The Grand Slam… of Franche-Comté! On the grounds of “La Conti” and its own Performance Centre, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team concluded the weekend as it had started it: in style. After his victories in the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs on Friday and the Tour du Jura on Saturday, Thierry Bricaud’s men completed the trilogy with another win in the Tour du Doubs on Sunday. At the top of Le Larmont, Lenny Martinez proved the strongest like 48 hours before on La Malate. The young man took his fourth win of the season, the team its eighth.

The challenge was clear and ambitious at the start from Morteau on Sunday morning. After winning the previous two races, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team aimed to complete the hat-trick on Franche-Comté’s roads with the Tour du Doubs, also the eighth round of the Coupe de France FDJ. “At the briefing, the main question was: so, do we make this hat-trick happen or not?”, smiled Thierry Bricaud. In order to do so, they had to cover 200 kilometres towards Pontarlier and the climb of Le Larmont (6.4 km at 5.4%). Other difficulties certainly were on the riders’ menu, but too far from the finish to have a real impact on the day’s outcome. The day began with a short neutralization after thirty kilometers due to a crash which kept the whole medical staff busy. After everything was back in order, nine riders took the lead. “We didn’t want to control today,” explained Thierry. “We could possibly enter the break if it was a very large group, but that was not the case. Whatever happens, we weren’t supposed to pull at all because we had already done two great races and we didn’t want to put pressure on the guys mentally. It was also up to the other teams to take their responsibilities.”

“We told Lenny to take risks”, Thierry Bricaud

With the work of other squads, the bunch therefore remained about three minutes behind the break for most of the day. Sixty kilometres from the goal, an echelons’ attempt launched the action in the peloton, but without major damage. “There was a bit of a fight, it got a bit tense, but we were never in trouble and we stayed calm,” said Thierry. “As we approached the race without any particular pressure, there could be only good news at the finish, and that freed everyone.” In the penultimate climb of the day, the Col de la République, thirty-five kilometres from the finish, Groupama-FDJ nevertheless set the tempo to prevent too many counterattacks. “We knew we could try to make it a bit harder in the final, which Enzo did in particular,” added Thierry. “We then knew that if we got to the bottom of the final climb with the possibility of winning, it was all for Lenny. We didn’t see him all day, but he knew that if everything went well, he just had to give it his all on the last climb.” The ascent of Larmont was finally tackled by the last man standing from the breakaway, Samuel Leroux, but just twenty seconds ahead of the peloton.

At the foot, Cyril Barthe positioned Lenny Martinez, then the final battle could begin. “Honestly, I didn’t feel well all day,” explained the young man. “I didn’t have good legs, there was a lot of attacking all day, it was a bit of chaos”. Yet, well supported throughout the race by his teammates, the French climber was able to deliver on the final climb. He first focused on covering all dangerous moves. “There were no high gradients, so he couldn’t make the differences as he wanted, but he knew that he had to follow as much as possible,” said Thierry Bricaud. “Then he realized that the front group was getting smaller and that everyone was struggling. We told him to take risks, to try what he wanted, however he wanted, but not to have regrets.” “In the last climb, I felt better and better as we got closer to the summit,” Lenny added. Two kilometers from the finish, only half a dozen riders were left in the running for victory. He then took his chance a few moments later to launch a strong attack, which only Clément Berthet was able to follow. The duo entered the last kilometre together and made the difference on the rest of the competition. “I think we were the two strongest,” added Lenny. “When we went clear, I told him that we had to work together. I didn’t know how it was going to end up in the sprint, but at least we could compete for victory.”

“It’s a perfect weekend for us,” Lenny Martinez

The two men then reached the final straight, Lenny Martinez opened his sprint in the lead around 150 metres from the line, and almost immediately took his rival off the wheel. This gave him time to enjoy his second victory in three days in the last fifty metres. “It’s a perfect weekend for the team,” he said at the finish. “I’m so proud of the team, we did a great job. The goal was to take at least one victory out of the three. We made it three out of three. It’s really unbelievable”. “In all modesty, when you start hard races like these with David and Lenny, the least you can do is to win one,” said Thierry. “It’s never easy to win, but it wasn’t at WorldTour level. Winning one was already very good, two was superb, three is incredible. It’s good for the team. A new momentum is starting, and that’s important going forward. It also went well in the Amstel Gold Race, it’s a good weekend for us.”

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