The fourth stage of the Tour of Slovenia promised to be key for the final overall classification of the race, with a summit finish in Krvavec at the end of an 11.7 km climb with an average gradient of 7.6%. But before the battle between the race’s leaders, a breakaway of eight riders, including Cyril Barthe, took the lead. « The plan today, for most of the team, was to take it easier after an aggressive stage from our riders yesterday, and it was Cyril who ended up in the breakaway », explained William Green. This group, in which the rider from Béarn was accompanied by Johan Meens (Bingoal WB), Davide Baldaccini (Corratec-Vini Fantini), Marcel Camprubi (Q36.5 Pro Cycling), Barnabas Peak (Adria Mobil), Michal Paluta (Santic-Wibatech), Tomas Kalojiros (Pierre Baguette) and Mihael Stajnar (Ljubljana Gusto Santic), never had more than a five-minute lead. « The cooperation was good though », said the Kiwi sporting director.

However, the breakaway riders were determined not to let the peloton catch up easily, particularly Cyril Barthe, who accelerated several times before the start of the final climb. It was finally with 9.8 kilometres to go that the rider from the Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team was overtaken, catching the eye of his team-mate Brieuc Rolland, who managed to keep up with the best climbers on the first slopes. « Brieuc tackled the climb in a top-15 position, after some amazing job from Clément Davy and Enzo Paleni in particular, said William Green. It helped a lot Brieuc to have that support. »

Brieuc Rolland kept up the pace set by the Jayco-AlUla and Bahrain-Victorious teams until 6.5 kilometres before the line. He then continued to climb at his own pace. After some tough final hectometres, the Breton rider secured 19th place, 1’37 behind Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), the stage winner. « Brieuc rode a very nice climb, said William Green. We were expecting an improvement after yesterday, and here he is finishing just over a minute and a half behind one of the world’s best climbers.» With this top-20 finish, his best result in a race contested under the banner of the WorldTeam, the recent winner of the U23 Course de la Paix moved up sixteen places in the overall classification: he is now 22nd. 

This Sunday, the first Tour of Slovenia in the history of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team will conclude in Novo Mesto, with a fifth and final stage whose main difficulty will be the ascent of Trska Gora. This 1,500-metre wall with an average gradient of 10% will be located just under ten kilometres from the finish line.