Consistent and regularly on the highest spots, Valentin Madouas was still missing a victory in 2022. It is now done. On Sunday, the French puncher conquered the Tour du Doubs, which came as a reward after he displayed a great level all season. Among the best in the last climb of the day, the young rider from Groupama-FDJ anticipated the reduced sprint to claim his third professional win. Stefan Küng (7th) and Kevin Geniets (10th) also made it into the top-10.
From Morteau to Pontarlier, the peloton tackled one of the highest elevation gains of the French Cup on Sunday. Almost 3000 meters were indeed on the menu on the fourteenth round, the Tour du Doubs. With Valentin Madouas, Stefan Küng, Kevin Geniets, Michael Storer, but also Romain Grégoire and Lenny Martinez, Groupama-FDJ therefore had some nice cards to play. “There were two options at the start”, presented Benoît Vaugrenard. “Either a breakaway of 4-5 riders was made very quickly, which happened, or there was a fight for 80 kilometres. Given the team we had, the first option did not suit us particularly, because we knew that the bunch would then ride tempo and that it would come down to a possible reduced sprint. Even if we had a good team, we did not have the fastest ones. So, we let the others do the work. We put a little pressure on the other teams. With the riders, we then made the decision to pull, but to really make the race hard. At kilometre 75, there was a nice climb of five kilometres averaging 6%. It was a good moment to do it, and Lenny was very motivated. With his climbing qualities, he reduced the gap from nine to four minutes on the breakaway”. While they got a 10-minute lead at best, Samuel Leroux (Go Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Jago Willems (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB), Tim Torn Teutenberg (Leopard Pro Cycling), Arnaud Tendons (Tudor Pro Cycling Team) and Léo Danès (Team U Nantes Atlantique) could then feel the bunch coming back, halfway through the race.
“Our goal was to make it hard, attack, attack, and attack again”, Benoît Vaugrenard
However, this was only the beginning of the fight. “We wanted to make an aggressive race so that we wouldn’t have the chase and to be one step ahead,” insisted Benoît. “Michael followed one move, Stefan another one, and we always had someone in front. There were then sixty flat kilometres to reach the final two climbs, and I absolutely wanted to have a rider in front so that we did not need to pull in the back. Romain felt the right moment, and he attacked with Pierre Rolland. We put pressure on the other teams, who were forced to chase”. The future rider of the WorldTeam joined the morning breakaway 80 kilometres from the finish and led the way for about an hour. “We did an attacking race”, explained Valentin. “Romain made a big attack and managed to take the lead. Thanks to him, we were able to wait in the peloton and recover for the final. It was really great.” Unfortunately, at the bottom of the penultimate climb of the day, at La Vie Petitjean (3km at 5%), the recent stage winner on the Tour de l’Avenir crashed. “It’s the negative point of today”, said Benoît. “Romain did a superb race, and that helped us a lot for the final. He was still in front with thirty seconds, but he touched the wheel of another rider. He has a scraped knee, but he should be fine. He was mostly very disappointed because he still had a 30-second lead and it’s always annoying to crash at that time. We hope he will recover quickly, especially with the world championships in mind”. The “local” rider therefore had to let the front group go, but his teammates perfectly replaced him when things got serious in the bunch.
Barely thirty men indeed headed for the final climb of Le Larmont, about ten kilometres from the line, and the Groupama-FDJ squad was almost complete. “There was still a good group, with very good riders”, added Benoît. “Our goal was to make it hard, attack, attack and attack again in the last climb. Michael went first, then Valentin tried also”. “We got away with Cosnefroy, Gilbert and Thomas, but we were caught by a small group with Kevin and Stefan at the start of the descent”, added Valentin. “I told Stefan that he could also attack downhill and get the win this way”, said Benoît. “He did try, he took ten meters, but Biniam Girmay was just behind him”. A dozen runners were therefore still up there for the win in the streets of Pontarlier. “With 800 metres to go, I saw the right space to attack,” said Valentin. “I came with momentum and managed to get a good gap straight away. It was a very slight downhill, so I really had to pedal very hard. I really had to go deep to make it, but I did. I was a little disappointed with my performance in Plouay because I hadn’t dared enough. I told myself that I was going to try everything, even if it meant I would be caught. It worked out, so it’s really great.” Thanks to his final move, the Breton was even able to celebrate his victory before the line in front of a small group including Stefan Küng (7th) and Kevin Geniets (10th). Lenny Martinez (14th) and Michael Storer (17th) arrived moments later.
“I was missing a victory”, Valentin Madouas
“This victory is first and foremost a reward for the riders, who took the initiative and who were all going well today,” said Benoît. “They always had the numbers. We were not rewarded in Limousin, although we tried. We did the same thing here. We weren’t sure it would work, but we had to try given the team we had. It’s great. Congratulations to the riders who did a very good, very aggressive race, which they concluded with the win”. “The team did a great job today”, confirmed Valentin. “We were in all the moves, and there were still three of us in the final. Physically, we were very strong, we left our mark on the race. We had a great race collectively. We did not do well in all the French Cups this year, and it’s great to finally be able to win one”. If it was indeed a first for the team in the French competition this season, it was also a great first for Valentin Madouas in 2022. “I had had a very complete season until then, but I was missing a victory to prove that I had passed a milestone and that I could also win,” said the Breton. “Valentin has had a great season, great performances, but we know that nothing equals victory”, concluded Benoît. “He was close a lot lately. I knew it would come at some point, and it eventually comes ideally before the end of the season”.