He was quite frustrated on the heights of Besançon last year. This Friday, Lenny Martinez’ feelings were totally different at the top of the La Malate climb, in the fourth edition of the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs. Following a strong attack with more than three kilometres to go, the young Frenchman went alone for a long time on the final climb, before everything was to redo in the final hundreds of metres. Thanks to a final kick, he still managed to drop Victor Langellotti to enjoy his third win of the year. Back on racing after his crash on the Tour of the Basque Country, and covering the moves behind his young teammates, David Gaudu completed the day’s podium. A very nice start to the three days in Franche-Comté.

On Friday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team took part in the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs on the home soils of “La Conti”, but also that of its own Performance Centre. The event was therefore close to the heart for a good part of the team, which included four current or former riders from the development squad: Lenny Martinez, Reuben Thompson, Eddy Le Huitouze and Ben Askey. The four youngsters were joined by Cyril Barthe and David Gaudu, back after his hand injury sustained on the Tour of the Basque Country. With two favorites in its ranks, the team led by Thierry Bricaud was in the centre of the attention as soon as Alan Jousseaume, Théo Delacroix, Jérémy Leveau, Maël Guégan, Enekoitz Azparren and Adne Holter took the lead following the first climb of the day, in Marchaux. “We still had to take this breakaway seriously,” said the sports director. “We took responsibility after thirty kilometres, with Ben who tried to limit the gaps as much as possible. We didn’t receive any support for about fifty kilometers, so we also took it easy and that led to a bit of confusion. This encouraged certain teams to also take their responsibilities.” “They wanted to play, so we played with them too,” added David Gaudu.

“Lenny showed his hand”, Thierry Bricaud

The breakaway built a good lead of almost eight minutes, which was only reduced very gradually in the second part of the race. Fifty kilometers from the finish, the fugitives tackled the first ascent of La Malate (3.3 km at 9.4%) four minutes ahead of the peloton. “It didn’t go up very fast the first time up the climb since the bunch barely took time back on the break,” added Thierry. “There were still four minutes at the top and there were no more questions to ask. We still had Cyril and Reuben to pull and the briefing’s watchword this morning was not to take any risks and to give Lenny and David the opportunity to fight for victory at the bottom of the final climb. So we didn’t hesitate, and they chased right away.” With Decathlon-AG2R, the French-New Zealander duo finally brought back the peloton just one minute to the last man from the break as the final climb approached. Reuben Thompson made a final effort at the foot to stretch the bunch out. “We knew that there would be no looking at each other in the final climb, that it would go up fast and hard,” added Thierry. “Lenny showed his hand at the briefing about when he wanted to attack and how he wanted it to happen. He did exactly what he planned.”

After only a minute and a half of climbing, the French climber went for it, more than three kilometres from the finish. “I attacked a little earlier than last year, right where I wanted to do it,” said Lenny. “It was on a very steep curve, I thought that it could be ideal. I was a bit surprised to make a gap straight away, but I didn’t hesitate. I made the effort where it was the hardest and then it was man against man. If they came back, that meant they were just as strong.” At first, no one was able to follow the Groupama-FDJ rider, or even to chase since David Gaudu was covering the moves. After less than a kilometre of effort, Lenny Martinez joined the leader and almost instantly distanced him, just before entering the village of Montfaucon. “I set myself a first finish line at the summit of La Malate, a second after the first slopes in Montfaucon then a third at the real finish,” he said. “I needed to manage my effort as best as possible, without cracking.” His lead extended to around twenty seconds, but at the flamme rouge, the chasers got closer thanks to a slightly easier part. He ultimately entered the last kilometre, at 8%, with a fifteen-second margin.

“I only thought about winning”, Lenny Martinez

In the chasing group, Victor Langellotti then made a strong acceleration, which David Gaudu first managed to follow before he got distanced with 500 metres to go. The rider from Monaco thus returned in the wake of Lenny Martinez. “I already thought I was going to win, but I saw a rider coming back, it surprised me and scared me a bit, and I thought: no, I can’t come second,” said the young man. “He passed me and attacked. I held on to his wheel; it was maximal lactic effort and I said to myself: I cannot drop. I only thought about winning.” This grinta allowed him to keep the wheel, then to produce the decisive acceleration 150 metres from the finish. “Unlike last year, it was me who managed to get away in the turn before the line,” smiled Lenny. “It’s a nice revenge. It was a max effort at the end. I gave everything and I’m really happy that it ended up with victory.” His third of the season, the sixth for the team in 2024, and a very special one. “It’s a very nice win because this is where I was doing all my exercises last year with La Conti,” added Lenny. “It’s incredible to win here and I’m very happy to bring victory to the team today.”

The day got even better with David Gaudu’s third place at the top, meaning his first podium of the season. “I was maybe not 100%, but I had good feelings,” said the Frenchman. “I also really wanted to put on a bib and get the adrenaline of racing again. The team really did a great job all day so well done to everyone. I’m happy I was able to be offensive in the final. Lenny’s victory is the icing on the cake. We’ll have a good evening.”It’s a very good day,” said Thierry. “The goal for us was to go for the win, and to do it while having fun because it’s not often that we can play like that with two cards in a final. They did it well, and I think that gives them confidence for the future.” The short future is the Tour du Jura and its top-finish at Mont Poupet (4 km at 8%) tomorrow, where Thibaut Pinot took second place last year. “The goal was to win at least once this weekend, and it’s done,” concluded Thierry. “They will ride more relaxed tomorrow.” “We will try to maintain this positive momentum,” added David. “I know tomorrow suits me better. Everyone will have eyes on us, but we showed that we had two of the strongest cards.”The weekend has only just started,” said Lenny. “We took a victory but there are two days left, and we will do everything to get more.”

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