French hopefuls “stumbled upon two strong men”

Like their junior counterparts a few hours earlier, the French Espoirs were able to claim the world title until the last moments of the race, but they will ultimately leave the Antipodes empty-handed. This Friday, Pierre-Yves Chatelon’s gang failed to get a rider onto the World Championship podium and must settle for an anecdotal Top 10 finish for their sprinter Paul Penhoët at the Wollongong circuit, south of Sydney (see classification). For a long time, however, the French seemed to be in a good position with the presence of Mathis Le Berre at the front of the race. “The escapes, I like that. I manage to go the distance. It was planned at the briefing, the guys didn’t have to ride behind. If there were great nations ahead, you had to go and that’s what I did. You shouldn’t be trapped”says the Breton, in a mixed zone, for DirectVelo.

In the decisive part of the race, the future Arkéa-Samsic professional ended up isolating himself with the Belgian Alec Segaert and the Czech Mathias Vacek. “In the bump, I sped up a little bit because I was coming back. So we met three. When it got down to 30 seconds, we had to do it again. We didn’t know what could happen, Romain (Grégoire) could have come from behind for example. It was better to be one step ahead.”he explains when asked why he had apparently done so much (or even too much?) at times. Also, Mathis Le Berre ended up getting a bit upset when he was asked to spend (again) great stretches in the final against newer athletes. “They still wanted to pass me when I had 140 terminals in front of me… There was no need to overdo it either, I was going at full speed. It couldn’t happen anymore. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore after giving everything I could for the guys. I sacrificed as I had to.”. The winner of the last Tour of Normandy finally cracked on the last lap, ten kilometers from the finish, after coming back from behind future winner Yevgeniy Fedorov.


The Blues then only had to bet on the runners who had kept warm until then. Romain Grégoire lit a first fuse on the rise, before Bastien Tronchon passed there on duty, eight terminals from the goal. “Mathis relieved us throughout the race. We didn’t have to take responsibility, we were just waiting for the end. So it was up to us. I started a bit late on the last climb and it wasn’t enough to make a difference. Starting a little earlier, I think we could have taken the two that were up front. But that’s the way things are, we can’t remake the world.”, later laments the Savoyard. Bastien Tronchon, who will be a pro at AG2R Citroën in 2023, of course expected more from this World Cup. “Inevitably there is disappointment because we had cards to play to do better than that. But we don’t have much to regret. We tried. Mathis was in front all day, I tried on the last climb and then we did everything for Paul (Penhoët). We met two big guys. Eddy Le Huitouze’s crash hurt us because he was a key element of our team to run behind the breakaway. It’s a shame because he was doing really well but we did what we could.”.

Paul Penhoët, precisely, was therefore the last card in play for the Blues during the last five minutes of the race. While his one-day teammates couldn’t make a difference on the last climb, it was necessary to decide to play the sprint card in a small committee, for the Groupama-FDJ rider. “For a while I was very good and I felt comfortable in the pothole. I imagined anticipating because I thought it would settle sooner. But in the end, I took quite a bit of advantage and realized that I wasn’t doing so well in the last couple of laps. I really had to hold on, mentally.”says at the beginning. “Mainly we had a tactic around Romain (Grégoire) but in the end it didn’t feel very good.”specifies Paul Penhoët, who saw how Franco Comtois sacrificed himself for him in the final. “I disengaged at the top of the last bump and it took me a while to get into the descent. But as soon as I got back to the pack, Romain started riding for me. Then Bastien took the lead in the 1500m but it wasn’t enough.”. Paul Penhoët then admits that he did not do his best sprint of the season in the last hectometers. “I started the sprint very early. With the tailwind she thought she was going to go very fast but in the end it was a worn out sprint. It was very long, too long for me. I fell in the last meters”. Still no doubt “have the blues” for those who prefer “keep the positive” of this experience with “a great group”.

photo: Patrick Pichon – FFC

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