Just four days after his first win among the pros, Romain Grégoire kept the ball rolling this Sunday with his first overall victory in a stage race. Leader of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque since Saturday thanks to a notable display in Cassel, the young Groupama-FDJ rider wasn’t put in trouble on stage 6, which Tim Merlier won in a sprint. At just 20 years old, Romain Grégoire became the youngest winner of the Frenchevent, where the team waited for an overall win since Arnaud Démare in 2014.
In order to secure his final victory in the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, Romain Grégoire still had to cover 172 kilometres on Sunday. Just like his teammate Bruno Armirail in Italy, the young man took the start with the pink jersey on his shoulders, and he wanted to be careful despite a rather flat course suited to the sprinters. First, the race proved quite normal as eight riders were able to break away in the very first minutes. “The best man overall was 3’30 down, which did not worry us”, said Frédéric Guesdon. “Soudal-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Intermarché-Circus-Wanty quickly took the lead, then we also went pulling because of the wind. Soudal-Quick Step put a bit of pressure between the hills after fifty kilometres, but we knew the terrain and we were in position. They did not trap us, and they probably lost a bit of their ambitions then regarding the overall”. “I did well to be careful, because the stage was nervous once again today”, added Romain. “Soudal-Quick Step tried to form echelons, but we were up there. It was still really hard all day with the wind and then the circuit with the many turns”. Due to the nervousness within the pack, the breakaway approached the final seven circuits around Dunkirk with a very small lead. Four laps from the end, everything was already back together,and the bunch headed for the sprint.
“I feel very proud”, Romain Grégoire
However, there were still a few dangers to avoid. “On the circuit, we had to remain attentive because it was quite technical in the city”, added Frédéric. “We weren’t sure of anything until we crossed the line. All it takes is a split, bonus seconds… It can go very quickly the wrong way”. The pink jersey, however, stayed out of trouble alongside his teammatesuntil the last moments. In the final, Bram Welten and Paul Penhoët even tried to make their way for the sprint, but the young man failed to find a space in time, finishing the stage in eighth position. “It was a bit difficult to go for the sprint,”confided Frédéric. “We were in a situation in-between, and the priority was clearly given to the overall”. A few lengths behind his former mate from “La Conti”, Romain Grégoire crossed the line inside the bunch, with his fist raised in the sky to celebrate a mastered victory. “I am relieved and happy to be done”, he said at the finish. “The guys did their best to protect me and give me confidence. I owe them this victory 100%. Yesterday, like today, their work was monstrous, and I can only thank them. I feel very proud to win the overall of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque. The week has been very intense, with tension and dangers to avoid every day. We go home with the jersey and the feeling of getting the job done”.
On Sunday, Romain Grégoire did not only achieve his ambitions for the week. He also wrote a small chapter of the race’s history, on this 67th edition. At 20 years and 120 days, he quite simply became the youngest winner of the event. “We realize that young riders from the new generation manage to get results right away”, explained Frédéric. “They are readyas soon as they go to the pros, but it is nonetheless great and impressive. There was also a superb team of young menaround him, and all of them were doing well. It was important that they were all up to the task, that there was mutual support, and they all gave their all.” At the end of six days of racing, Romain Grégoire beat Kasper Asgreen by thirteen seconds and Cees Bol by fifteen seconds, while Samuel Watson grabbed tenth place overall. A great week ends for the rider from Besançon, with two wins in the bags. “I will enjoy, it’s a moment that I will remember, then I will focus on the rest of the season”, he concluded.