On the longest stage of the 2022 Paris-Nice, Valentin Madouas gave it another try. Like the previous day, the Frenchman slipped into the day’s breakaway and therefore collected most of the points at stake on the categorized climbs along the way. He then increased his lead in the mountain classification two days before the end of the race. Quentin Pacher and Olivier Le Gac finished in a reduced peloton that got to the line just behind the winner Mathieu Burgaudeau.
The only stage of the “Race to the Sun” featuring more than two hundred kilometres was on the menu this Friday. Towards Aubagne, the peloton had to cover no less than two hundred and thirteen kilometres with several climbs along the way. However, the profile did not seem as demanding as the day before, which suggested a different scenario. “The headwind was very strong, which also heavily reduced the chances for the breakaway to make it”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “We were also very much aware that a few sprinters’ teams would make the effort to control the race today. Despite everything, it was a big day for Valentin to further establish his lead in the King of the Mountain’s ranking. For him, it was interesting to enter this breakaway”. Even with the sore legs of his break from the day before, the French puncher did enter the right move after ten kilometres with Sébastien Grignard (Lotto-Soudal), Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana-Qazaqstan), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Julius Van den Berg (EF Education-Easypost) and Victor Koretzky (B&B-KTM). “I had a little energy left and the team’s goal was really to put someone in front,” he said. “But when I saw we were just six there, I immediately understood that it was going to be hard, especially when I felt this very, very strong headwind. It was a really tough day.”
“He took out a good option”, Philippe Mauduit
Moreover, the peloton didn’t really want to play on Friday, and only let the gap grow to five minutes before reducing it to three at the halfway point. The fugitives’ try was surely not on a good way, but the Groupama-FDJ rider was able to cross the first four climbs in the lead. “I still had a good day in the front, that’s the main thing,” said Valentin. “It also allowed me to score a few points and I could at least consolidate the jersey ahead of Saturday’s stage”. Valentin Madouas then dropped back starting the Col de l’Espigoulier, last climb of the day, while the rest of the breakaway was caught at the top. After this stage six, he’s got forty-four points in the mountain classification, which is twenty-four more than his first contender. “He got plenty of points, and even if it’s not done mathematically, he took out a good option,” added Philippe Mauduit. In the day’s final, the sprinters’ teams tried to control the attacks within a small bunch, but Olivier Le Gac boldly gave it a go on the short climb of Lascours, just nine kilometres from the line. “We all wanted to try something in the end”, added Philippe. “Eventually, it all comes down to a fraction of a second. When Olivier went, Laporte followed and did not give collaborate. They looked at each other a bit, and Burgaudeau came from behind and passed them with momentum. It was then difficult to stand on the pedals again, and no one was able to take his wheel because they had lost too much speed. You also have to be lucky when you time your attacks, it comes down to detail, and today was Burgaudeau’s day”.
The young Frenchman stayed away until the last meters and the peloton just ended behind him. Also aggressive in the last minutes, Quentin Pacher eventually finished in the main group with Olivier Le Gac. The two hardest stages of Paris-Nice are now looming. “Our injured riders are not completely recovered but the others are fine, and they have to take advantage of their form to show themselves on this Paris-Nice”, added Philippe. “With a bit of luck, we can achieve something great”. “We have good cards, and we will try to do a good stage tomorrow,” certified Valentin. “We want to race aggressively as we have been for the past two days”. A mountain-top finish in the Col du Turini (15 km at 7%) awaits the riders on Saturday. “We’ll know if the breakaway has a chance depending on who’s in it”, concluded Philippe. “I’d say it’s 50/50, and we’ll definitely try again.”