Today’s stage saw the riders tackling an almost 140-kilometer long flat stage with a three-man breakaway going clear as soon as the flag dropped and quickly gaining an advantage of 3’40” over the peloton.
However, as the bunch was really determined not to let the trio go too far up the road, the gap started to drop slightly until the escapees were caught with 95 kilometers to go.
Strong crosswinds then split the peloton and throughout the remaining kilometers, the race continued to come back together before splitting again and again. The majority of CCC Team’s riders, including Van Hoecke, Zimmermann, Jonas Koch, Michał Paluta and Kamil Małecki, managed to stay in the front group.
Finally, it was the Belgian who was the team’s first rider to cross the line, racing to seventh behind the stage winner Alexys Brunel (Groupama FDJ).
After a determined effort saw him win both of the day’s categorized climbs, Zimmermann headed onto the podium to claim the first blue King of the Mountain jersey of the race.
Quotes From The Finish Line
Gijs Van Hoecke:
“It was a really windy day and most of the time, we were there in the first echelon with almost the full team, so I think we did a good job. In the end, the peloton split again because of a crash, so we were left with only three guys in the first group. That made it a little bit difficult for us to fight for a good place, plus there were lots of attacks in the final. However, we were also riding actively and trying to do our best. I think we managed the stage really well with me finishing in seventh place and Georg taking the KOM jersey. I’m happy with that, especially as it’s the beginning of the season. When you take into account that we have two WorldTour debutants among us, I think we can be satisfied with the result.”
“Our main goal today was to look for the best stage result we could, but as we were also told to be focused on jerseys, like the King of the Mountain one, I decided to take my chance and fight for maximum points on both climbs. There are three more stages where I can get points for the KOM category, so there’s still a long way to go. I’ll do my best to keep this jersey for as long as possible, with the best scenario being that I can keep it until Sunday.”
Etoile de Bessèges
Stage one: Bellegarde > Bellegarde (141.km)
Top 3: 1. Alexys Brunel (Groupama FDJ) 2. Benoît Consferoy (AG2R La Mondiale)
CCC Team Top 3: 7. Gijs Van Hoecke 23. Michał Paluta 29. Kamil Małecki