There aren’t more iconic places to get your very first win among the big boys. On Tuesday afternoon, 19-year-old Lenny Martinez raised his arms at the summit of the “Giant of Provence”. On a shortened edition of the CIC-Mont Ventoux, made of only one ascent of the famous climb, the young climber first enjoyed a great support from his teammates to control the race and make it harder. He then managed to follow the attacks in the last five kilometres, while saving himself for the final sprint. In the finish, he left no chance for his last rivals and conquered an impressive maiden victory. His record is now open.

On Tuesday, it was time for a double Mont Ventoux! At least, that’s what the riders thought while heading to the start in Vaison-la-Romaine. The reality proved quite different. Due to threatening weather conditions, the organizers decided to update the course. Only 98 kilometres remained out of the 154 initially planned, and only the first ascent of the Mont Ventoux, from Sault, was maintained for the riders’ safety. “We learned the news forty-five minutes before the start”, said Franck Pineau. “We needed to adapt in terms of logistics, but we immediately said that it was the same for everyone and that the best climbers would have been up there at the top, whether it was after one or two ascents”. In Groupama-FDJ, there was a single and well-identified leader on Tuesday: Lenny Martinez, 18th in the last Critérium du Dauphiné. “For me, there was no doubt that he would be up front,” added Franck Pineau. “He did not know the climb, but he knows its reputation, and he knows that a climber has to be in front there. So, we did our best for him, we assumed he would be in front. This is also why we took the race in hand very early. We asked Clément [Davy] to pull, and he did a very good job in the first part of the race”. Behind Valentin Retailleau, Asier Etxeberria, Pablo Castrillo, Jose Marcia Garcia and Leo Danès, the Frenchman kept the gap between two and three minutes for a long time.

“The important thing is that he remained calm”, Franck Pineau

Clément Davy kept on pulling until the approach of the first slopes of Mont Ventoux (24.5 km at 5%), quite rolling from Sault before the traditional, harder final from Chalet Reynard. “Almost the whole team then took over”, added Franck. “We were up there. Movistar and Israel then accelerated a little, but we were just behind, and when they stopped, we continued to push the pace, especially with Lars or Enzo”. Although the bunch was still quite big midway through the top, it however split apart when Lars van den Berg put on a big pull with five kilometres to go. The first attacks came right after, the last man of the break was caught, and Lenny Martinez quickly joined the fight with the best. The young man followed the accelerations of Cristian Rodriguez and Michael Woods, while Simon Carr and Ivan Sosa managed to bridge across. Attentive but cautious, the Groupama-FDJ climber answered to all the attacks but tried to remain conservative. “When Woods attacks you and you follow him every time, you think twice before counterattacking”, explained Franck. “In 2-3 years, it may be different, but the important thing today is that he remained calm”. “I may have lacked a little self-confidence to attack, but when the others attacked, it was still hurting”, confirmed Lenny. “You can’t get crazy either. You need to manage your energy until the end and keep as much as possible. I told myself: anyway, it will come down to the legs at the top”.

“It’s a nice symbol”, Lenny Martinez

Approaching the last kilometre, a couple of riders also came back from behind, taking advantage of the leading men looking at each other, but Lenny Martinez remained focused. He even moved back up to get closer to Woods and find some space. The final five contenders for victory tackled the final 200 metres together, and seconds later Lenny Martinez stood up on the pedals. “I saw the 100-meter sign, and I said to myself, I have to go now”, he said. “There was the last tight turn, and then it was about the final kick”. Still fresh enough, the young man left behind his ultimate rival Michael Woods and then flew to a prestigious victory. His first one as a WorldTour rider. “I had incredible feelings on the line”, he said a few minutes later with a broad smile. “I even said to myself, ‘there’s a guy in front, it’s not possible’. I’m very happy. This is my first victory, and it’s at the top of Mont Ventoux, which is a historic climb! It’s a nice symbol to win up there, and I couldn’t have done it without all my teammates who did a great job before and during the climb. It’s crazy. When I finished, I thought of my whole family, who were surely watching TV today. This victory really comes at the right time after a good block of racing and a good Dauphiné. It’s a nice ending.”

After three top-10s, a top-5 and a podium this season, Lenny Martinez opened his record, just a month before his 20th birthday. Doing so, he brought the Groupama-FDJ Cycling team’s ninth win this season. “We were confident because Lenny felt very good, he recovered well from the Dauphiné, and that’s noteworthy”, concluded Franck Pineau. “He had the legs to win, and he did it, waiting for the right moment. Overall, the guys were good physically speaking, and we also had a good road captain today with Rudy who managed it all really well. This is the kind of day that lifts your spirits!”

No comment