To his already very convincing results sheet as a neo-pro, including a win on Cholet-Pays de Loire, Laurence Pithie will now be able to add a fifth place in a WorldTour event. On Sunday, the New Zealander indeed used his resistance, his positioning, and his speed to claim a remarkable top-5 on the BEMER Cyclassics in Hamburg. The 21-year-old even took fourth place in the bunch, coming right behind Mads Pedersen, who took the win after a late attack. Next race for the “Kiwi”: the Renewi Tour (ex-Benelux Tour).

Although the peloton narrowly missed victory last year, a sprinter was expected to take the win this Sunday on the BEMER Cyclassics, for the 26th edition contested over a little more than 200 kilometres around Hamburg. “We more or less know the race scenario here, so we adapted our strategy considering what happened in recent years,” said Jussi Veikkanen. “Lars first entered the breakaway unexpectedly, but we were sure that it would not pay off, so I went to him to ask him to sit up and get back in the bunch to help the others. We knew that Jake was in good shape and Laurence was also super motivated for this race. We were going for these two riders in the final. There was not too much racing during the whole first part of the race, then it became livelier in the second part”. After Lars van den Berg stopped his effort, only two men remained in the lead: Julien Simon and Sergio Samitier. The peloton was therefore never threatened by the day’s fugitives, especially since the Spaniard found himself alone seventy kilometres from the finish after his break companion got a mechanical problem.

“They spoke to each other, and Laurence had carte blanche”, Jussi Veikkanen

Gradually, the peloton closed down the five minutes that separated it from the leading man. Forty kilometres from the finish, Samitier was caught, and the tension rose clearly within the pack. “The race was hard with the climb of Waseberg, and positioning was super important,” explained Laurence Pithie. The Groupama-FDJ team then tried to make its way through before the final sequence of small hills. With 24 kilometres to go, they tackled the second and penultimate ascent of the Waseberg (700m at 9.5%). “A strong group broke away with Olivier Le Gac, and there was Pedersen in particular”, said Jussi. “We were in the mix at this strategic moment. The goal was to follow the moves and Olivier did it very well”. A dozen men thus opened a breach, but the latter was closed down a few moments later. Six kilometres further on, the peloton got to the Waseberg for the last time. A group of about fifteen riders approached it with a slight advantage over the peloton following a split in the previous descent. “We weren’t in the best position on the last climb, but we were together at the top with Jake and Lars”, testified Laurence. “Then, Lars did a great job to bring us back in front, it was perfect”.

In the lead, Brandon McNulty, Nils Politt and Yves Lampaert tried to make the most of the split and worked together for the remaining twelve kilometres or so, on the flat. The bunch also partly reformed in the back and was made of about sixty men. A proper fight set up for a thrilling finale, but the gap was reduced to ten seconds and then to five starting the last kilometre. “At first, we were more focused on Jake for the sprint, but they spoke to each other, and Laurence had carte blanche,” explained Jussi. “It went well”, said the New Zealander. “The finale was a bit messy and dangerous, so I knew I had to pick a good wheel to follow and really fight. That’s what I did, I managed to get on Van Poppel’s one and hold it.” The young man from Groupama-FDJ thus found himself in a perfect position in the last few hundreds of metres while Mads Pedersen caught the leading men slightly before the rest of the pack. In the final straight, the Dane managed to stay away for the win while Laurence Pithie also overtook the breakaway riders to claim fifth place on the line, surrounded by other sprinters. “He tried, he had a better position than Jake, and it paid off”, commented Jussi. “He had a little regret not having been able to go on the right, because he thought he still had something left, but he was super happy, nonetheless. It was a good thing to have two cards.”

“I can’t be disappointed”, Laurence Pithie

The former “Conti” rider therefore delivered quite a performance while Jake Stewart couldn’t really make his effort and took twentieth place. “It was a good sprint, I’m happy with the result, but I still think I had more to give if I had played a little differently,” explained Laurence in the evening. “That said, I cannot be disappointed with fifth place in a WorldTour race. It’s my best result at this level.“Of course, we’re satisfied”, added Jussi. “It’s good for the group but also for Laurence. For a neo-pro, to shine in a WorldTour Classic is no small feat. With the exception of Bram and Kono, the group will be the same on the Renewi Tour. We put ourselves on the right track here and we will try to keep this momentum going”.

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