The Grand Tours season is officially over. In Madrid this Sunday, the 2023 Vuelta a Espana came to an end with the victory of Kaden Groves and Sepp Kuss’ success overall. The Groupama-FDJ team joined the Spanish capital with its eight riders and with quite a great record. With six former riders from “La Conti”, including five Grand Tour rookies, the French team still left its mark over the last three weeks. Its youngsters have not only made a name for themselves but also gained invaluable experience for the future.
“We got the best out of this group”, Benoît Vaugrenard
Three weeks after its successful team time trial in Barcelona (5th), the young Groupama-FDJ squad reached Madrid on Sunday after 3,153.8 kilometres. On the final day made for the fast men, Kaden Groves took the win and Lewis Askey obtained 14th place. The French team therefore leaves Spain with a tally of eleven top-10s, including two second places with Romain Grégoire and Lenny Martinez, but also and above all two days with the red jersey. When looking behind, the lead sports director Benoît Vaugrenard proved quite positive. “We started with a young team, but without complexes,” he recalled. “We wanted to be in the mix right away and that’s what we managed to do. We did very well during the first ten days, especially with Lenny’s red jersey and his second place. I also liked the way they rode: always at the front, without fear. They rode alongside the big guys, the startlist was impressive, but I was stunned with their way of getting in the fight. I saw a very strong team. Of course, at the end of the day, we missed a stage victory, but I think we did everything to get it. We were just beaten by a stronger rider each time and we didn’t miss many breaks that could interest us. We got the best out of this group, we couldn’t do better. There are really no regrets. Or if there were, it could be Remco Evenepoel’s failure in the general classification, as it changed the situation and made the task much harder in the breakaways.”
“They discovered themselves in many angles”, Benoît Vaugrenard
Although there are many satisfactions for the race’s youngest team, Benoît Vaugrenard confessed there was also a “hard sequence” halfway through, when Lenny Martinez lost positions overall particularly: “We felt that it started to be complicated in the second week, the speed got even faster, and the mountain stages were harder with quite short time limits. They really needed support. We needed to find new goals to get them back into it, then they recovered and realized that everyone was struggling.” From this came out some important lessons. “I think that our youngsters discovered themselves in many angles,” Benoît continued. “In particular, they realized that you could still achieve something while being tired. This is something they didn’t really know. During the third week, they managed to get results and go on breakaways, which they did not think they would be able to do in the second week. When your legs hurt, your head takes over, and most of all, everyone is in the same situation. So you can do lots of things even if your legs hurt. We were there to work for the future, and this Vuelta will help them to make another important step in their progression. This should bring them an advantage already next year. They will acquire the strength that they did not all yet have at WorldTour level. I am sure that they will take another step forward.”