Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën) sprang a surprise to win the Grand Prix Cycliste La Marseillaise after he edged out Thomas Boudat (Arkea-Samsic) and Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) in a small group sprint in Marseille.
It was Paret-Peintre’s first victory as a professional and it was all the more remarkable given that he had spent time off the front of the race after the Route des Crêtes in the finale.
Then again, there was little respite for anyone in the breathless final kilometres after the stiff climb of the Route des Crêtes had whittled the peloton down to its bare bones. A reduced front group continually splintered and reformed in the last 20 kilometres, which brought the race over the Col de la Gineste.
Coquard’s B&B Hotels teammates and the UAE Team Emirates squad of Matteo Trentin tried to impose some order on affairs in the final hour, and their efforts eventually helped to ensure front group of 30 or so riders contested the sprint.
Trentin seemed on obvious contender, but the Italian faded to seventh after opening his sprint from a distance. Coquard looked a likely winner when he hit the front within sight of the line, but the Frenchman was pipped at the last by Paret-Peintre and Boudat.
Although Paret-Peintre raised a hesitant arm in celebration after crossing the line, he had to endure a short wait while the commissaires reviewed the photo finish before they eventually awarded him the win.
A professional since 2018, Paret-Peintre is better known for his climbing ability than his sprint, and he placed 16th overall at last October's Giro d'Italia, which was his Grand Tour debut.
“I didn’t believe too much for the sprint, but with the headwind, it was really a special one and I know I have a bit of a turn of speed,” said Paret-Peintre. “I went at the last moment. We did a super race as a team. We wanted to start the season well, especially because we don’t know what the next few weeks will be like.
How it unfolded
While races across the globe, from Australia to Argentina, from Rwanda to Spain, have been postponed or cancelled in the opening weeks of the season due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the early-season calendar in France remains intact for the time being.
Traditionally a curtain-raiser for the French season, the significance of the Grand Prix Cycliste La Marseillaise was thus heightened in 2021. Although last weekend’s Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969 was the first race in Europe this season, the Grand Prix Cycliste La Marseillaise was the first event in 2021 to feature WorldTour teams, with AG2R Citroën, Groupama-FDJ, Cofidis, UAE Team Emirates, EF Education-Nippo, Lotto Soudal and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux all starting their campaigns here.
Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert were doing battle for the cyclo-cross world title on the wind-lashed North Sea coast on Sunday afternoon, but conditions were altogether more temperate on the Mediterranean, with the peloton flagged away beneath azure skies and in double-digit temperatures.
The day’s early break took shape shortly after the race left Marseille, with Eliot Lietaer (B&B Hotels), Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen), Morne van Niekerk (Auber93), Jon Barrenetxa (Caja Rural), Kenny Molly (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Vojtec Repa (Kern Pharma) forging their way clear.
This sextet built an advantage of five minutes in the rolling hills behind Marseille, where UAE Team Emirates, Lotto Soudal and Total-Direct Energie seemed content to control the peloton. The break’s buffer began to dwindle after they climbed the Pas de la Couelle and the Col d’Espigoulier, and the gap was barely a minute as they reached the final 50 kilometres.
From there, the pace began to ratchet upwards in the peloton on the run-in to the coastal town of La Ciotat and the pivotal climb of the Route des Crêtes above it. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) announced his arrival on this short but sharp ascent at the Tour de la Provence last February, and there was no shortage of aggression here, with Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal) and Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo) forcing their way clear.
Nearing the summit, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) unleashed an acceleration that took him past the leaders, though Carr gamely battled his way back to the Belgian before they reached the top.
The peloton, meanwhile, was reduced in size, but always within touching distance. After Wellens and Carr were brought to heel, Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën), Anthony Turgis (Total-Direct Energie) and Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) slipped away on the descent.
When they were reined in, Paret-Peintre made a spirited lone effort, which helped ensure there would be no respite for those behind.
From there on in, the action was breathless, with the 30-strong leading group constantly fragmenting and reforming. No one team was strong enough to control matters, but no one rider had the wherewithal to make an attack stick.
The approach to the final ascent, the Gineste, saw the impressive neophytes Carr and Kron again on the offensive, this time with Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux) and Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ). Trentin, meanwhile, was occasionally forced to close down some sizeable gaps under his own steam, and he would pay for those efforts in the final reckoning.
