a bit in the echelons and we had a bit of fun out there”.

“The goal is to get a good result this weekend”, Valentin Madouas

In a fast final hour of racing, the breakaway was first caught before Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels) unsuccessfully tried to go solo. The wind was not blowing enough either to provoke any major split and the bunch was still quite big coming into Carcassonne for the sprint. For the thirty-fourth time in his career on the Tour, Mark Cavendish took the win. As for the Groupama-FDJ riders, they safely completed the stage. “We needed to avoid any problem and the mission is fulfilled in that matter,” said Yvon Madiot. “Stefan just hit a rider without crashing, then had a puncture in the final, but we avoided the crashes”. “There is no damage for us and that was the most important thing today,” said Valentin. “We have been able to recover a little bit, but less than yesterday. Today, we still covered 225 kilometers, counting the neutral. Even if we did not ride very fast, it was still five hours on the saddle, and the heat also tires the body out. We might have drunk fifteen bidons today! These days are certainly not very hard physically speaking, but they are not super easy either”.

An interesting weekend is now looming for the young man and his three mates. A very hilly profile is in store for Saturday, before a mountainous ride towards Andorra on Sunday. “Tomorrow is clearly a stage for the breakaway,” says Valentin. “It’s too hard for the sprinters, and probably not hard enough for the leaders. The breakaway will probably go all the way to the end. I don’t see any other possible scenario. On Sunday, we’ll have a beautiful mountain stage. The climbs won’t be very steep, but they are rather long. It will be a nice final day of racing before the rest day, and we know there will be action. With David, Bruno and Stefan, the goal will be to be in the front, to show ourselves and get a good result this weekend, before looking to the third week”. “The hills and mountains are coming,” concluded Yvon. “I expect us to be part of the breakaways and to be right in the mix!”

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