The former riders of the development team are definitely all the rage. A few days after Paul Penhoët’s first victory among the big boys, Romain Grégoire also unlocked his record at the highest level this Wednesday, on stage 2 of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque. In the uphill finish in Laon, the young Frenchman took a win full of explosiveness and control ahead of the bunch. He brought to the team its fourth victory this season and moved up to third place in the general classification. Eighth on the day, Paul Penhoët now sits in sixth place as a decisive time trial is on the menu Thursday.

In the aftermath of quite a messy bunch sprint, the peloton was expected to be less substantial this Thursday in Laon, after 162 kilometres from Compiègne. Two climbs featured in the final of the second stage of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, and that is where the decision was supposed to happen. This is why a breakaway of five riders managed to establish itself easily from the first kilometres with Tuur Dens (Team Flanders-Baloise), Ceriel Desal (Bingoal WB), Samuel Leroux (Van Rysel – Roubaix Lille Métropole), Logan Currie ( Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and Pier-André Coté (Human Powered Health). “The start was calm, the breakaway went very early, then it settled down”, said Frédéric Guesdon. The fugitives were able to build themselves a lead of four minutes but were always controlled by the peloton. The scenario thus turned out to be rather straightforward until sixty kilometres to go, when the riders got to an exposed plateau. “Like yesterday, some places were good for echelons, so it was more nervous”, resumed Frédéric. “Thirty kilometres from the finish, we also entered a section where we had to be very careful. There were some attempts of echelons, but the wind wasn’t blowing hard enough. Then we headed to the final which was a bit technical. Everyone was nervous and everyone wanted to position themselves to tackle the climbs in good conditions”.

“I really was waiting for it”, Romain Grégoire

The day’s breakaway still had more than a minute entering the last ten kilometres, but the fight preceding the approach to the penultimate climb reduced the gap hugely. “I asked the guys to be in a good position at that point, but it was not easy”, added Frédéric. “There is not room for everyone, and we were maybe slightly behind. However, we rectified the situation afterwards, and that is the most important. We had three cards for the finale. We kept Paul for the sprint, Sam was there in case the race opened up early, and Romain was a bit in-between”.The final was difficult to manage with the climb five kilometres from the finish”, said the former European Juniors champion. “I knew it was already an important point of the race. A group got out and I managed to jump across in the descent as we hadn’t anyone in the front”. The 20-year-old joined a small group of strong guys, but a small bunch eventually came back together behind the last men from the breakaway before tackling the final climb (2km at 4%). “I knew that I had to save my energy, not to do too much”, said Romain. “There was a good chance that the peloton would come back and that it would finish in a sprint since the climb was not very steep. We had to be patient and carefully analyse which riders were moving”.

In the final climb, the Groupama-FDJ riders remained slightly in the back for a while, then Romain Grégoire came back to the front positions just 500 meters from the line, while the leading men were about to be caught. “I started my effort at 300 meters”, he said. “The last corner was 100 meters from the finish, and I knew I could hold on to the line”. “We knew that the highest slope of the climb was at that point”, added Frédéric. “Lewis and Enzo raced a team time trial there on the Tour de l’Avenir and they knew the climb. We had planned to make the effort at the last moment”. Thanks to a sharp attack, Romain Grégoire immediately took his rivals off the wheel, caught the breakaway just before the last curve, and then left it all to the line. Without question, he conquered a large victory, and screamed his joy crossing the line. “I showed several times since the start of the season that I could be in the top-10, but I was missing a victory”, he added. “I was really waiting for it, and I knew that I could get it in such a finish”. “It was important for him, for his morale”, said Frédéric. “He just comes from the youth categories where he was winning a lot, and he was under a bit of pressure. It’s good that he manages to grab victory quickly. The first one is often difficult to take, and it will surely open doors for him and relieve him”.

“Our youngsters are ready as soon as they arrive with us”, Frédéric Guesdon

A winner six times last year in the U23 ranks, Romain Grégoire now has his first win among “the big boys”, after six top-10s this season including eighth place on the Strade Bianche. He also brought the fourth victory of the season to Groupama-FDJ, four days after the third that came from his former teammate in “La Conti”, Paul Penhoët. “Previously, May was sometimes a bit quiet, but these two victories in one week do us good”, added Frédéric. “It starts a momentum. It might come as a surprise that youngsters win in their rookie year, but it’s not. They are ready as soon as they arrive with us thanks to the good work done by the Conti team. It’s a good thing that it pays off quickly.” Romain Grégoire is also third in the general classification on Wednesday evening, one second behind the leader Samuel Leroux. Paul Penhoët is sixth at seven seconds. “We can do great things in Cassel on Saturday, but before that, there is a time trial tomorrow”, added Romain. “I’ll have to focus on that first. I don’t know yet what I’m worth with the pros, we’ll see what happens.” “Let’s hope the time trial goes well and that we stay in the mix for the overall”, concluded Frédéric Guesdon.