It seems no exaggeration to say that Conti Groupama-FDJ is having a dream start to the season. With numerous victories, including three hat-tricks (!), Franche-Comté’s structure was already in the clouds during the first two months of competition, especially with his group of sprinters. This Saturday, it is the other part of the group, that of the punchers/climbers, who put on a real show on the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs ascents. All this before Romain Grégoire completed the work of his team to perfection in the final stretch (see classification). “I had announced from the beginning that it was a race I was aiming for. He really wanted to win here. At that time, it was above all the way the race was conducted that made me very proud. The whole team did something sick. Honestly, with ten miles to go, I thought I was done. So I’m really super happy!”.
Romain Grégoire and his teammates perfectly implemented the plan envisioned by Jérôme Gannat, this midday during the pre-race briefing. “We had a team of more climbers on paper so we didn’t want to wait for the last 30 kilometers to move on”remember the winner DirectVeloa few moments after arrival. “The idea was to start the race earlier, in the sequence of Côte de Wanne, Stockeu, Côte de la Haute-Levée and even Rosier. This was the part we were able to recognize yesterday (Friday). We knew it was very hard, with no rest between climbs. We could blow it all up and that’s what we did.”.
A COLLECTIVE DEMONSTRATION IN THE SEARCH FOR THE MOUNTAIN
Paradoxically, the Conti pilots were almost too strong and found themselves almost completely isolated from the start. “We expected to go out in a group of ten or fifteen riders but in the end we were left with three from the same team (with Lenny Martinez and Reuben Thompson, Ed), only accompanied by Alex Baudin of Swiss Racing. We didn’t ask any more questions, but unfortunately, it was too tight at three. We got caught by two riders, then the rest of the pack.” Difficult then for the Bisontin to imagine a happy ending at the time of the crossing. At least from a personal point of view. “Once resumed, I thought it was over. I had already given a lot, it was well done. But I kept the confidence in the team because we had Sam Watson in case of a final sprint and he was maybe the fastest in the pack.”.
And yet, in the last ten kilometers, the European Champion and 2021 Junior World Vice Champion found the necessary resources to come back, flanked by five opponents. Against this group – which included two other tricolors, Gwen Leclainche (CC Étupes) and Aloïs Charrin (Swiss Racing Academy) – they were playing for victory. “I was confident in my sprint so I made sure all six of us arrived together”. And this time, Romain Grégoire had to take over alone, as an adult, without being able to count on the slightest surplus. “It was a risk. In the final, I was the only one allowed out because I knew I was capable of winning in a small group sprint. For the others, you had to stay close to Sam (Watson). Once I found myself there, I took a risk.”.
CONFIDENT IN HIS STRENGTH AND READY TO ENSURE HIS RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE TIME OF THE SPRINT
The success is decidedly total for the Conti Groupama-FDJ. Enough to delight Jens Blatter, Nicolas Boisson, Jérôme Gannat, all the riders and all the people who work near or far within a fiendishly competitive group today. More personally, Romain Grégoire has already confirmed his great 2021 season by winning a legendary race in the Under-23 category. “It’s a relief first because I hadn’t won this year yet. I had a status to assume, everyone was waiting for me. I really wanted to win fast. It’s done. The team gained a lot from the group of sprinters. But we wanted to show that the hitter/climber group was up to the task as well.”.
And he assures us: during the final of this Belgian Classic, no “No doubt”. Sure of his strength and of his choices. Here it is, once again confirming its immense potential. “Frankly, I was happy with my start to the season. I learned well. I knew I was level, I was waiting for my moment to get one. For today (Saturday) specifically, I don’t think they were personally watching me. Rather it was the team that was observed because we showed that we have a great team and we had already won a lot”. This Saturday, Romain Grégoire and Conti Groupama-FDJ hit hard again. Very strong.