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2023 Cholet - Pays de Loire (1.1), France

44th edition: Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cholet-Pays de Loire podium history | 2022 edition | Map & profile

Cholet - Cholet, 205 km. Cholet is a town in northwest France, about 50km southeast of Nantes.

Laurence Pithie is the winner.

Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies

Les Woodland's book Cycling's 50 Triumphs and Tragedies: The rise and fall of bicycle racing's champions is available in print, Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

Weather at the start/finish city of Cholet 12:55 PM, local time: 11C (52F), cloudy, with the wind from the west at 16 km/hr (10 mph). There is just a 1% chance of rain.

The race: Here's the report from winner Laurence Pithie's Team Groupama-FDJ.

Laurence Pithie will not soon forget this week of racing. After getting his first top-10 at the highest level on Wednesday, then his very first podium on Saturday, the New Zealander completed this sequence in the best possible way on Sunday. On Cholet-Pays de la Loire, the 20-year-old young man confirmed his momentum as he went on to snatch, after a breath-taking effort and a fine offensive with Lewis Askey, a memorable first win among the pros. Doing so, he also brought the second victory of the season to the Groupama-FDJ cycling team.

Had he barely achieved his first podium among the “big boys” on Saturday, Laurence Pithie was already thinking of the next step. “Now I hope that we can do one place better tomorrow in Cholet-Pays de Loire,” he said shortly after the ceremony. As throughout the week on the Nokere Koerse, the Grand Prix de Denain and the Classic Loire Atlantique, the Groupama-FDJ team was very young but also really ambitious at the start of Cholet. “I told them that we absolutely had to come away from this weekend with a win”, recalled Thierry Bricaud. “We had the team strength to do it. At the briefing, we said we were going to do everything to win, no matter with whom.”

The plan was clear on Sunday morning. “The goal was to give everything for Paul if a sprint was possible on the last lap, but Lewis and Laurence had the opportunity to follow the moves 2-3 laps from the finish”, added Thierry. “We knew there would be action and that the sprinters’ teams would struggle controlling it”. The day’s breakaway was able to lead the race until reaching the circuit of Cholet, with about fifty kilometres remaining. However, the bunch proved dynamic from the first lap and therefore caught the leaders quite early on. “The first part of the race was not very hard, but when the start is easy, the final is obviously harder,” explained Lewis Askey. “It was better for us. The course changed a bit compared to last year. The hills were a little less difficult, but we still had to be careful. In the first lap, I went with fifteen riders, but everything came together and then we covered a few laps without much happening”.

The big fight eventually started with a bit less than three laps to go, in the two hills of the circuit. “We planned to be offensive in the final laps, and we really executed the plan”, explained Laurence Pithie. “I know Lewis very well from the Conti, and we knew that if we attacked together with a couple of other strong riders, we could have a good chance of staying away. So that’s what we did. We were working well with the Cofidis riders, we managed to stay away for two laps, but then some people rode across to us from the peloton, which changed things a bit”.

“At first, we were ten in the lead, then the strongest remained in front,” said Lewis. “There were only five of us left, but we never had a big gap on the peloton”. With the pack on their heels at the start of the last eight-kilometre lap, a decision had to be made. “I spoke with Laurence to know how he was feeling,” Lewis said. “He told me that he felt very good, so I went full-gas on the last climb so that the bunch would not come back”. “Lewis did an amazing job. He did a “suicide” pull to give me a chance to go for the win”, greeted the Kiwi. “It was perfect. His pull was very long and strong but not too much so that I wouldn’t be dead. This allowed the group to keep a small gap over the rest of the peloton. He was the best teammate anyone could ask for today.” Three kilometres from the finish, Laurence Pithie then found himself with all the responsibility on his shoulders, but he did not panic despite a slightly larger leading group. “They had to race smart to hope for the win, and that’s what they did,” said Thierry. “It makes up for all the times they were overly generous.”

“I knew it was a fast final and that gaps would open up because everyone was very tired,” continued Laurence. “I didn’t want to give away the victory by letting a rider slip off the front. I knew I was strong, so I had to follow the moves. Sometimes you need to make this extra effort to win. That’s what I did, and it worked out”. Very much alert, Laurence Pithie was able to follow two men under the flamme rouge and take a small lead before the final stretch. “We had a little gap, but on the last corner, the AG2R-Citroën rider left a gap on the TotalEnergies rider”, added the Kiwi. “I knew then that I had to go full gas to close him down, and attack from there. I didn’t know who was behind, I just knew that I had a little gap, so I had to go now and give everything I had”.

