A bit more than a week ago, Valentin Madouas brought a nice touch to his superb year with a great victory in the Tour du Doubs. On Tuesday, the Frenchman further enhanced his 2022 record by winning solo on the first stage of the Tour Luxembourg. Following good work from his teammates throughout the whole day, the 26-year-old puncher was strong enough to go solo on the last climb, less than two kilometres from the line, thus conquering the victory… and the first yellow jersey! A perfect start.

“The harder it is, the better it is for Valentin”, Frédéric Guesdon

On Tuesday, Groupama-FDJ returned to a race they left on a high last year. In the streets of Luxembourg, David Gaudu indeed closed his stay in the grand duchy with a nice victory. Frédéric Guesdon and Jussi Veikkanen’s men were then eager to restart in a comparable way with the opening stage of the 2022 edition. “We came here to win stages, especially the first one as we knew that the final suited us”, introduced the French sports director. “We also had in-shape like Valentin and Kevin.” Around the Luxembourg capital, the riders had to tackle several climbs over the route’s 163 kilometres, including two climbs in the last ten kilometres”. Fully confident with its leaders, the team took responsibility when a five-man breakaway developed. “We hoped that other teams would help us control the break, but we took part in the chase”, said Frédéric. “We had a plan, and we were aiming for a stage victory, so asked Clément to pull”. The young Frenchman therefore spent most of the stage at the head of the peloton to manage the gap, but not only. “We wanted to make the race hard, that’s why Clément went quite fast in the climbs, both to reduce the gap on the breakaway, but also to tire our opponents”, added Valentin Madouas.

After a long chase and a great work by his young teammate, the breakaway was eventually caught at the bottom of the penultimate climb. “We wanted to arrive all together with 12 kilometres to go and make a hard pace from the bottom to get rid of as many riders as possible”, added Frédéric. “Tobias positioned us well then Lorenzo set a strong tempo to make things hard. We know that the harder it is, the better it is for Valentin. We had to make the bodies suffer and not climb at a slow tempo”. At the top, about fifty riders broke away from the rest and then headed to the last climb: the Kirchberg (1.6 km at 6.3%), whose summit was located just over a kilometre from the finish. “We did a recon of the climb yesterday because our hotel is close”, said Frédéric. “Lars and Kevin needed to make things hard again for Val to counterattack with 1000-1500 metres to go”. From the first slopes, the former Luxembourg champion indeed made a strong acceleration that few riders were able to follow. “Kevin attacked first to force the others to make an effort,” said Frédéric. “They came back, and Valentin went immediately”. “I also had pain in the legs”, admitted the Breton. “Kevin put in a big attack. I didn’t want to bring the others to him. I bided my time. When I then saw that they slowed down, that everyone needed to breathe and that they were struggling to come back to him, I knew it was the right time to attack”.

“I might be in a shape that I have never been in”, Valentin Madouas

This time around, no one was able to follow his wheel. With a bit less than two kilometres remaining, the rider from Brest left everyone behind. “I made a gap right away,” he said. “I had a difficult time afterwards. I had to catch my breath because I gave everything at the top of the climb to get as much of a lead as possible. The last 500 metres were very hard, the legs were full of toxins, but it was enough to join the line. It’s really great”. A solo winner, three seconds ahead of his first chaser and eight on the bunch, Valentin Madouas was able to fully celebrate his second success in ten days. “It’s a wonderful day for us,” he added. “We prepared it well. The whole team did a great job, and the legs are really, really good. My recent victory certainly gave me confidence. Winning is liberating. I recovered well from the Tour du Doubs, where I managed to win despite not having a great day. What gave me confidence was actually to think that I could have won more easily if I had had a good day. Today, I looked at the startlist and I knew that I had to go before the sprint”. “Valentin was motivated, and with his latest victory, he took off some pressure and knew he was going well”, confirmed Frédéric. “We did everything to put him in the best possible conditions at the bottom of the climb, then it was up to him to do his thing. He made a very good effort. We saw that they tried to chase behind, but they just couldn’t match him”.

While his selection for the Worlds Championships’ Road race was made official on Tuesday, the French puncher took his fourth win among the pros as well as the leader’s yellow jersey. “It’s a great race with good competition, and it’s for sure a good sign for the world championships”, concluded Valentin. “Nevertheless, I have a race to finish before going there. We will try to keep the jersey as long as possible. In any case, I might be in a shape that I have never been in during my career”.This Tour Luxembourg will certainly not be a failure, but there are still other stages that may suit us”, ended Frédéric. “We’re not going to take stock after this victory. We hope to win a second one and why not get in the mix for the overall. The most important thing is that we don’t make any mistakes and that the team gives everything”.

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