In San Benedetto del Tronto, the usual finish of Tirreno-Adriatico, Bruno Armirail and the Groupama-FDJ team tried their luck up front on Sunday, on the seventh and final stage. In the breakaway for a very long time, the Frenchman managed to stay away until the last three kilometres, but a bunch sprint did conclude the day. Jasper Philipsen took the victory while Jake Stewart finished just outside the top-10 (13th). Thibaut Pinot secured his tenth place overall, making it his sixth career top-10 in the “Race of the Two Seas”.
Like last year, Tirreno-Adriatico came to an end with a road stage and not with a time trial on Sunday. In San Benedetto del Tronto, the sprinters were expected, but a sequence of climbs in the first half of the race certainly suited the attackers. “The start was quite hard, Bruno knew he could follow a move of 8-10 riders, and that’s what he did”, explained Thierry Bricaud. In the lead, the French time trial champion found himself with Nans Peters (AG2R Citroën), Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost), Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa), Samuele Zoccarato (Green Project-Bardiani CSF -Faizanè), Henri Vandenabeele (Team DSM), Valentin Ferron (TotalEnergies) and Arthur Kluckers (Tudor), but the bunch never allowed them to take more than three minutes. “It was the last opportunity for the sprinters, so the breakaway never had too much of a gap”, confirmed Thierry. “They still put on a good fight all day. Today, there was a small hope that it wouldn’t finish in a bunch sprint, but we also knew very well that the race would be blocked considering all the fast men remaining in the race. More importantly, the last seventy kilometres were very flat, and it was therefore difficult to fight against a whole peloton”.
“I’m reassured”, Bruno Armirail
On the easy circuit of San Benedetto del Tronto, to be done five times, the peloton took no risks. Fifty kilometres from the finish, the gap was already brought back to one minute, and the breakaway riders tried to go all-in. “They pushed a little too hard a little too early, and the peloton always kept them at a short distance”, explained Thierry Bricaud. “Even if domestiques had to sacrifice themselves in the back, they still missed a little something in the final”. The gap was about twenty seconds ten kilometres from the finish, and the last meters were closed in the minutes that followed. “We wanted to enter the breakaway if it was big enough,” explained Bruno. “It could have been interesting, and we actually only got caught with three kilometres to go. It’s a shame but the most important thing is that the feelings are good. It was much better than yesterday, when I really suffered a bad day. I’m reassured, it’s good going forward, and in particular for the Volta a Catalunya which is coming up”. Once the breakaway was caught, the peloton organized for the inevitable bunch sprint. “We also had to protect Thibaut so that he did not suffer any split in order to secure his top-10”, resumed Thierry. “We also wanted Jake to do his sprint. Fabian and Olivier positioned him well when necessary, and he tried to join in the fight, but it was not easy against the big guys”.
On the finish line, the Englishman placed thirteenth, making it the seventh top-20 of the week for the team, in addition to Thibaut Pinot’s final tenth place. “The top-10 overall is a reward for the week, but it wasn’t easy,” concluded Thierry. “We were always a little bit behind the best, still there but not enough to influence the race. Thibaut continues his progression towards the Giro. This race will also launch the rest of the season for the other riders, because it was a solid week with tough days of racing, and they proved up to the task. Even if we were just behind the best, we were still up there, and that’s important for the future”.