After starting his acceleration with about 600 metres to go, Laurence Pithie took the lead alone at 400 metres and then continued the longest sprint of his young career. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone as hard as I did in this last kilometre,” he said. “I just had to put my head down and give it my all, hoping to hold on. I just looked at the big screen 100 metres from the line and I didn’t think I would make it. I saw that guys were coming with a lot more speed. I knew I just had to stand up and go all the way to the line. I couldn’t quite believe it when I crossed the line. I even did the bike throw just in case.”

After a thrilling final, and an impressive performance, the former “Conti” rider did manage to conquer and celebrate his first victory at the highest level. “It’s incredible, I can’t really describe how I feel”, he said. “It’s really great to get my first pro win with some of my best friends.” “Laurence showed he was the strongest,” added Lewis. “We are all really happy, because we all get on really well and we deserved to win. Laurence is one of my best friends, so being up front, working together and winning like this is really special. It’s great to end the week like this.”

Always up there in recent days, the young riders of the Groupama-FDJ team eventually did manage to “finish it off” on Sunday, which was quite a relief. “It’s been an excellent week, which fortunately ended with a victory”, said Thierry. “It would have been really frustrating if it did not happen. It’s a great reward for the whole group. It obviously bodes well for the future. Laurence surely gained confidence and this win will give him other ideas. Lewis is always up there, and we know he will be able to take a victory soon. The momentum is really great and that’s important. Our young guys have kept this carefree attitude they had with the Conti, this way of racing with confidence. That is essential”.

While Paul Penhoët took fourteenth place on Sunday, Laurence Pithie took the lead of both the overall and youth rankings of the French Cup, while Groupama-FDJ still leads the team classification. “The team showed a lot of faith bringing us all up into the WorldTour, and we are showing that we are good enough to be here”, concluded Laurence. “I’ll enjoy the win, but we’re always hungry for more…”

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Complete Results:

205 kilometers raced at an average speed of 42.967 km/hr.