Carr, Kron et al were reeled in over the top of the Gineste with 10km remaining, and UAE Team Emirates and B&B Hotels tried to impose order on the approach to the finish, though there were further late efforts from Kron and Calmejane before the eventual group sprint.
Coquard looked well placed to emerge victorious, but it was Paret-Peintre who hit the line in the shadow of Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Aurelien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team||4:24:29|
|2||Thomas Boudat (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|3||Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|4||Francisco Galvan Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|5||Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|6||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|7||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|8||Lilian Calmejane (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|9||Julien El Fares (Fra) EF Education - Nippo|
|10||Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux|
|11||Maxime Bouet (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|12||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|13||Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|14||Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Groupama - FDJ|
|15||Jeremy Bellicaud (Fra) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux|
|16||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis|
|17||Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates|
|18||Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis|
|19||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Total Direct Energie|
|20||Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|21||Rein Taaramae (Est) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux|
|22||Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis|
|23||Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|24||Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education - Nippo|
|25||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|26||Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|27||Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:13|
|28||Jonathan Hivert (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|29||Andreas Kron (Den) Lotto Soudal||0:00:15|
|30||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R Citroen Team||0:00:18|
|31||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM||0:00:20|
|32||Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM||0:00:25|
|33||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux||0:03:22|
|34||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis|
|35||John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|36||Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|37||Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|38||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|39||Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|40||Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko|
|41||Jordi Lopez Caravaca (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma||0:03:25|
|42||Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|43||Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal|
|44||Joel Nicolau Beltran (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|45||Raul Garcia Pierna (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|46||Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko|
|47||August Jensen (Nor) Delko|
|48||Remy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis|
|49||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|50||Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB||0:04:32|
|51||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|52||Rune Herregodts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|53||Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|54||Flavien Maurelet (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93|
|55||Vojtech Repa (Cze) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|56||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux|
|57||Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|58||Aritz Bagues Kalparsoro (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|59||Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education - Nippo|
|60||Kenny Molly (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|61||Nicolas Prodhomme (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|62||Thibault Ferasse (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|63||Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|64||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|65||Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal WB|
|66||Yoann Paillot (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93||0:09:03|
|67||Louis Louvet (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93|
|68||Alexys Brunel (Fra) Groupama - FDJ|
|69||Jon Barrenetxea Golzarri (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|70||Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea - Samsic|
|71||Josu Etxeberria Azpilikueta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|72||David Gonzalez Lopez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|73||Sergio Roman Martin Galan (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|74||Ivan Centrone (Lux) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|75||Jeremy Leveau (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|76||Maxime Urruty (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|77||Marti Marquez Roman (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|78||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis|
|79||Ibon Ruiz Sedano (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|80||Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates|
|81||Julius Van Den Berg (Ned) EF Education - Nippo|
|82||Adrien Guillonnet (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93|
|83||Danny Van Der Tuuk (Ned) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|84||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education - Nippo|
|85||Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama - FDJ||0:13:59|
|86||Baptiste Bleier (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93||0:15:37|
|87||Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko|
|88||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama - FDJ||0:15:56|
|89||Lars Van Den Berg (Ned) Groupama - FDJ|
|90||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux|
|91||Theo Delacroix (Fra) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux|
|92||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|93||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|94||Julien Antomarchi (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|95||Dylan Kowalski (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|96||Laurens Huys (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|97||Eliot Lietaer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|98||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|99||Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|100||Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB|
|101||Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko|
|102||Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama - FDJ|
|103||William Bonnet (Fra) Groupama - FDJ|
|104||Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:16:46|
|105||Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|106||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|107||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education - Nippo|
|108||Christopher Lawless (GBr) Total Direct Energie|
|109||Morne Van Niekerk (RSA) St Michel - Auber 93|
|110||Jordan Levasseur (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|OTL||Tony Hurel (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93|
|OTL||Francois Bidard (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|OTL||Sasha Weemaes (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|OTL||Lucas De Rossi (Fra) Delko|
|DNF||Mathias Le Turnier (Fra) Delko|
|DNF||Fabien Grellier (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Julen Amezqueta Moreno (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|DNF||Mathias De Witte (Bel) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|DNS||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education - Nippo|
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