The French team has erased in the Jura stage many of the misfortunes that had hit them two days earlier in the tormented final of Chaillac. Romain Grégoire, one of the nuggets at international U23 level, had received a double punishment that day by being victim of a crash and then of a puncture just when he had managed to overcome the first incident. The bill was sufficiently high to put him more than four and a half minutes behind in the overall classification, which was a legitimate frustration for a rider of his level.
From then on, the great hope from Bisontin, who will join the World Team Groupama-FDJ next year, refocused on the objective of winning a stage and this one, not far from his home, in particular. Romain Grégoire has already gained enough respect from his rivals in his age category that many of them spontaneously named him as the favourite for the stage that finished in Oyonnax after a tough day, especially in the final, and therefore perfectly within his capabilities.
“Many riders came to see me to tell me that I was going to win today… Everybody knew that I wanted it, I was expected to win”, said the winner of the day, whose brilliant performance was all the more remarkable that he was the target of the peloton.
Romain Grégoire took advantage of the last difficulty, the côte de Ceyssiat (summit at 5,9 km from the finish), to isolate himself on the top of the climb, before being caught by two riders, among them the yellow jersey Michel Hessmann, as a conclusion of the considerable work done all day by the German team. Despite taking some risks on the descent, the trio was nevertheless caught by a small peloton in the last two kilometres, which didn’t prevent Romain Grégoire to go all the way and win the sprint. “I still had enough power to go on at the two hundred meters”, he explained.
This success doesn’t put Romain Grégoire back in the race for the overall classification, but the Frenchman says he is “relieved of a big weight, liberated. With the French team jersey on, we couldn’t stay quiet in the biggest race of the U23 calendar that is run in our country. I would have liked to see how it would have gone in the general standings, but I wasn’t obsessed because I knew it would be complicated in the mountains… Now, this puts an end to the debate and that’s it for Lenny (Martinez, the French team climber, at 1’50” in the general standings.”
Winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and of a stage of the Giro d’Italia U23, among other successes on the international scene, Romain Grégoire has delivered another great performance as well as a reaction of pride to mark his passage on the Tour de l’Avenir and to assume his status.
Mathis Le Berre, the French rider, took the jersey of best climber after the first four difficulties of the day in the breakaway that had animated most of the stage.
On their side, the Germans have been a real steamroller at the front of the peloton, and have defended efficiently the yellow jersey of Michel Hessmann, who is himself dazzling, and who will now start the Alpine triptych in a leading position after a rest day in Thonon-les-Bains.