There was no room for breakaway, on Sunday, in the last stage of the “Race to the Sun” that paradoxically ended under Nice’s rain. The favourites fought all day through the climbs, but that did not prevent Stefan Küng from showing his great form by staying in contact for a long part of the stage. The Swiss rider even finished in the first chasing group and grabbed a superb sixth place on the line. He also completed the race in 21st position overall, two places behind his teammate Quentin Pacher. As for Valentin Madouas, he left Nice with the polka dot jersey on his shoulders.

“It’s good for morale”, Stefan Küng

Quite ironically, the 80th edition of the “Race to the Sun” ended on Sunday with some rain. The stage was certainly short, featuring only 115 kilometres, but the day promised to be long through the climbs around Nice. Like the previous days, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team was aiming for the breakaway on this final day, but the few attempts that occurred after the start proved unsuccessful. Very quickly, the peloton also approached the Côte de Levens and it was not long until the bunch exploded. “There was a crazy pace and therefore no breakaway today”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “For us, plan B was to try to hang on as long as possible with the best and to cross our fingers that it would ease off at some point. It never did. When it goes like this, you just do your best. We told our riders to keep fighting in case an opportunity arose, and even if it would not, at least the efforts made would prove useful for later”. While his mate from Brittany David Gaudu had been forced to withdraw from the race in the morning, Valentin Madouas was distanced early on in this stage. “Valentin punctured at the worst moment, at the bottom of the first climb”, explained Philippe. “We were blocked by the cars’ convoy, and we couldn’t help him out quickly. The peloton exploded on the first climb, and even if he jumped from group to group, he never managed to get back to the peloton that was already too far. However, in the meantime, Quentin took the KOM points in front in order to make sure that no one could get back in the fight for the jersey”.

Quentin Pacher crossed the day’s first two ascents in first position while the bunch was already reduced to around forty riders. They were even less than that starting the third climb, la côte de Berre-les-Alpes. The French puncher was therefore up there in the yellow jersey group alongside his Swiss teammate Stefan Küng. Both stayed in contact before the favourites started to attack each other on the Côte de Peille, with about fifty kilometres to go. The best climbers isolated in the lead, but Stefan Küng managed to catch a nice chase group at the top before heading to the Col d’Èze. In this final climb, the double European time trial champion was among the strongest in his chase group and was then able to begin the downhill towards Nice in a good position. Up front, Simon Yates went alone to claim the stage victory while Primoz Roglic secured the overall win. Two minutes later, Stefan Küng finished in a small group fighting for fourth place. In the sprint, he finally took sixth, after a huge day. “It was a tough race,” said Stefan. “I felt good, and I managed to hold on. I even surprised myself sometimes on the climbs. It’s nice to finish in the top-10. To place sixth in a stage like this, that came down to legs, among all the climbers, is good for morale. The second goal of this Paris-Nice was to do a good block of preparation for the Classics. I think I achieved that goal”. “Stefan did quite a stage”, underlined Philippe. “Everyone obviously puts him in the very good time trialists category, but he’s also able to come over these 5/6-kilometre climbs. He already showed it in the past and he had a very good ride today”.

“There are plenty of great satisfactions”, Philippe Mauduit

At the end of this restless last stage, the 28-year-old Swiss climbed up to 21st place overall, just two spots behind his teammate Quentin Pacher, 23rd in the stage and 19th in the end. Valentin Madouas arrived a little later but had the chance to climb on the ceremonial podium to be presented with the polka dot jersey for the last time. “It was not an easy day today”, said the man from Brest. “After I punctured, I did a time trial, on my own, for the whole race. I overtook riders one by one and was happy with my legs, which were very good today. This jersey is a great reward, and I am very satisfied with my performance. It’s also very good for the team. We weren’t very lucky in this race and that allows us to bring back a little something”. Philippe Mauduit eventually shared his balance of the week: “Valentin’s puncture at the worst moment sums up our week perfectly, just as Stefan’s unexpected sixth place confirms this week’s summary. We did not manage to do what we wanted because we had some unfortunate events. However, there are plenty of great satisfactions. The riders proved united and combative despite everything. They tried other things and never gave up. We can take our hats off to them for that, and for all the work they have done this week. They will reap the rewards, that’s for sure.”

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