Ag2r-La Mondiale continued their winning ways of 2014 as neo-pro Alexis Gougeard took out the Classic Loire-Atlantique. The win takes the French team's tally to eight, just one short of their entire tally in 2013.
The 21-year-old Norman rider went solo having been part of the day's breakaway which included teammate Julien Bérard. Gougeard made the decisive attack 10km from the finish and resisted his pursuers for his first win at the professional level in just his sixth race for the French outfit.
Last year Gougeard rode with the USSA Pavilly-Barentin team but wore the kit of the French national team at the Tour de L'Avenir where he won the opening prologue by six seconds ahead of Lasse Norman Hansen, who now rides for Garmin-Sharp, and held onto the leaders jersey until Stage 5.
Gougeard's win so early in 2014 has repaid the faith placed in him by team manager Vincent Lavenu and his excitement at winning was obvious.
"I'm really stoked not only for myself but for the whole Ag2r-La Mondiale team. It confirms our excellent dynamics at the moment with the victories we’ve achieved in recent weeks. I wanted to enjoy myself and when I came into the finale, I did not believe it right away but 3km from the finish, I began to tell myself that it was possible," Gougeard said after claiming his win.
"Since the beginning of the season, I did my job as the best teammate possible. Today, I had a small part to play and its hard to grasp is what I did."
For the directeur sportif of the day, Gilles Mas, it was a special moment. "In recent years we often had difficulty managing the start of the race at this kind of event. I really relied on it during the briefing and Christophe (Riblon) also conveyed the message as a pillar of the team."
By having two riders in the 20-man break, Mas explained the team worked well to keep the break at a distance and were prepared with Yauheni Hutarovich in case the race came back together for a bunch sprint.
"Julien [Bérard] really helped Alexis to manage the race in the breakaway. The team also worked well behind the leading men. We worked to protect the breakaway but also to support Yauheni who our sprint card.
"This morning I really felt we could race to win, it was ours for the taking. The [team] mood was again excellent, [and for us] It's so rare to our lift arms and win like that, it's just fun."