Julien Simon wins opening stage at Tour du Limousin

Julien Simon (TotalEnergies) won stage 1 of the Tour du Limousin-Nouvelle Aquitaine with a smart late attack in the final kilometre at La Souterraine. The Frenchman held off the bunch to claim the win, with Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) taking second ahead of Alex Aranburu (Movistar).

The punchy run-in had shorn the fast men of some support for the sprint, and the canny Simon sensed his opportunity when he jumped clear with 500 metres to go. Rui Oliveira was leading the peloton for his UAE Team Emirates companion Trentin, but the Portuguese rider was unable to get back on terms with the determined Simon.

Trentin opened his sprint from distance in a bid to catch Simon in the finishing straight, but he ran out of road and had to settle for second place, while Aranburu came from a long way back to claim third ahead of Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) and Clément Venturini (AG2R Citroën).

The 36-year-old Simon has enjoyed something of a resurgence in 2022, and this was the 13th win of his career and his third of the season after finisseur’s victories at the Grand Prix de Morbihan and Tour du Finistère.

There was a rapid start to proceedings on this opening stage of the Tour du Limousin, which meant that it took almost two hours for a break to gain any real traction. Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) was among the unsuccessful early attackers while last year’s overall winner Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) made a cameo by taking second behind Alan Boileau (B&B Hôtels-KTM) at the mountains sprint on the Côte de Bessines.

A move featuring Joel Nicolau Beltran (Caja Rural-Seguros RGa), Clément Carisey (Go Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Kenny Molly (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB), Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën Team) and Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hôtels-KTM) would eventually forge clear, and the pace in the peloton dropped accordingly.

The quintet carried a lead of almost seven minutes into the final kilometre before they were eventually pegged back by the peloton, with Movistar – eager for UCI points to save their WorldTour place – prominent among the chasers.

A puncture for Gougeard saw the break lose some of its firepower in the final 50km, while behind, a crash saw Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citröen) and Aranburu among the fallers, though all three riders quickly rejoined the bunch.

The last of the escapees were caught in the finale on the Côte de la Cazine with 7km remaining, where Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) made a determined bid for stage victory. The Frenchman led over the top and down the descent before he was reeled in with a little over 3km to go.

A sprint finish looked inevitable, with Movistar taking up the reins on Aranburu’s behalf and UAE Team Emirates looking to tee up Trentin, but Simon read the finale perfectly to claim stage honours and the yellow jersey.

Simon carries a lead of one second over Trentin into stage 2, with Aranburu a further five seconds back in third. Wednesday’s rolling stage to Ribérac features the category 3 Côte du Colombier with a little under 20km remaining, though the flat run-in presents another opportunity for the fast men.

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