Paret-Peintre wins Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise

Aurelien Paret-Peintre
Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Image credit: Getty)

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.

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Aurelien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team 4:24:29
2Thomas Boudat (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic
3Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
4Francisco Galvan Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma
5Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal WB
6Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
8Lilian Calmejane (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
9Julien El Fares (Fra) EF Education - Nippo
10Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux
11Maxime Bouet (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic
12Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
13Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
14Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Groupama - FDJ
15Jeremy Bellicaud (Fra) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux
16Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
17Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
18Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis
19Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Total Direct Energie
20Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Total Direct Energie
21Rein Taaramae (Est) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux
22Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis
23Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic
24Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education - Nippo
25Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea - Samsic
26Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
27Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:13
28Jonathan Hivert (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
29Andreas Kron (Den) Lotto Soudal 0:00:15
30Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R Citroen Team 0:00:18
31Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM 0:00:20
32Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM 0:00:25
33Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 0:03:22
34Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
35John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto Soudal
36Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
37Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
38Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
39Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
40Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko
41Jordi Lopez Caravaca (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma 0:03:25
42Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea - Samsic
43Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal
44Joel Nicolau Beltran (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
45Raul Garcia Pierna (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma
46Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko
47August Jensen (Nor) Delko
48Remy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis
49Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
50Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB 0:04:32
51Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
52Rune Herregodts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
53Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
54Flavien Maurelet (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93
55Vojtech Repa (Cze) Equipo Kern Pharma
56Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux
57Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea - Samsic
58Aritz Bagues Kalparsoro (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
59Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education - Nippo
60Kenny Molly (Bel) Bingoal WB
61Nicolas Prodhomme (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
62Thibault Ferasse (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
63Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie
64Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
65Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal WB
66Yoann Paillot (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93 0:09:03
67Louis Louvet (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93
68Alexys Brunel (Fra) Groupama - FDJ
69Jon Barrenetxea Golzarri (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
70Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea - Samsic
71Josu Etxeberria Azpilikueta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
72David Gonzalez Lopez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
73Sergio Roman Martin Galan (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
74Ivan Centrone (Lux) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
75Jeremy Leveau (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
76Maxime Urruty (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
77Marti Marquez Roman (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma
78Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis
79Ibon Ruiz Sedano (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma
80Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates
81Julius Van Den Berg (Ned) EF Education - Nippo
82Adrien Guillonnet (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93
83Danny Van Der Tuuk (Ned) Equipo Kern Pharma
84Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education - Nippo
85Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama - FDJ 0:13:59
86Baptiste Bleier (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93 0:15:37
87Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko
88Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama - FDJ 0:15:56
89Lars Van Den Berg (Ned) Groupama - FDJ
90Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux
91Theo Delacroix (Fra) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux
92Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
93Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie
94Julien Antomarchi (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
95Dylan Kowalski (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
96Laurens Huys (Bel) Bingoal WB
97Eliot Lietaer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
98Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis
99Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Bingoal WB
100Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB
101Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko
102Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama - FDJ
103William Bonnet (Fra) Groupama - FDJ
104Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:16:46
105Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
106Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
107Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education - Nippo
108Christopher Lawless (GBr) Total Direct Energie
109Morne Van Niekerk (RSA) St Michel - Auber 93
110Jordan Levasseur (Fra) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
OTLTony Hurel (Fra) St Michel - Auber 93
OTLFrancois Bidard (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
OTLSasha Weemaes (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
OTLLucas De Rossi (Fra) Delko
DNFMathias Le Turnier (Fra) Delko
DNFFabien Grellier (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFJulen Amezqueta Moreno (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
DNFMathias De Witte (Bel) Xelliss - Roubaix Lille Metropole
DNSJonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education - Nippo

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