For the second consecutive day, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team proved itself in the Paris-Nice’s crosswinds. Even more gathered around Thibaut Pinot and Rudy Molard than the previous day, they even were among the most aggressive teams when things got serious with fifty kilometers to go. Eventually, only a small split of fifteen seconds in the finale prevented our leaders from finishing in the first group, but after two stages, the balance is nonetheless quite satisfying.

The story almost repeated itself at the start of the second stage of Paris-Nice on Monday morning. Like the day before, a duo took the lead quite early on. In there, there was again Jonathan Hivert (Total Direct Energie), wearing the KOM jersey, accompanied by a Nippo Delko One Provence’s rider, this time being Jose Diaz Gallego, and both were able to complete the first half of the course relatively peacefully, 2-3 minutes in front of the peloton. Then, as in stage 1, then bunch started to be more and more tense at halfway point, leading to the breakaway being caught but also to an increased attention from the leaders’ teams as of entering in the last 70 kilometers. A few momentary splits sounded like a warning before everything got broken up with 50 kilometers to go. Perfectly on position and attentive, the Groupama-FDJ team managed to be in the right move, with numbers.

“Today, they impacted the race” Philippe Mauduit

“When you are in the back, even more with such bad weather, you’re not in control of the race, you need to make constant efforts to stick to the peloton, and it does not put things in the right order morally”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “That’s why we wanted to ride in front, because doing so, we see what is happening and we can make the race. There was a strong risk of wind but it was very fluctuating. So no matter how much we look at all the weather forecast, it’s always better to ride in front.” This enabled Thibaut to have four teammates by his side when a first bunch broke away. “It’s satisfying to have five guys in this group of around thirty, that’s for sure,” said Philippe, “but we’re not going to brag about it. These are extreme conditions. It worked for us yesterday, today also, but it’s so complicated that we can also get caught next time. “

The stage would actually have been perfect if a new split had not occurred ten kilometers from the line, causing Thibaut Pinot and Rudy Molard to lose fifteen seconds on Vincenzo Nibali and Sergio Higuita while Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) went on to win the stage. “These are uncertain situations, because you can very well succeed for 35 kilometers, and in a blink of an eye, everything can change,” continued Philippe. “That’s why we have to keep working on these racing tactic and technique, but in any case I am satisfied with the team as a whole. Until now, on these situations, we were rather passive. Today, they impacted the race and it is interesting because psychologically, especially, it gives them confidence for the future”. “We were very close to being on the first echelon on a real stage of Paris-Nice”, agreed Julien Pinot. “We also built this roaster to improve in this racing scheme. There are reasons of being satisfied in this regard after the first two stages, but we do not get carried away. Stefan Küng brings a lot, as a leader in this terrain, he pulled some big turns, and all the other guys also committed a lot”.

“We are on the right track” Stefan Küng

The Swiss time trial champion, always perfectionist, was then not completely satisfied at the finish: “Before coming to Paris-Nice, we said that the objective was to work as a team in these situations. Even when you are caught behind, you should not let go, and push until the end. This is what we did today, we gave everything we had and we did the best we could. However, we cannot say that we did everything perfectly. I’m giving us 6 out of 10: it’s good that we took some time on Alaphilippe and Quintana, but I think we were able to be in front. The goal is never to finish in the second group, it is to be in the first one. But we are on the right track ”. After two stages that did a lot of damage, Rudy Molard and Thibaut Pinot are nonetheless doing very well with their top-15 on GC, about 40 seconds behind the leader Maximilian Schachmann.

“Overall, I am satisfied with my day and the balance is rather good after two tricky stages,” said Thibaut. “The team has been very strong today. Whatever happens, the work that has been done is very positive and gives me confidence for the rest of the season, especially in the echelons’ situations, which are not my speciality. I have no regrets that we failed to hang on to the first echelon today. I was exhausted, I just didn’t have the legs anymore”. Rest is highly required before the third stage, which Philippe Mauduit expects to be again very tense. “It is another complicated stage. We’ll still have to look at the weather to know what to expect”, he concluded. “We stay focused, we want to have a great stage and get through it ok ”. “I hope to recover a bit for the time trial on Wednesday that is very important to me,” ended Thibaut.

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