With the profile changing on Paris-Nice form this Thursday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team also changed their tactics a little. On stage 5 towards Saint-Sauveur-de-Montagut, Valentin Madouas therefore got into the breakaway and even collected points for the mountain classification throughout the day. Although he could not match McNulty for the stage win, the Frenchman did however secure a top-10 (7th) as well as the best climber’s jersey. Quentin Pacher obtained tenth place after a great ride amongst the favourites.

“It didn’t cost too much energy to grab points”, Valentin Madouas

In the aftermath of the Montluçon time trial, Paris-Nice then entered on a much hillier profile this Thursday. Only the Col du Turini stage actually contained more elevation gain than today’s stage in this 80th edition of the “Race to the Sun”. No less than 3,400 meters of climbing were scheduled across the Loire and Ardèche departments. This obviously gave some ideas to the Groupama-FDJ’s riders, now too far in terms of the general classification. “We had planned to have riders in front, because on a profile like this, with a classification as it stood this morning, we could easily imagine that the breakaway had a good shot of making it”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “We absolutely had to be there, and Valentin was one of the possible options. He was confident about it.” It was indeed the young Frenchman who took the right move after ten kilometres, together with nine riders including Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) or Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels-KTM). The French puncher then started to collect points for the mountain classification in the first climbs. “The goal really was the stage victory today”, he explained himself. “Unfortunately, I did not have the best feelings at all, and it didn’t cost too much energy to grab points. It was also a good way to have fun up front.”

In the meantime, the breakaway enjoyed a seven-minute lead on the peloton that did not show great interest in the stage win. After he crossed the first four categorized climbs in the lead, Valentin Madouas later arrived at the bottom of the decisive Col de la Mure (7.7 km at 8.1%), forty kilometres from the end, with the rest of the break. The gap was still more than enough to go for the win, but Brandon McNulty quickly ruined his competitors’ hopes. Much stronger than the others, the American went solo with thirty-eight kilometres to go and went on to get the victory. In this last hour of racing, the rider from Groupama-FDJ dropped back to a third group and finally took seventh place on the line. “I am really disappointed with my legs”, he said. “It was very difficult for me. I’ve got some regrets, because with the legs I had ten days ago, I could have fought for the win. Now, my legs are full of toxins as soon as I stand on the pedals. After the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var, I suffered from Covid for a few days, and I was very sick. Then, I suffered a big crash in the beginning of Paris-Nice. I had some tough times in the treatment, even if it’s going better now. I am quite satisfied from this point of view, and I must thank the team staff who really helped me to get back on my feet”. The young man still climbed onto the podium at the finish in order to take the polka dot jersey. “He came across stronger on the stage, but he brought the polka dot jersey back on the bus and it’s quite nice, it’s a great reward”, commented Philippe Mauduit.

“We are full of motivation”, Philippe Mauduit

“It’s nice to be on the podium in a race like this,” continued Valentin. “Keeping it can become a goal, but we will mostly try to aim for stage victories. We will do everything to achieve that. We haven’t been lucky since the start, but there are still three hard stages left and I think we will get better and better until Sunday. Personally, I hope to perform even better by the end of this Paris-Nice”. Quentin Pacher nicely kept the pace of the main GC favourites and eventually took tenth on Thursday. The victory is not there yet, but the momentum is. “Given the situation we are in today, we have to deal with the forces we have left,” Philippe concluded. “For sure we took a heavy blow on the second stage, but already from that evening, the guys were ready to get back into the battle. We had proof of that today. We have to keep trying and hoping. The morale is good, the guys are still in good shape, and they are doing their best. We are full of motivation, the routes suit the breakaways, and we absolutely have to repeat what we did today”.

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