He came close for over a year. On Wednesday, in stage 1 of the Alpes Isère Tour, Noah Hobbs was finally able to put his arms in the air. The 19-year-old British rider scored his very first victory in the U23 ranks after a bunch sprint, and after a perfect lead-out from his friend Lewis Bower and excellent teamwork all day long. “La Conti” secured its third success of the season and Noah Hobbs put on the yellow jersey.

Whether a sign or pure chance, “La Conti” Groupama-FDJ was back on conquered territory on Wednesday in Charvieu-Chavagneux, for the opening day of the Alpes Isère Tour. “This finish was successful for us because it was there that we won our first UCI victory in 2019 with Karl-Patrick Lauk, and we also won the first stage there in 2021 with Marijn van den Berg,” explained Jérôme Gannat. The French squad surely wanted to reconnect with this nice tradition, and although the day’s stage did not feature any major difficulties, it still proved hard to control for a bunch finish. “There were quite a few breakaways, and it was a very fast day with an average speed of almost 49 km/h,” said Jérôme. “There was always a big fight. Maxime followed a first move after 30 kilometres, then it came back together. Later, a group of eight riders went clear and we decided to ride behind with Joshua [Golliker] and Colin [Savioz]. We came back with twenty-five kilometres to go, then there were some other attacks in the last climb. Nine riders took the lead, and the peloton chased them.” “It was a perfect race profile for me, so the plan was to ride for me from the start and the whole team did a really good job,” said Noah Hobbs. “There were a few dangerous breakaways, but we put some guys in the front to bring them back, and we just got back in time for the last one in the final.”

“The team can believe in me,” Noah Hobbs

The final fugitive was caught 500 metres from the line while the sprint was already set up. “The final was pretty hectic, but thanks to the team, I managed to get in a good position for the last corner,” explained the Englishman. “The last kilometre was quite twisty, but it went well,” Jérôme added. “We checked it well because the finish line was near the starting area. It was a really strategic point, that’s where the sprint was played out. It was certainly a bit long after the last corner, but Noah prefers this type of sprint.” After the final curve with 400 metres to go, Lewis Bower was in the lead just ahead of Noah Hobbs, who opened his sprint shortly after. “From there it was pretty much easy, Lewis dropped me off at 200 to go and I just sprinted straight for the victory,” added Noah. With a substantial margin, the 19-year-old young man was therefore able to enjoy his first road victory in the U23 ranks, after many attempts and top-10s. “It means a lot, not only for me but also for the team,” he said. “It also shows that when we work together, it’s really effective, and now the team can believe in me as well for every sprint stage.”

“We have finally been rewarded”, Jérôme Gannat

Jérôme Gannat also showed great satisfaction, both from a team point of view and for his young sprinter in particular. “We’ve been trying to set this up for a while, but until now, things hadn’t gone our way,” he said. “They did well today, and it worked perfectly to launch Noah in the best conditions. I also think that the work done all day motivated the whole group, especially Noah. The efforts of Maxime, Joshua, Colin and also of Lewis in the finale were very positive, and we have finally been rewarded. For Noah, it’s also a relief. It’s always frustrating for a sprinter not to win, but we kept on working for this goal and we made it a point of honour for him to achieve this victory. He needs to open the sprint, which he did today, and it paid off. For sprinters, the first victory is often the most difficult to get, then the next ones can follow quite fast. When you call yourself a sprinter, you have to win sprints. We were a little demanding with Noah, but we always trusted and believed in him. We also needed great team effort and lead-out and that was the case today.”

Winner of the first stage, Noah Hobbs logically took the yellow jersey, but the second stage this Thursday could be even messier than the first. In which case, “La Conti” will have other cards to play.

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