The 2024 season is definitely off to a flying start for Lenny Martinez. After a victorious return to competition on the Classic Var, then a successful week on O Gran Camiño (2nd behind Jonas Vingegaard), the young climber from the Groupama-FDJ cycling team took his second win of the season on Wednesday. On the Trofeo Laigueglia, the opening race of the Italian calendar, he got rid of his last opponents in the final lap of the circuit to conquer his first professional solo victory, his third in total, and the fourth of the team this season. Also in the front today, Romain Grégoire finished eleventh.

On the Ligurian coast this Wednesday, it was time for the Italian season to begin. As usual, the Trofeo Laigueglia was due to open the calendar, with the equally usual circuit including the Colla Micheri (2km at 8%) and the Capo Mele. An event in which Romain Grégoire took sixth place in 2023, and where the Frenchman was back this year with Lenny Martinez. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team therefore lined up two clear leaders, who had devoted teammates around them, notably Thibaud Gruel and Max Bock, members of “La Conti”. The latter were the ones who had to work first, on the first two thirds of the race, during which a breakaway of five men took the lead. “Our goal was for Lenny and Romain to get on the circuit to fight for the win, and that’s what happened,” explained Thierry Bricaud. “The guys did a lot of work all day to allow them to get there in the best conditions and to be able to fight on equal terms with the best.” Forty kilometers from the finish, the bunch tackled the first ascent of Colla Micheri. It was already reduced to around fifty men at the top, and a lap later, only ten men or so were still able to follow the frantic tempo of UAE Team Emirates. Among them: Romain Grégoire and Lenny Martinez. “In the first two laps, it was just about the legs,” confirmed Thierry.

“He only made one attack, but a strong one”, Thierry Bricaud

It is only with about twenty-five kilometres to go that the race started to be tactical. In the portion between Colla Micheri and Capo Mele, several attacks occurred, Romain Grégoire followed a few of them, but it was ultimately Lenny Martinez who managed to sneak in front within a group of seven riders. “Romain and Lenny knew very well that we could not be one step behind UAE,” recalled Thierry. “Lenny did very well, going out with Christen. Having this small lead allowed Romain to just have to follow Ayuso if there were moves behind. It was important.” “The idea was to play on both cards,” Lenny added. “Since I was in front, Romain could let the others do the work in the back.” However, very quickly, the leading group took a nice gap of thirty seconds. On the penultimate climb of Colla Micheri, Lenny Martinez then produced several accelerations and reduced the group to just five riders. “I wanted to go up fast, and I thought that Ayuso and Romain would come back from behind, which would have allowed me to gamble with Romain,” said the French climber. “In the end, it didn’t happen.” The chasing group came back to just fifteen seconds, but their bad collaboration made it possible for the gap to double before the final ascent of the Colla Micheri, twelve kilometers from the finish.

This time around, Lenny Martinez was more conservative. “He gave a bit too much in the penultimate climb,” explained Thierry. “He managed his effort in the following lap, and he knew he shouldn’t do the same thing on the last climb. He felt the right time, he only made one attack, but a strong one. He didn’t stop and that made the difference.” Approaching the summit, the French climber launched a first sharp acceleration which eliminated almost all his competitors, with the exception of Jan Christen, who unsuccessfully tried to counterattack him. Then, shortly before the descent, Lenny Martinez left it all on the road and managed to open a gap. “I attacked right at the top, I went at full speed in the downhill, and at the bottom, I had about ten seconds,” he said. “The descent was very technical, almost dangerous,” explained Thierry. “You needed good skills, and that’s not a problem at all for Lenny.” The Groupama-FDJ rider then started the last six kilometres with a very small margin, which narrowed even more as he approached Capo Mele. “At the foot, Christen came back to five seconds, but Lenny knew that his finish was at the top of Capo Mele,” said Thierry. “Christen gave everything to try to come back but then exploded, and Lenny made the difference.”In the final, it was really a time trial to the finish, a real man-to-man,” added Lenny. “Luckily there was this little hill. I thought he was going to come across, but I gave everything and made the most of my climbing skills.”

“Super happy to win, even more so solo”, Lenny Martinez

The 4% slopes were enough for him to defeat his last rival, who was also caught by a chasing group in the descent. There, Lenny Martinez made sure no one was chasing him and could finally celebrate in the last two hundred metres. “It’s really incredible,” said the young man after his second win of the year. “I think it’s the best feeling when you’re doing a solo effort, with a guy behind who shouldn’t come back, and that you eventually finish alone. I can’t quite believe it yet. I’m super happy to win, but even more so solo. It makes things more beautiful.” “Lenny was flying,” smiled Thierry. “The Trofeo Laigueglia is a nice race to add to a prize list. It also confirms his excellent start to the season. Winner of the Classic Var, second in O Gran Camiño and winner at Laigueglia, that’s not bad at 20 years old!“ Behind him, Romain Grégoire obtained eleventh place on the line, therefore concluding a superb team race. “The team did a great job, as usual,” explained the day’s winner. “We had one of the youngest teams at the start, but I told them that youth was not a question, and that they had the skills and the legs to be at the required level,” concluded Thierry. “We raced without fear, but that’s what they do all the time. It also kicks off the Italian campaign well and puts everyone on the right track. We continue with the momentum from our start to the season, it’s very good.”

No comment