Ag2R-La Mondiale captain Nicolas Roche finished well out of contention in 30th at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, but the French team was able achieve a well-deserved podium appearance with Dimitri Champion securing the climber's competition at the race.
The French road race title holder Champion formed part of the race's major breakaway group, joining Giuseppe Palumbo (Acqua & Sapone), David Loosli (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Benjamin Gourgue (Landbouwkrediet) and Stephane Auge (Cofidis) on the attack after 44 kilometres. Champion was one of the last members of the original group to be swept up by the peloton as the race went over the Mur de Huy for the penultimate time.
"It was good to have him out there - I think he won the mountains classification today so that's good for him personally and for the team to get on the podium," Roche told Cyclingnews after the race. "[The team making the podium] is a satisfaction. We did a good race. We tried and I just didn't have the legs for the last bit at the finish."
Ag2R's Blel Kadri added a further presence at the front end of the race as he joined a three-man chase group that was able to link up with the original lead group 38 kilometres from the finish.
Although he entered the race as his team's protected rider, Nicolas Roche admitted Champion's mountains success and Kadri's own attacking ride was some comfort for his relatively lowly result. "That's why we were active, because I wasn't so sure about how I'd get up here [the Mur de Huy]," he said. "It was good to give the guys a go and Dimitri wanted to go up the road."
Flèche Wallonne was just the second Classic of Roche's season, his first coming on Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race, where he finished 33rd. Despite a strong start to his season, including a series of top-ten results at Paris-Nice and the Tour of Catalunya, the 25-year-old is realistic about his expectations for the last race of the 2010 Classics season, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"It was nuts out there last Sunday, hard again today and I think Liège is probably the hardest one of the year," he said. "I hope I can do well on Sunday, but I'm not optimistic."