Attack turned out to be the right option on Sunday in the Amstel Gold Race. In the opening of the “Ardennes Classics”, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team perfectly seized its opportunity in the last hour of racing around the Dutch bergs. Valentin Madouas and Quentin Pacher indeed took part in a move of about ten riders, and although being distanced fifteen kilometres from the finish, they managed to take sixth and eighth places respectively on the line. Romain Grégoire finished third in the “bunch”, which meant twelfth position. On to the Flèche Wallonne.

No less than thirty-three climbs featured this Sunday throughout the 253 kilometres making up the 2024 route of the Amstel Gold Race. A total which, however, was reduced to thirty-two after just half an hour of racing due to a last-minute course change, following the temporary neutralization of the women’s event. After a battle of around thirty kilometers, four men managed to take the lead: Tosh van der Sande (Visma-Lease a Bike), Enzo Leijnse (dsm-firmenich PostNL), Alexander Hajek (Bora-hansgrohe) and Zeb Kyffin (TDT-Unibet). The peloton then sailed four minutes behind the fugitives while tackling the first hills of the race. However, it was only with 80 kilometres to go that the riders climbed the Cauberg for the first time, and it was also there that the race opened up in the bunch. Rémy Rochas followed the first moves, the early break was caught shortly after, then Quentin Pacher also briefly slipped into a group about sixty kilometres from the finish. The peloton, however, closed the gap before letting a trio get away shortly after. Paul Lapeira, Louis Vervaeke and Mikkel Honoré then benefited from a thirty-second lead before the decisive sequence of the Gulperberg, Kruisberg and Eyserbosweg bergs.

“We raced like we wanted to”, Valentin Madouas

Following this sequence, the peloton was reduced to around thirty riders, including Quentin Pacher, Romain Grégoire and Valentin Madouas. Domestiques were therefore lacking, and anticipation attempts quickly occurred. The French champion found an opening soon enough with Marc Hirschi, Bauke Mollema and Roger Adria. Then on the next climb of Fromberg, Quentin Pacher also made the jump to the front together with Mauri Vansevenant. With about thirty kilometres to go, Groupama-FDJ found itself with two men in the lead. “Usually, as soon as he gets to the final, Van der Poel doesn’t hesitate,” explained Benoît Vaugrenard. “Today, he didn’t try, and we thought that it was time to anticipate, which the guys did very well.”We pretty much executed the plan we had in mind at the start,” added Quentin. “We wanted to have several cards in the final and anticipate fifty to thirty kilometers from the finish. This is what happened. There were two of us, and it was good to be with numbers.” On the other hand, in addition to the competitors previously mentioned, the two men from Groupama-FDJ then had to deal with Tom Pidcock, Tiesj Benoot and Kévin Vauquelin joining them. The leading group thus grew to twelve riders, but the gap was quickly made on the peloton.

Slightly dropped in the Keutenberg, Valentin Madouas and Quentin Pacher managed to come back after and entered the last twenty kilometres forty-five seconds ahead of the bunch. The Cauberg was tackled for the last time but did not make any real selection up front. However, the penultimate classified climb, that of Geulhemmerberg, was too much for the French duo. “My legs were empty, full of toxins,” explained Valentin. “I tried to manage my effort as much as possible, but the legs spoke.” Hirschi, Benoot, Vansevenant and Pidcock broke away and immediately worked together to prevent their competitors from coming back. In the chasing group, the riders kept on working together but the gap increased from ten seconds to twenty with three kilometres to go. The leading group only started to look at each other as they approached the flamme rouge, which allowed the five chasers to gain a bit of ground. “I tried to bring Valentin as close as possible in the final straight to try to fight for victory,” said Quentin. However, it didn’t prove enough to get in the mix. At the finish, Valentin Madouas took sixth place and Quentin Pacher eighth in the first chasing group. “We raced like we wanted to, and we just didn’t have the legs to win,” said the Breton. “I didn’t have amazing legs but being able to fight for victory and be in the mix is positive. There was a crazy level here, we really had to hold on”.

“It gives confidence for the next races”, Benoît Vaugrenard

“It was an intense day,” added Quentin. “Sixth and eighth is good, but when you’re there to fight for something better, you always wonder what you could have done differently.” “Above all, there are no regrets,” said Benoît. “We gave everything. There were just four stronger riders in the final. We would have had big regrets if we had missed the breakaway, but we had two men out of twelve, and we were the only team in that case. Quentin’s race was like his start to the season: incredible form and a super domestique. As for Valentin, we can feel that he is not yet 100%, in which case he would have managed to follow the first four, but he’s gained confidence for the future, and he needed that”. In addition to the double top-10, Romain Grégoire also took a solid twelfth place, third in the peloton. “I think he also had the legs to be in front, he was very strong,” said Benoît. “He had doubts before the start regarding the distance, but we knew that this race was really made for him. This is a good sign for future years, but also for the next races. It’s always very important to start well, it gives confidence for the next races. David will replace Stefan for the Flèche Wallonne, which we’ll start with great ambitions”. “The team really has a good momentum, that bodes well,” concluded Quentin.

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