The Région Pays de la Loire Tour started this Tuesday with a long stage of 210 kilometres leading to Saint-Jean-de-Monts and made for the sprinters. The day’s scenario did not disrupt the fast men’s plans at all, and Marijn van den Berg claimed victory at the end. Sam Watson got involved in the mix and took a solid fourth place. Thanks to two bonus seconds grabbed along the way, the Briton also sits in seventh place overall.

No difficulty was standing in the way of the riders this Tuesday, for the start of the Région Pays de la Loire Tour. On the other hand, more than 200 kilometres were to be covered (210, more precisely) and the wind was potentially a threat for the bunch. Yet, the usual scenario took place at the start with four men joining the day’s break: Samuel Leroux (Van Rysel-Roubaix), Declan Irvine (Novo Nordisk), Louka Matthys (Bingoal WB) and Jean-Louis Le Ny (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur). “It was quite nervous throughout the whole stage,” explained Yvon Caër. “There was a bit of wind, even if there was never a really suitable section for echelons as we always entered small towns and changed direction. It still split at one point, but all the teams were careful and that brought a lot of stress. As a consequence, there was no significant breakaway because the peloton was constantly riding fast.” The morning attackers were caught almost seventy kilometres from the finish, then the peloton approached the first time on the finish line in Saint-Jean-de-Monts, where a sprint bonus was located. “We wanted to go for this sprint with our leader Sam if there was an opportunity, and it was so,” said Yvon. “We seized the opportunity, he took second place, and therefore grabbed two seconds.”

“The legs are great”, Sam Watson

Right after, the peloton split a little before getting back together behind a trio made of Darren Rafferty (EF Education-EasyPost), Kévin Ledanois (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and Rait Ärm (Van Rysel-Roubaix). The latter managed to hold on until the last 18 kilometres, but the peloton therefore brought them back before the last lap of the circuit (13 km). The Groupama-FDJ cycling team then tried to put Sam Watson in the best conditions. “The guys did a fantastic job of making sure I didn’t make any effort myself,” explained the British rider. “All day I haven’t made an effort myself, it was perfect. It was super chaotic, but I always had at least one guy with me. I came into the finish with fresh legs because of the super job they did.” The young man was still supported by four teammates with five kilometres to go. “We preferred to ride in front because it was a bit technical and a little wet at the end,” added Yvon. “All the teams wanted to sprint at the finish, so it was quite hectic, but Sam was always in a good position. Given that the bonus seconds are important this week, the goal was not to share responsibilities and go for the sprint with him”.

In a messy last kilometre, the Englishman managed to stay at the front and then made a strong effort to take fourth place in a sprint won by Marijn van den Berg. “I came out of the last corner in perfect position, then there was a little moment of hesitation, and I could have gone super long, trying to find my way out,” explained Sam. “I didn’t in the end, and they passed on the left. There is always something better you can do in a sprint, unless you win it, but it’s just the way it worked out. The legs are great, and it was a good effort by everyone”. “He took the option to go on the right and got blocked at one point, but that’s sprinting,” confirmed Yvon. “He showed nice things. Eventually, we came close from our podium goal, and he could have taken four more bonus seconds. It’s a great day and the whole team showed a great attitude. We did what we planned, and the next steps should probably suit Sam. Starting tomorrow, things could happen on the final circuit. It will probably not be a bunch sprint, the punchers will try, it will certainly be a lively race and we will join in the fight.”

Around Saumur on Wednesday, the peloton will tackle the Côte de la Chèvre four times (400m at 11%), the last time with five kilometres to go. “Hopefully we’ll win a stage this week,” concluded Sam.

No comment