Making its Tour de France debut in 2017, it took just one road stage for Wanty-Groupe Gobert to make an appearance on the podium. A day spent in the breakaway by Yoann Offredo ended with the Tour debutant claiming the combativity award in Liege as Marcel Kittel took the win in a bunch sprint finish.
Offredo added that he had earmarked stage 2 as a day for the breakaway and a day to chase the win, not just for the benefit of showing off the sponsors for television.
"I had a few days to analyze the roadbook in Düsseldorf on my room. I immediately saw that an escape would leave early," said Offredo. "When the break was formed I wondered why I was in front. It was raining the whole day, but the feeling was good. Then I realized I was there for the public, along the side of the road. I knew that if we could get over the last climb in front we had a chance. I could fight for the stage together with Taylor Phinney. "
"Some talked about a breakaway for publicity, but that was not my main goal. In my mind there was something else. The stage victory. In a stage like today I am not sprinting for victory, and I am not the best in the mountain stages. So I do it with my means in stages like today. I certainly want to try again, but not tomorrow. "
A one-day specialist, 30-year-old Offredo had ridden just one previous Grand Tour before the Tour but showed no signs of inexperience as he was the last man to join the four-rider breakaway. While Offredo and Taylor Phinney were enjoying their first Tour road stages, the other two debutants in the breakaway, Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), fell away.
Inside the final 20km, Offredo and Phinney found themselves in contention for an unlikely stage win. However, the peloton reeled in the duo with 1.1km to race and having realised the potential of a win, Offredo explained he wanted more than the combativity prize.
"Some talked about a breakaway for publicity, but that was not my main goal. In my mind there was something else," Offredo said. "The stage victory. In a stage like today I am not sprinting for victory, and I am not the best in the mountain stages. So I do it with my means in stages like today. I certainly want to try again, but not tomorrow."
Already friendly with Phinney, Offredo also earned a 'friend for life' after the stage as the American explained post-stage.
When we crossed the finish line, I put my arm around him and said, 'We're friends for life now, bro'," said Phinney.
Read more on this article
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For Wanty-Groupe Gobert sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren, Offredo's presence at the front of the race brought great satisfaction and emotion to the team
"I am more than satisfied. This is the scenario we dreamed off! It was not easy to motivate the riders before the start for a stage that "ends on a sprint". But everyone could find out that the team was there. And that Yoann was a long time in front," said Van der Schueren. "I also saw the sponsors in tears, and on the Côte d'Olne I only saw blue hats (a village where Wanty-Groupe Gobert invited 2000 guests). Such days are not common."
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