He started his first Grand Tour in an extraordinary way, and he will finish it on a good note. After a few hard days, Lenny Martinez bounced back on Saturday, in stage 20 of the Vuelta, as he entered a large breakaway. The only rider of Groupama-FDJ at the front, the young climber tried to manage his day as best as possible. In the final climb, however, he couldn’t follow the five riders who fought for victory in Guadarrama. Coming in a chasing group, he eventually ranked eleventh. The peloton is now about to reach Madrid for the final stage of the last Grand Tour of the season.

On the eve of the closing day in Madrid, it was time for the longest stage of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana. It also and only was the second day beyond the 200-kilometre mark. Exactly 208 were on the menu for this penultimate round with a very significant elevation gain (4,300 meters) due to a succession of climbs, tiring despite being quite rolling. It was therefore time for the Groupama-FDJ’s riders to give their last bit of energy. “We were convinced that the breakaway would go to the end today, because we knew that the general was more or less settled,” explained Benoît Vaugrenard. “So we had ambitions, with Lenny, Michael and Romain.” The last two proved active right from the uphill start, and more particularly the Frenchman, who broke away for a few minutes with Marc Soler. However, everything came back together two kilometres from the summit. Ultimately, a group of thirty-one riders managed to open up a proper gap a few moments later. “Romain didn’t miss much to enter the breakaway,” claimed Benoît. “He went just before, and I think he really had the legs to be there. It was just a matter of timing.” Lenny Martinez, on the other hand, managed to follow the right move at the last minute. “It went up very fast, and I followed the attacks at the top, making the effort to catch the breakaway,” said the former red jersey.

“Lenny didn’t miss much”, Benoît Vaugrenard

It then only took a handful of minutes for the peloton to give a green light to this breakaway, including Remco Evenepoel, Marc Soler, Wilco Kelderman, Lennard Kämna, Wout Poels, Romain Bardet, Geraint Thomas, Hugh Carthy or also Andreas Kron. Facing quite a competition, Lenny Martinez had a tough mission ahead, and he made sure to manage his efforts as best as possible at the front while the peloton let the gap increase to ten minutes. At the head of the race, Remco Evenepoel took advantage of having three teammates to make it hard a first time with fifty kilometres to go. Only twenty-two riders were left up there tackling the last two climbs of the final. The first, very rolling, only dropped two competitors, then the Groupama-FDJ rider tried to position himself ahead the second one, the Alto San Lorenzo de El Escorial (4.5 km at 6.5%). The group first reduced from the back, then Wout Poels started the action two kilometres from the summit. Slightly behind at the time of the attack, Lenny Martinez nevertheless hung on alongside Bardet, Rubio and Kämna in the background. Five men eventually started the downhill almost together, and ten seconds ahead of the Frenchman. “Lenny fought well up front, he had good legs,” added Benoît. “He didn’t miss much to follow the first five, but it really came down to the legs.”

“It’s nice to finish on a good note,” Lenny Martinez

Once the descent was completed, the leading group made of Evenepoel, Soler, Sanchez, Van Eetvelt and Poels did not hesitate and immediately worked together. This therefore did not allow the six chasing men, including Lenny Martinez, to bridge across despite their efforts. After seven kilometres of flat terrain, Poels eventually took victory ahead of the former world champion while the French neo-pro finished twenty-six seconds later in eleventh place. “I tried to anticipate the sprint following Rubio, but they finally came back in the last 300 metres,” said Lenny. “The legs came back and it’s nice to finish on a good note, giving everything in the breakaway and emptying the tank all the way to the line. I tried and gave my all to get the stage victory, but we will come back.” “The real regret we have today is Romain narrowly missing the breakaway,” concluded Benoît. “With Lenny and him in front, it would have been more doable, and the course suited him.” In the general classification, Sepp Kuss unofficially confirmed his victory and Jumbo-Visma their hat-trick. Everything will be made official on Sunday evening in Madrid, after a short 100-kilometre stage which should end in a sprint.

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