Thomas Voeckler held on to the Tour Cycliste International La Provence yellow jersey that he claimed following stage 1 victory to secure his first overall victory since the 2013 Tour du Poitou Charentes. The Direct Energie rider finished the third stage, won by Etixx-Quick Step's Fernando Gaviria, in 28th place with his seven second advantage over Petr Vakoc (Etixx - Quick-Step) unchanged ensuring his win.
Voeckler singled out neo-pro teammate Lilian Calmejane for his efforts in the final to help the 36-year-old hold onto his overall lead.
"I was not having a great day," Voeckler told DirectVelo. "It was difficult to control the entire stage. The guys did a great job, each at a specific time. In the end, I was not able to follow the attacks. But I was able to count on Lilian (Calmejane) returning. He helped me to close the gap to the most dangerous riders. Without that, I think it would have been over. I would not have been in yellow tonight.
"This is a win for the team. Lilian keeps 3rd place. It takes guts to help and end up in that place. Chapeau to him and to the others."
Calmejane, 23, finished 18th on his Direct Energie debut at the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise, going on to to place eighth overall at the La Méditerranéenne and 18th at Tour de Haut-var before his first podium result for the French Pro-Continental team.
"If I have legs like this all season, my turn will come," Calmejane explained to DirectVelo. "The best neo-pros have won races at this in recent years, I think of Alexis Gougeard[AG2R-La Mondiale rider who won a stage at Vuelta last year, ed], so I thought why not me. I'm usually very early in the season. I expected to have good feelings but not necessarily to make results like these."
Last year as Europcar, the team won nine races across the whole season. Two months into the new calendar year, Direct Energie already has nine wins including two overall victories. Voeckler explained the winning start has created a great atmosphere within the team, setting the platform for success in 2016.
"Everything works well in the team. We have had a great start to the season. When you starts well, there is a positive spiral. The assessment of the season will be in October but the start cannot be taken taken away," said Voeckler.
Next up for Voeckler and Europcar is the pair of 1.1 French races this weekend, Classic Sud Ardèche - Souvenir Francis Delpech and La Drome Classic before Paris-Nice early-next month.
"I plan to do both races this weekend in Drôme Ardèche but that's fine in the context of Paris-Nice," Voeckler explained. "I expect to miss some freshness. There was no pressure anyway. Lilian has good legs. We do not base our start to the season on one race and this will allow us to ride more freely."
It wasn't all good news for Direct Energie as sports director Jimmy Engoulvent put a dampener on the celebrations, unsuccessfully attempting to drive under a barricade with several team bikes on the car roof.