On the Tour of Flanders’ terrain, the Groupama-FDJ did not prove successful on Friday. On stage 3 of the Renewi Tour, featuring the “Muur” three times, Olivier Le Gac did enter the day’s breakaway before being joined by a chasing group including Lars van den Berg, but the French team did not perform as hoped in the final. Valentin Madouas eventually took twentieth place at the finish. A bunch sprint is expected on Saturday in Peer.

Usually tackled during the spring, the Flemish hills and cobbles were on the menu at the height of summer this Thursday, on the Renewi Tour. The roads of the “Ronde” were supposed to bring their share of action and changes on GC through thirteen “bergs” but just 170 kilometres of racing. Many riders also wanted to approach the climbs, after some 70 kilometres, with a small margin on the pack. Therefore, a tough fight for the breakaway took place for more than an hour. Six men managed to take a gap after ten kilometres, but the battle kept on going, and six other men eventually broke away after more than fifty kilometres. Olivier Le Gac was one of them. Along with Arne Marit (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Lukasz Wisniowski (EF Education-Easy Post), Marc Brustenga (Lidl-Trek), Jens Reynders (Israel-Premier Tech) and Milan Fretin (Team Flanders-Baloise), he then went through the first climbs and the ”first” Muur at the head of the race. “We wanted to join the breakaway given the weather conditions,” explained Sébastien Joly. “Rain was possible, and on such a technical circuit, we thought it was a good idea to take the lead. Olivier fought well to join the breakaway, the gap increased to more than three minutes, but then the bunch rode very hard to come back”.

“We didn’t have the level, physically speaking”, Sébastien Joly

After the first time up the “Muur”, the peloton even came back less than a minute from the leading group and a counterattack then went in the Bosberg. “The idea was to anticipate before the favourites came into action, which Lars did very well,” added Sébastien. The Dutchman slipped into a group of eight riders who joined the first breakaway 57 kilometres from the finish. However, the peloton never left a big lead to the fugitives. It remained about twenty seconds away before exploding at the same time as coming across in the Denderoordstraat, thirty-eight kilometres from the line. About fifteen riders joined the first group on the road, and a few minutes later, in the second climb of the Muur, the freshest and strongest riders went clear. Olivier Le Gac and Lars van den Berg were unable to keep up the pace while a few of their teammates were in the bunch. Eight riders eventually took the lead in the last thirty kilometres and a peloton of around forty riders came together some thirty seconds behind. A proper chase took on, but the pack never managed to bring the leading riders back.

Mike Teunissen won the stage ahead of Tim Wellens, the new overall leader, while Valentin Madouas narrowly entered the top-20 on the “Muur” foothills. “We were definitely in trouble in the final”, confided Sébastien. “We didn’t have the level, physically speaking, today. Valentin is just returning to racing, and he lacks a bit of rhythm. There were stronger riders than us and we did not manage to have an impact on the race”. Two stages are still to be done on the Renewi Tour. “It should be a sprint tomorrow, so we’ll focus on that,” added Sébastien. “Finally, there will be a kind of small Amstel on Sunday, and we will see what our options are”.

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