1 Laurence Pithie Groupama-FDJ 4hr 46min 16sec
2 Anthony Perez Cofidis s.t.
3 Lorrenzo Manzin TotalEnergies s.t.
4 Romain Cardis St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 s.t.
5 Lindsay De Vylder Team Flanders-Baloise s.t.
6 Maikel Zijlaard Tudor Pro Cycling s.t.
7 Axel Zingle Cofidis s.t.
8 Manuel Peñalver Burgos-BH s.t.
9 Pierre Gautherat Ag2r-Citroën s.t.
10 Cyril Barthe Burgos-BH s.t.
11 Gotzon Martín Euskaltel-Euskadi s.t.
12 Aaron Gate Bolton Equities-Black Spoke s.t.
13 Mathieu Burgaudeau TotalEnergies s.t.
14 Paul Penhoët Groupama-FDJ @ 5sec
15 Paul Lapeira Ag2r-Citroën s.t.
16 Alexis Vuillermoz TotalEnergies s.t.
17 Pierre Barbier CIC U Nantes Atlantique s.t.
18 Nacer Bouhanni Arkéa-Samsic s.t.
19 Jason Tesson TotalEnergies s.t.
20 Rudy Barbier St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 s.t.
21 Elias Maris Team Flanders-Baloise s.t.
22 Frederik Jensen BHS-PL Belton Bornholm s.t.
23 André Carvalho Cofidis s.t.
24 Bram Welten Groupama-FDJ s.t.
25 Rasmus Søjberg Pedersen CIC U Nantes Atlantique s.t.
26 Xabier Berasategi Euskaltel-Euskadi s.t.
27 Timothy Dupont Tarteletto-Isorex s.t.
28 Vincent Van Hemelen Team Flanders-Baloise s.t.
29 Hubert Grygowski CIC U Nantes Atlantique s.t.
30 Eddy Finé Cofidis s.t.
31 Óscar Pelegrí Burgos-BH s.t.
32 Enekoitz Azparren Euskaltel-Euskadi s.t.
33 Jean-Louis Le Ny Nice Métropole-Côte d’Azur s.t.
34 Emmanuel Morin CIC U Nantes Atlantique 0:10
35 Arvid De Kleijn Tudor Pro Cycling s.t.
36 Lewis Askey Groupama-FDJ s.t.
37 Aaron Van Poucke Team Flanders-Baloise 0:14
38 Joris Delbove St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 0:26
39 Léo Danès CIC U Nantes Atlantique s.t.
40 Clément Alleno Burgos-BH s.t.
41 Victor De La Parte TotalEnergies s.t.
42 Sebastian Schönberger Human Powered Health s.t.
43 Ben Perry Human Powered Health s.t.
44 Xabier Isasa Euskaltel-Euskadi s.t.
45 Jacob Relaes Tarteletto-Isorex s.t.
46 Jonathan Couanon Nice Métropole-Côte d’Azur s.t.
47 Kamiel Bonneu Team Flanders-Baloise 0:29
48 Angel Fuentes Burgos-BH 0:30
49 Pierre-Luc Périchon Cofidis s.t.
50 Donavan Grondin Arkéa-Samsic s.t.
51 Fabien Grellier TotalEnergies 0:32
52 Maxime De Poorter Tarteletto-Isorex 0:34
53 Sebastian Ryttersgaard BHS-PL Belton Bornholm s.t.
54 Rodrigo Álvarez Burgos-BH s.t.
55 Thibaud Gruel Groupama-FDJ s.t.
56 Sebastian Andreasson BHS-PL Belton Bornholm s.t.
57 Maxime Urruty Nice Métropole-Côte d’Azur s.t.
58 Nils Brun Tudor Pro Cycling s.t.
59 Ryan Christensen Bolton Equities-Black Spoke s.t.
60 Alekss Krasts Tartu2024 Cycling Team s.t.
61 Unai Iribar Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:38
62 Jenno Berckmoes Team Flanders-Baloise s.t.
63 Alex Vandenbulcke Tarteletto-Isorex 0:48
64 Kobe Vanoverschelde Tarteletto-Isorex s.t.
65 Mathis Le Berre Arkéa-Samsic s.t.
66 Markus Pajur Tartu2024 Cycling Team s.t.
67 Noah Hobbs Groupama-FDJ s.t.
68 Anthony Maldonado St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 s.t.
69 Maël Guégan CIC U Nantes Atlantique s.t.
70 Toon Clynhens Team Flanders-Baloise s.t.
71 Nicolas Prodhomme Ag2r-Citroën s.t.
72 Philippe Jacob Ecoflo Chronos 1:01
73 Kevin Ledanois Arkéa-Samsic 1:22
74 Jean Goubert Nice Métropole-Côte d’Azur s.t.
75 Damien Girard Nice Métropole-Côte d’Azur s.t.
76 Luke Mudgway Bolton Equities-Black Spoke 1:46
77 Rory Townsend Bolton Equities-Black Spoke s.t.
78 Brent Van Der Eycken s.t.
79 Jerome Gauthier Ecoflo Chronos 1:49
80 Jacob Scott Bolton Equities-Black Spoke s.t.
81 Aaron Aus Tartu2024 Cycling Team 2:21
82 Matisse Julien Ecoflo Chronos s.t.
83 Max Rushby 2:23
84 Charles-Etienne Chrétien Human Powered Health 2:28
85 Alan Banaszek Human Powered Health s.t.
86 Joonas Kurits Tartu2024 Cycling Team s.t.
87 Axel Narbonne-Zuccarelli Nice Métropole-Côte d’Azur s.t.
88 Siim Kiskonen Tartu2024 Cycling Team s.t.
89 Jacob Eriksson Tudor Pro Cycling s.t.
90 Sebastian Kolze Changizi Tudor Pro Cycling 2:43
91 Laurent Pichon Arkéa-Samsic s.t.
92 Colin Joyce Human Powered Health 3:01
93 Nicolas Debeaumarché St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 s.t.
94 Flavien Maurelet St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 s.t.
95 Len De Pauw Tarteletto-Isorex 3:03
96 Alan Riou Arkéa-Samsic s.t.
97 Lauri Tamm Tartu2024 Cycling Team 4:01
98 Jérémy Cabot TotalEnergies 4:34
99 Valentin Retailleau Ag2r-Citroën s.t.
100 Jomantas Venckus Tartu2024 Cycling Team s.t.
101 Torsten Demeyere Tarteletto-Isorex s.t.
102 Mads-Emil Hougaard BHS-PL Belton Bornholm 5:38
103 Nikolaj Mengel BHS-PL Belton Bornholm s.t.
104 Angel Madrazo Burgos-BH s.t.
105 Len Dejonghe s.t.
106 Nicolas Rivard Ecoflo Chronos s.t.
107 Stanislaw Aniolkowski Human Powered Health 6:42
108 Elias Vanheel 7:39
109 Robbe De Ryck 8:24
110 Florian Carpentier Ecoflo Chronos 9:45
111 Nicholas Thorøe-Hansen BHS-PL Belton Bornholm 9:57
112 Enzo Boulet CIC U Nantes Atlantique 13:32
113 Théo Bonnet s.t.
114 Andreas Brandt Aidel BHS-PL Belton Bornholm 15:10
115 Edo Goldstein Ecoflo Chronos s.t.


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Course map & profile:

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