After five years with AG2R La Mondiale, France's Julien Loubet has finally started to fulfill his promise by winning the second stage of the Tropical Amissa Bongo (Tour of Gabon) in Africa and taking the leader's jersey.
The 25-year-old turned pro early in his career after numerous victories in the Junior ranks, but has had some difficulties adapting to competing at the highest level. His win in Gabon is especially significant as it is the first success for AG2R this season after a disappointing 2009,. Loubet also beat experienced riders such as David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom).
"I'm very happy," Loubet said after the stage. "It was very important for the team to achieve a victory early this season. I hope this will give the whole squad confidence and that it will continue like this for me and the team throughout the season."
Loubet also thanked his teammates who worked for him during a rather difficult day of racing. His directeur sportif, Gilles Mas, said the team had targeted the stage. "We had looked at the finale yesterday [Tuesday] and saw that it was difficult," Mas explained. "We started by taking things into our own hands with 35 kilometres to go. Our riders attacked one by one, so the victory is a nice reward! Julien takes the lead and the other three jerseys, so it's a very very good day for us!"
Mas added that Loubet's win is especially important after 2009 did not go as hoped. "The team really needed something like this to find confidence again after the 2009 season was a bit disappointing. I'm very happy for the riders."
Team manager Vincent Lavenu was equally delighted. "It's good to start the season with an early win as it will encourage the rest of the team to try and do the same. Congratul;ations to Julien for his first victory in the pro ranks, especially in front of Moncoutié and Charteau who are not nobodys!"
The Tour of Gabon continues on Thursday with stage three from Ngouoni to Moanda.
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