On Wednesday, a loyal domestique enjoyed glory in Spain. In the first stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Miles Scotson indeed scored his very first victory with the Groupama-FDJ’s jersey on his shoulders. The Australian rider managed to finish off a 20-kilometer solo towards Ondara, and did it despite a crash in the last moments of the race. A winner thirty seconds ahead of a small bunch including Stefan Küng and Antoine Raugel, Miles Scotson obviously received the yellow jersey and surely intends to hang on to it!

“Miles perfectly timed his attack”, Stefan Küng

Due to the health situation and its postponement from early February, the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana got underway in mid-April this year. Therefore, the field was quite different with only four WorldTour teams starting, including Groupama-FDJ. With the Swiss and French champions lining up, Thierry Bricaud and Jens Blatter’s squad had some cards to play. However, this first stage did not appear really suitable for the French sprinter. From Elche to Ondara, about 170 kilometers were to be covered and four categorized climbs were to be crossed on quite hard-going terrain. Although the early scenario looked very usual, with a breakaway of five including Stephen Bassett (Rally Cycling), Maxime Cam (B&B Hotels), Ibon Ruiz (Kern Pharma), Lennert Teugels (Tarteletto-Isorex) and Raffaele Radice (Mg.k Vis VPM), the race really came to life halfway through with the various climbs on the course. “We knew it would be difficult for the sprinters to make it today,” said Thierry. “We usually train on these roads in winter, the riders know them very well and they knew it would be hard to survive one specific part. It was indeed, for everyone. We knew this was not our best opportunity for a sprint”.

The bunch then clearly reduced, and starting the last climb, the team still had Stefan Küng, Miles Scotson and Antoine Raugel in the first group that caught the morning breakaway. The Swiss champion proved to be the first one to make a move and try to escape. However, fifty riders or so eventually got back together after the top. Miles Scotson then gave it a go for the first time on the downhill, but it did not work out. Stefan Küng kept stretching the group on the descent, and Miles Scotson later took advantage of a slight speed reduction to attack yet another time. There were twenty-two kilometers left to cover at the time. “After the last climb, I thought Stefan could probably win solo today,” he said. “Originally, I thought I’d wait for the sprint, but there was Degenkolb in the group. I thought I was going to attack, and if I was caught, Stefan could go. Actually, my move stayed away”. “Miles perfectly timed his attack,” Stefan testified. “In the back, it was up to us, and to me in particular, to slow down the chase. I always stayed in second position to disturb the other teams’ efforts. I covered every move to protect him.”

“I didn’t expect to win a stage myself”, Miles Scotson

Up front, Miles Scotson first got rid of a Movistar rider and then quickly made a gap on what was left of the bunch. Despite the group trying to organize, he managed to increase his lead to 40 seconds or so after the day’s last downhill. “With ten kilometers to go, I was pretty sure I was going to win, but I started thinking too much for the overall, taking as many seconds as I could,” Miles said. “In the end, I threw away a lot of seconds just by trying to not break too much in a roundabout”. With just three kilometers to go, while riding with a minute lead on the bunch, the Australian crashed on the wet road. However, he managed to get back quickly on his bike and continue his effort. “It was really slippery today, it probably hadn’t rained here in a while,” he said. “I was happy that the bike was ok and that I could still get the win”. The former Australian champion fortunately did not suffer any additional incident in the last two kilometres and could celebrate his second pro victory, and his first one for Groupama-FDJ. “I’m super happy,” he said at the finish. “We came here to win a stage with Arnaud. I didn’t expect to win one myself, but I had good legs and took the opportunity.”

“It’s a great reward for Miles,” added Thierry. “He is such an important domestique all year, but he can sometimes give it a go according to the race circumstances. He seized the opportunity the best way possible!” “Miles was very, very strong, and we did a good race as team”, added Stefan, seventh at the finish, twenty-eight seconds behind his Australian teammate, as Antoine Raugel took 13th for his first outing with the WorldTeam. Arnaud Démare got to the line a few minutes later and added: “It’s a great victory for Miles! It’s really nice considering all the work he does all year. He was able to seize his chance. We know he’s a strong time trialist, we know he’s doing well at the moment, but it’s never easy to pull it off. It’s great that he managed to do it. I’m happy for him”. Bringing the fourth victory of the season to the team, Miles Scotson also logically got the yellow jersey on Wednesday. He will now try to live up to it. “Tomorrow, we will probably go for the sprint with Arnaud, and I’ll help him in the final,” he concluded. “On Friday, Stefan and I will try to hang on and limit our losses in the final climb. Stefan can also win the time trial the next day. Today I won with a margin, although it is not as big as I would have liked with the crash. We’ll see if I can hang on in the mountains and then try for the time trial. Anyway, we have plenty of opportunities now”.

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