Back in 2013, Geniez had a disappointing Tour de France, finishing 44th: But he was able to bounce back in the Vuelta with a solo victory at Peyragudes, one of the hardest Pyrenean stages of the Spanish Grand Tour that year with 5,000 metres of vertical climbing.
This season the 28-year-old was slated to lead FDJ in the Giro d’Italia, after taking ninth overall in the Italian race the year before. However, a serious mass pile up on stage 3 left Geniez nursing a serious wrist injury and, after having a spat with AG2R rider Hubert Dupont after the stage - which earned him a fine - Geniez then abandoned on stage 4. However, as he said after the Vuelta victory, he then worked very hard to try to reach the Spanish Grand Tour in top condition.
Quite apart from pure strength, on stage 3's difficult challenge through the hills and extreme heat of Galicia, Geniez timed his effort perfectly. Even before the climb itself, he and Etixx-Quick Step’s Pieter Serry allowed fellow breakaway rider Simon Pellaud (IAM Cycling) to open up a gap on the second category Alto das Paixareiras. But whilst the Frenchman and Belgian both reeled the Swiss former U23 National champion back in, it was Geniez who dropped both Pellaud and Serry on the Ezaro itself.
Two minutes ahead at the foot of the climb, but 21 seconds clear at the summit, Geniez recognised "it's been a very difficult season with my crash in Italy. I've been working a lot and now I'm extremely happy. It's a big moment for me. It was close in the end but I got it."
The key to success, Geniez said, was "That the bunch had taken their time to start the chase and we had enough of an advantage to hold on on the climb. We knew we had a chance to stay away because it was a good breakaway. The peloton watched each other and waited too much and slowed. That gave us more time and more hope to pull it off."
Geniez said that such an ultra-steep climb made it "very hard to maintain the right pace, but finally I managed it." The crowds, whilst massive, both boosted his morale but were distracting, too.
"It was hard out there. It felt L'Alpe d'Huez at the beginning of the climb, the crowds were huge and everyone was yelling and cheering me on. It was a great atmosphere but it was difficult to focus. There's no climb like in France, it's very difficult to time your effort, you can't stay together, you've just got to go for it."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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