On a tough Paris-Nice without Warren Barguil, the team showed good things on the queen stage, with three riders – Elie Gesbert, Amael Moinard and Laurent Pichon — in the breakaway. The winner, Martinez of Columbia, was in the 38-man group. Elie Gesbert, after being helped by his team mates, stayed strong physically and mentally to take 12th place.
Elie Gesbert (12th) : Having three riders in such a big breakaway was an advantage. But we made a lot of efforts from the start. We had to have at least one guy in the group and it was a big battle for 35km, it cost us some energy. Then we let the others work, there were some good climbers with us and it was their responsibility to control the pace. In the final climb you had to grind your teeth. It was a hilly stage but for me it was even harder than a mountain stage, you had to be very focused in the descents as some were attacking, it was energy-sapping. Crazy stage. The Turini was really the icing on the cake. I attacked after Yates but I kept a cool head. You had to climb with your head, everybody was on the limit. I was a bit stuck eight kilometres from the top. I finished exhausted. It was a nice stage but you always want to do better. It is my first Paris-Nice, I’m discovering the race. Contrary to the Tour de France, there is not a day when you can recuperate a bit, it’s eight days full gas. We still have one stage to go and we will give everything we have.
Amael Moinard : “It was very very hard. It was a fight to get out of the bunch but it was the price to pay to be in front and play a role in this stage. The three of us chatted and decided we would race for Elie. We tried to spare him. I train on these roads so I was giving them as much info as possible. We knew Elie could do something good and he did not disappoint. It’s a great performance given his age, and given the difficulty of this Paris-Nice. Hats off. I’m happy I could help him. A day like today will help him improve and it will help the team improve. Personally I knew I would be coming up short so we chose the best of us to go get a result. Even if it was hard and I’m cooked tonight, I enjoyed it. It’s a nice collective performance that I will remember especially since it was on the roads I train on.
Laurent Pichon : “Matthias Frank hit a rock, everyone hit the brakes and I went to the ground. I was eating, I did not have both my hands on the handles, I thought I would stay on the bike. I have bruises on my knee and hip but it’s nothing serious, it’s superficial. After I worked for Elie at the foot of the penultimate climb I wanted to enjoy myself and I attacked because I knew it would then be too hard for me.”
Andre Greipel : “The start was relaly intense, there were attacks from everywhere. I followed two or three of them to help the team and I was happy to see that our three best chances ended up in the breakaway. Elie rode a very good stage. I did not suffer too much, I stayed with the peloton and I climbed at my own pace. When I take the start of a race, I always want to finish it.”
Yvon Ledanois, sports director : “We rode a god stage, we restored some pride after yesterday’s mistake. This morning in the bus, I asked ‘who’s going for it?’ they replied ‘the three of us!’ When they went through the names of the first breakaway I heard those of Laurent Pichon and Elie Gesbert. Then I heard Amael Moinard was in the counter-attacking group and I say ‘respect!’. They gave everything. Elie Gesbert cracked midway through the ascent of the Turini, he’s young. I told him to ride at his own pace. A bit earlier he had tried to react to Simon Yates and Lopez’s attack but he could not bridge the gap. He went back to the Philippe Gilbert group. Paris-Nice is a long race and you pay for every effort you make. Elie was in a 180-km breakaway on Wednesday. At the end of the stage, despite all this, he did not give up and the result he got means a lot. Earlier, Laurent Pichon had attacked. He went all-in after crashing earlier. Frank hit a rock in the descent and took Laurent down with him. He went quickly back on his bike but tonight he’s got the buttock of a baboon! Today I saw warriors on the road. Even Bram Welten who fought hard in the first climb before abandoning.