“Serious” things started this Wednesday towards Saumur on the Région Pays de la Loire Region Tour. On the explosive final circuit of stage 2, the race’s favourites came into action and Sam Watson managed to follow the different moves in the last two laps. The British rider, however, was trapped like most of his competitors by Ewen Costiou’s attack in the last kilometre. The Frenchman claimed victory, and Marc Sarreau eventually took seventh place within a small bunch.

From Châteaubriant, the peloton was heading east over 130 kilometers on Wednesday to reach Saumur. There, a seven-kilometre circuit featuring the Rue Chèvre climb (400m at 11%) had to be done four times, and a three-man break was able to approach this final in the front. Forty kilometers from the finish, Kristian Sbaragli, Joes Oosterlinck and Matisse Julien still had a two-minute gap over a full bunch. “There was wind on the forecast again today”, said William Green. “There were short sections of crosswinds in the first half of the race, then it was more exposed for long periods in the second half, and the team did a very good job protecting Sam prior to the finishing circuit”. “Not much happened until we got there,” said Sam. “It was a super easy day, but the boys did again a fantastic job. I was in front every time I needed to be because of them.” The riders got to the finish line for the first time with thirty kilometres to go, and the gap quickly went down on the first two laps and first two climbs.

“We made some tactical errors”, William Green

Always on the watch, Sam Watson came into action twelve kilometres from the finish. “The race really kicked off with two laps to go, when Cosnefroy went, and I was directly in his wheel,” said the Briton. “Sam was very present, and he went clear with a small group of riders,” added William. After the summit, nine men entered the leading group, which took a gap of about fifteen seconds over the rest of the bunch. However, this margin was almost closed before the last time up the Rue Chèvre hill, where the action picked up again. “It went full gas on the last climb,” said the young Englishman. “I was distanced just before the summit, but I managed to come back.” Three kilometers from the finish, eight men came together to compete for victory, a few seconds ahead of the peloton. “He was in a group with very fast sprinters like Van den Berg and Coquard, and some GC contenders had missed it like Ben Healy,” said William. “I told Sam to keep working off the group, so that he could at least have an advantage over the riders who weren’t in the front group. Unfortunately, we made some tactical errors in the last kilometres. We hesitated, Arkéa-B&B took advantage and they attacked in the last kilometre with Ewen Costiou.”

The latter immediately went clear, no one followed his attack, and he claimed victory at the finish. “A few moments of hesitation cost me the win, or at least a good result,” said Sam. “We also got caught just before the last corner, I was caught up in the barriers and I couldn’t sprint”. A bunch of around thirty men bridged across and Marc Sarreau, after opening his sprint from a long distance, obtained seventh place. “For Marc to finish seventh on such a circuit today was really promising”, said William. “He was really strong yesterday and did a lot of work for the team, so to come seventh today was really good for him. Morale is still high, and we’re confident in Sam, we saw what he did on the climb. With some tactical improvements, he’s going to be in the hunt for a win for sure”. “if we keep riding like this, hopefully something good will come out of it”, concluded Sam, now eighth overall, sixteen seconds behind the new leader Ewen Costiou.

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