The Groupama-FDJ cycling team tried to make the race harder on Thursday in stage 3 stage of the Région Pays de la Loire Tour. Unfortunately, no other teams followed the move, and a bunch sprint therefore concluded the day. Alberto Dainese claimed victory while Sam Watson slipped down to eleventh overall. Everything will be decided on Friday on the tough circuit in Le Mans.

As the third stage of the Pays de la Loire Tour region did not include any big difficulties on Thursday, a bunch sprint seemed the most likely outcome. Therefore, the racing scenario proved quite straightforward for a long time. Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Mobility), Hugo Aznar (Equipo Kern Pharma), Léo Danès (CIC U Nantes Atlantique), Damien Girard (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur) and Romain Cardis (St Michel-Mavic -Auber93) entered the day’s break, and the Norwegian champion took advantage of being in front to collect nine bonus seconds. In the back, the peloton always remained in control. “It was a bit similar to the previous days,” said Yvon Caër. “There was a bit of wind, but we never rode on portions that were really suitable for echelons.” The fight between the two groups obviously and gradually turned in favor of the peloton, which came back just two minutes behind as it entered the finishing circuit, twelve kilometres long and to be done four times. The gap narrowed further over the laps, while the Groupama-FDJ cycling team remained at the front protecting Sam Watson.

“There is going to be a real battle tomorrow”, Yvon Caër

Then, barely the breakaway was caught seventeen kilometres from the finish, just prior to the last lap, the British rider himself started the attacks. “We didn’t just want to just wait for the bunch sprint, especially since there was a good chance that it would suit the pure sprinters,” explained Yvon. “We knew it was going to be very hard to finish in the top three with Sam. So the idea was to liven the race up to have a bit of a fight. We wanted to launch the action, hoping that other teams would have the same plan. We obviously couldn’t make a difference on our own. The team committed to this goal, unfortunately, other teams didn’t follow.” In addition to Sam Watson, on the attack on several occasions, Ronan Augé and Eddy Le Huitouze also tried to give it a go. However, no gap opened up, with the sprinters’ teammates doing everything to close the moves down.

After the last slightly uphill roads, the peloton headed towards the expected sprint, and Sam Watson remained positioned at the front. “He hadn’t emptied himself beforehand, and he still had the energy to sprint,” explained Yvon. “He was very well positioned with two kilometres to go, but it then came back from the other side, and he got blocked for the last 500 metres. That’s sprinting, but we knew that it would be more of a pure sprint today.” The Italian Alberto Dainese actually claimed victory, while Sam Watson slipped down to eleventh place overall, but with a similar gap of eighteen seconds on the leader Ewen Costiou. “There is going to be a real battle on the Le Mans circuit tomorrow,” concluded Yvon. “Sam will have to follow the best and be in the mix. We think that there will be real gaps and we’re still aiming to get the best overall ranking possible.”

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