Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) won the 2014 edition of Drôme Classic with a late attack, soloing away to victory ahead of Sebastian Delfosse (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) for his first win of the year. The victory comes off the back of success in Oman where the 23-year-old won the best young riders jersey.
Bardet's victory was the fourth win of the year for Vincent Lavenu's team and second for the rider from "Haute-Loire" since turning professional in 2012.
"It's a collective success that rewards the work of a whole group. We came close to the victory yesterday [Sud Ardeche] and we took the start this morning with the same desire to succeed. I want to thank all my teammates without whom this victory would not have been possible," Bardet said after crossing the line.
"There's really a great atmosphere in the team. Everybody works with the same mind and we are all very motivated and glad to meet up, riders and staff. We have fun together, outside and on bike, and results follow."
With strong wind and steep climbs, the parcours and weather promised a tough second edition, but first race after snow forced the cancellation of last year's race. After 40 km a break had well and truly been established with 36 riders present which then swelled to 52 by the 60km mark. The Verandas Willems team did the bulk of the work to bring the peloton together again so that by 80km the race was altogether.
On the last categorised climb of the day, which came with 10km left to race, six riders went clear gaining a 30 second advantage. The group was caught and further attacks were launched until Bardet laid the decisive blow to power away to a seven second advantage under the flame rouge which became an eight second win when he crossed the line.
"It was a challenging race from the start. The team has been present in all important breakaways and my teammates helped me to be well placed throughout the day. We had some information about the route thanks to Guillaume (Bonnafond) and Axel (Domont) who are native from this region. In any case, it's a real pleasure to continue the series of victories of the team, obtained these last week-ends," Bardet said.
To Bardet, the relief of starting the season with a classification and one-day win was evident after crossing the line. "That's important to win in the early season. Last year, I had to wait until August to get a victory and I'm very happy to win this season in March. It validates the work I did this winter and it's important as we approach the major races."
The next race for Bardet is Paris-Nice which he enters with ambitions of victory as he told DirectVelo. "Next week I will be a co-leader at the Paris-Nice with Jean-Christophe Péraud. It is a big goal."