De Lie outsprints Pedersen to win opening day at Etoile de Bessèges
By Laura Weislo,
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Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) scored his second victory of the year in the opening stage of Etoile de Bessèges , shutting down an attack from last year's stage winner Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) before powering into the headwind to take the first leader's jersey.
Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) rounded out the podium of an elite group after an aggressive day of racing through crosswinds around Bellegarde.
The victory gives the 20-year-old a four-second advantage on Pedersen and six on Cosnefroy, with the remainder of the peloton led by Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) at 13 seconds.
De Lie, who garnered the majority of Lotto-Dstny's points last season, is off to another strong start after taking out the 1.1-ranked Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969.
"It is fantastic to start the season with such a shape and already two wins," De Lie said. "I am really thankful to my teammates because they really raced by the book today. When the bunch split to pieces far from the finish, we were in the lead group with four guys. In the end, also Jasper De Buyst joined and we took the initiative in the peloton during the final kilometres. My teammates really delivered the perfect lead-out."
How it unfolded
Ayco Bastiaens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Jean-Louis Le Ny (Nice Métropole Côte D'Azur), and Simon Pellaud (Tudor Pro Cycling Team) attacked from the gun and were given a large gap by the peloton who were saving their energy for the expected crosswinds in the latter part of the stage.
The trio had over five minutes when the critical moment came where Ineos Grenadiers conspired with Trek-Segafredo to split the peloton.
The lead group left EF Education-EasyPost on the back foot, with team leaders Magnus Cort and Neilson Powless missing the front group. They had Stefan Bissegger and Andrea Piccolo to act as anchors to weigh down the front peloton, however.
Despite the best efforts of Trek-Segafredo and Uno-X to keep the group rolling, the presence of Lotto-Dstny sprinter De Lie perhaps hampered the motivation and cooperation.
The leading group contained Dries de Bondt (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Benoît Cosnefroy and Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën Team), Aaron van Poucke (Team Flanders-Baloise), Arnaud de Lie, Sébastien Grignard, and Brent van Moer (Lotto-Dstny), Pavel Sivakov, Ben Tulett, Luke Rowe, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), Markus Hoelgaard, Toms Skujins, Mattias Skjelmose Jensen and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Stefan Bissegger, Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost), Guillaume Boivin, Krists Neilands, Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech), Kristoffer Halvorsen, Erik Nordsaeter Resell and Martin Bugge Urianstad (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Luca Mozzato and Louis Barré (Arkéa-Samsic), Tom Bohli and Petr Kelemen (Tudor Pro Cycling Team) and Rudy Barbier (St-Michel-Mavic-Auber 93).
They swept past the three leaders with 36km to go and had almost a minute on the Cort group but the chasers poured on the effort before the last crosswind section and rejoined finally, with just over 10km to the finish.
De Lie remained in prime position and his Lotto-Dstny team sat back while other teams pushed to the finish, only coming to the fore inside 3km to go and hugging the side of the road to gutter the peloton in the crosswind.
The Classics riders were sat front and centre on the rough chip-and-seal tarmac that lead into the uphill kick to the line - Teuns, Pedersen, Van Avermaet and Cosnefroy - with Jasper De Buyst doing the heavy lifting for De LIe.
Pedersen launched first and opened a gap, forcing the young Belgian to fight to scramble across but he had energy to spare and added yet another win to his ever-growing palmares.
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