Anthony Roux pulled off a great show on Wednesday at the Vuelta a España, winning the stage by a mere second over a charging field of sprinters. The Française des Jeux rider had spent a full day in five-man breakaway which fell apart in the final kilometres of the stage.
It was the biggest victory in the career of the Grand Tour rookie, but what was even more impressive was the way in which the 22-year-old achieved it.
Roux joined an escape group early in the stage, which included Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil), Markel Irizar (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Francisco José Martínez (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Slipstream), all riders older and more experienced than him. In the final kilometres, with the bunch ready to pounce, Roux was the only rider able to follow Maaskant's solo move with three kilometres to go. The Frenchman then dropped Maaskant in the last 300 metres.
"At first, I thought about letting it come down to a sprint between Maaskant and myself. But then I saw the peloton come back behind us and just pulled through. The last 500 metres were very, very hard," Roux told reporters in the finish.
Initially, the young gun from Verdun was sent to his first Grand Tour just to gain experience and stamina, but Roux has exceeded his team's expectations . "He has an impressive motor," Française des Jeux, directeur sportif Thierry Bricaud told L'Equipe. "We don't call him 'The Machine' for nothing. He won with his legs, but also with his head, like a pro that has ten years of experience. His control [of the race finale] just makes me speechless. The way in which he went for the win after all the efforts during the day was just incredible."
Roux, who also scored a third placing at the French national champiosnhips this year, was of course very happy at the finish, but talked like he still had many more aims for the years to come. "I was calm in the last kilometres," he continued. "I proved to myself that I can have good performances on a three-week Grand Tour. I had a lot of fatigue, but before coming to the Vuelta, I knew that I had good form. Now, I see that I manage the efforts well."
According to many observers, Roux may be one of the country's next leading pro cyclists once he reaches his mid-twenties. "He still has a lot of potential for progress and recovers really well from his efforts," Bricaud added. "He only complained about aching legs after two weeks in the Vuelta, whereas normally my riders tell me that after the second day. He has the means to accomplish other feats like this one. He just need to take it step by step."
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