It’s special victory in many ways that Alexys Brunel was able to get in the opening stage of the Etoile de Bessèges. For his second day of racing with the WorldTour team, the 21-year-old not only took his first professional win and collected the first one for the team in 2020, he also conquered … the 500th victory of the organization’s history! Moreover, his flair and power were rewarded after a thrilling and windy stage.

A historic victory obviously could not have come after an ordinary day. The first stage of the Etoile de Bessèges did not follow a classic scenario, and the morning breakaway only lasted about forty kilometers before a bunch completelyshattered in the wind caught it. The fight started early on, and although the headwind brought things together for a bit, with sixty kilometers to go, the fight then restarted. Thirty riders made it through the numerous echelons, including Benjamin Thomas, Kevin Geniets and Alexys Brunel for Groupama-FDJ.

“At first, we wanted race for Valentin [Madouas] and keep him in the mix for the general classification along withKevin, says Thierry Bricaud. Obviously, it got complicated since echelons occurred during the whole raceUnfortunately, we did not get what we wanted in this matter but there is a real competition and we do not control everything. Valentin found himself caught behind but we still had guys in front. And the briefing was clear this morning: we wanted to win a stagein this race, and if there was an opportunity today, we had to go for it.

Always on the alert, the three riders of the team even made a bold attempt fifteen kilometers from the finish in the leading group. “In the final, they tried to make another echelon. There was a side wind and therefore the opportunity to split the breakaway, recalls Thierry. It didn’t end up as we would have hoped but they made quite an impression. At first, they wanted to lead-out Kevin in the finish. Then, because of the race’s movements and circumstances on the last lap, Alexys saw a window, went for it and proved to be opportunistic.

A few moments after the finish, the man of the day gave his view on these last few minutes with a big smile on his face: “With one lap to go, I tried to push in the climb and I felt very good. I realized something was possibleAnd with three kilometers to go, on the flat, I made on attack and it was the right one. It’s incredible, it’s my first professional victory. I will always remember it. I’m really proud and happy.Bricaud added: “It is a beautiful symbol for the team. This is proof that the transition from the continental team to the WorldTour team works. We knew he had great potential, and when you are able to time trial like he doesyou are able to win races soloHe proved it. He ended the last season with a victory in Paris-Tours and he starts this one with a victory here. He’s got a lot of confidence.

Alexys Brunel will obviously start the second stage with the leader’s jersey on his shoulders, but unfortunately, he will not be able to count on Matthieu Ladagnous who has been forced to abandon due to sickness today. In terms of the following days, Thierry Bricaud remains cautious. “Kevin is able to be in the mix for the overall,” he said. But there are still big opponents like Calmejane or Cosnefroy. The main bunch only came a minute later on the line and there may be a lively race until Saturday. A lot can still happen, it’s far from over. We have a little head start, it is up to us to manage it well, but our Etoile de Bessèges is already a success.