Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) won stage 2 of the Tour de l’Ain with a perfectly-timed late solo attack after the long descent to the finish in Lagnieu.
The French rider was part of a seven-rider group that formed over the top of the Col des Portes and then he surged away alone with 1.6km to go. Martin had time to sit and celebrate as Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo) won the sprint for second place behind him. Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) was third.
World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) was part of the selection on the Col des Portes but was then distanced on a short climb during the descent and lost 1:11 as he continued his return to racing after his Liege-Bastogne-Liege crash and COVID-19.
Stage 1 winner Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) finished 3:15 down and so Martin took the race leader’s yellow jersey. Skjelmose is four seconds down, with Molard third at eight seconds.
"Today I was able to count on a very solid team. We had a plan to make the race hard on the last climb,” Martin explained.
“After that it was a very tactical finale. I tried several times to surprise the others and get away and that finally happened with the last attack, so I’m very happy."
Martin was 14th at the Giro d’Italia but was forced to leave the Tour de France before stage 9 after testing positive for COVID-19. Now he is hoping to use his summer form to win even more and score UCI points to help Cofidis avoid relegation from the WorldTour.
“The objective is overall victory but I’m already very pleased to have won a stage. It’s not often that I raise my arms, so I want to savour it,” he said of the Tour de l’Ain.
“My season has been quite strange because I was in good form at the Tour but I had to leave because I had COVID-19, even though I had no symptoms, I was quite frustrated by all that.
“For the end of the season I don’t have precise objectives beyond being consistent and trying to raise my arms in victory. I’ve done that today and now I want to continue like this.”
As expected, the hilly 142.5km stage was shaped by the combined climb of the 5.9km Cote de Seillonnaz and then a second assault of the 8.2km Col des Portes in the final 40km of the stage.
The early attack of Louis Richard (U Nantes Atlantique), Tony Hurel (St Michel-Auber 93), Jacob Eriksson (Riwal) and Jannis Peter (German National Team) opened a lead of four minutes but Groupama-FDJ and then Cofidis lead the chase and brought the gap down to 2:00 with 70km and the final two climbs to go.
The break survived over the Col des Fosses but was caught on the Col des Portes. Soon after stage 1 winner Stewart was distanced.
A group of 20 riders emerged as Cofidis and Trek-Segafredo set a high pace. Alaphilippe was at the back in the final kilometres, desperate to get a bidon from the roadside. He was distanced over the top when Skjelmose attacked, fought back on the descent, but was dropped again on a short climb during the long descent to the finish.
Skjelmose was caught on the short Col de Fay with 12km to go after a surge by Martin. That selected the strongest from the group and deemed who had a chance of victory in Lagnieu after the long descent.
Martin appeared strongest, despite being outnumbered by Groupama-FDJ and got away from the others to savour his first win of 2022.
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