Starting with an impressive line-up, the Groupama-FDJ team was hoping for a completely different outcome in the Amstel Gold Race this Sunday. Although being aggressive as planned, and having Kevin Geniets, Lars van den Berg and Quentin Pacher in a strong group that went 90 kilometres from the finish, the French squad could not play all of its assets in Limburg due to illness, “bad day” and crashes. Despite crashing at a crucial point, Valentin Madouas still took eleventh place of the day while Kevin Geniets grabbed sixteenth after a solid performance. The Flèche Wallonne is coming next.

Some thirty climbs, spread over 253 kilometres, launched the so-called “Ardennes” week this sunday, although the route of the Amstel Gold Race was more about the Dutch Limburg than about Wallonia. A breakaway was quickly formed, and Mathias Vacek (Trek-Segafredo), Leon Heinschke (Team DSM), Mattéo Vercher (TotalEnergies), Ward Vanhoof (Team Flanders-Baloise), Tobias Ludvigsson, Alessandro Fedeli (Q36.5 Pro Cycling) as well as Marin Urianstad (Uno-X) had the opportunity to lead the race for almost one hundred and fifty kilometres. Even before entering the last hundred, the peloton however came back while the day had already started in a difficult way for the Groupama-FDJ team following the withdrawal of his young talent Romain Grégoire. “He was sick”, said Philippe Mauduit. “We thought yesterday that it was going to be ok, but the rain and the cold didn’t help in the end. Then Quentin crashed, as he slid on white stripes”. Experiencing a “bad day”, David Gaudu was forced to let the peloton go, but Quentin Pacher managed to get going again and take the lead about 90 kilometres from the finish. He did it together with Kevin Geniets and Lars van den Berg, but also with some race’s favorites like Tadej Pogacar or Tom Pidcock.

“We executed the plan well”, Kevin Geniets

“We managed to attack and anticipate the fight where we planned to do it, with Quentin, Lars and Kevin, which was pretty good,” said Philippe. “The goal was to move early, and the team rode very well at that point”, confirmed Kevin. “Quentin crashed just before but did a great job, as did Lars who was also very strong. That was the plan and we executed it well. Almost all the teams were there, and I thought it could be a really good move”. A group of about fifteen men therefore broke away from the main peloton, but there were only eleven left in the lead, including Kevin Geniets and Lars van den Berg, after the first time on the Cauberg with about seventy kilometres to go. The gap with the peloton remained around thirty seconds approaching the Loorberg, after a long, more rolling section. At that moment, a new event changed the race’s dynamics. “Riders from the peloton could have come back because the gap was barely twenty seconds, but Valentin and Rudy were caught in a crash downhill,” said Philippe. “Some crashed in front of them and there was not much to do. For us, it changed the race hugely”.The goal was to wait for the bigger climbs to make the jump”, confirmed Valentin. “I had to stay safe and wait for the last moment to make an effort and try to bridge across, but I crashed, found myself behind and that penalized me to get a good result”.

“They showed a fighting spirit”, Philippe Mauduit

If the Frenchman got up quite quickly, he had to change bikes and found himself very far from the head of a completely exploded bunch. In this same Loorberg, Lars van den Berg was distanced but Kevin Geniets kept his place in the lead. The Luxembourger even remained there until the last 36 kilometres, but in the Eyserbosweg, Tadej Pogacar dropped all of his competitors except for Tom Pidcock and Ben Healy. The Slovenian flew away to victory a little further on, while Kevin Geniets found himself in a third chasing group fighting the top-10. In the final, the gaps widened but the situation remained rather stable. Nevertheless, Valentin Madouas quite unexpectedly joined his teammate’ group before the last climb. “He attacked on the climb following the Cauberg, went full-gas, and he found himself in the line of cars on the downhill”, explained Philippe. “He gained 40 seconds in one kilometre”. Therefore, more than three minutes after the winner Pogacar, Valentin Madouas was able to join the battle for the top-10 alongside his teammate Kevin Geniets, in a group of eleven riders. Following the sprint, the Breton eventually crossed the line in eleventh position and the Luxembourger in sixteenth place. “The crash prevented me from fighting in the final”, added Valentin. “Fate was not with us today.” “Even if the big result is not there, I think we had an impact on the race,” said Kevin.

Philippe Mauduit later took stock of this eventful day: “Without this crash, we can reasonably think that Valentin could be on the podium, or close to it, but the race is what it is and there is no point in speculating. There was some bad luck, it was a complicated day, but they guys showed a fighting spirit and they managed to put in place what we had planned at the briefing. It’s not the outcome we had imagined but the state of mind was good, the physical too and we now have to heal the wounds and think about Wednesday”.

No comment