The AlUla Tour was the team’s first stage race of the season, and provided an opportunity to challenge the team in unprecedented racing conditions and an unusual setting. Pierre Latour, Fabien Doubey, Emilien Jeannière, Paul Ourselin, Julien Simon, Jason Tesson and Dries Van Gestel were in charge of proudly carrying our colors on Saudi territory during five days of competition. During these five days, the Team demonstrated self-sacrifice and determination, as demonstrated by Pierre Latour’s enterprising spirit.
The 126 riders taking part in the AlUla Tour started from Al Manshiya Train Station. This first stage, 149km long, had a profile that gave few doubts about its outcome, and seemed destined to be won by sprinters. Unsurprisingly, victory came down to a massive sprint which saw Jason Tesson finish in 13th position.
The following day, the team went back on the offensive, and above all had to show its collective strength. In addition to a long (199km) and hilly course, the Team had to struggle with difficult weather conditions, as powerful gusts of wind appeared in the Saudi desert. Perfectly repositioned by Paul Ourselin in the final kilometres, Pierre Latour tried to go it alone in the final stretch. The French rider was leading alone under the red flame, but was unfortunately caught less than 200 metres from the finish line. Finally, he finished in 9th position, but the Romans-sur-Isère-born rider showed his ability to take risks and try new things.
During stage 3, the peloton broke up several times as the wind increased in intensity, making the race even more tense and nervous. On a flatter route than the day before, the finish was finally decided by a sprint between around thirty men. Dries Van Gestel was the only Team member to emerge from this group, taking 14th place.
With a relatively hilly profile but a more reachable finish, stage 4 once again seems to suit sprinters. Among the Team, Emilien Jeannière was chosen to assume this mission, and succeeded in snatching a top 10 place following a great effort in the final kilometer. Unfortunately, Pierre Latour was caught up in a crash in the final stretch and lost several minutes in the general classification. Luckily, he was more frightened than hurt!
The final stage of the AlUla Tour promises to be particularly demanding, with the final climb to Harrat Uwayrid involving gradients in excess of 15%. Despite his crash the day before, Pierre Latour performed excellently, managing to hold on to the lead in the trickiest sections. After a great solo effort, he crossed the finish line just 5 seconds behind Simon Yates, who went on to win the overall classification.
Despite challenging conditions, the Team demonstrated great collective strength and self-sacrifice. A good sign ahead of the rest of the season!