Jonas Vingegaard showed impressive power on climbs and flat sections, winning Drome Classic, his first one-day race victory. Vingegaard attacked with 39 km to go, forming a strong group including young Spanish talent Juan Ayuso, dropping the other competitors. Vingegaard looked stronger than Ayuso, as the Spaniard was struggling to pull with the Dane on a flat section. On the final short uphill rise, Ayuso was not a match for Vingegaard, who won convincingly showing some of his punch that was prominent in his early days at Jumbo-Visma.
The race exploded with 39 km to go when Jonas Vingegaard launched an attack on the Col de la Grande Limite climb (3.9 km, 6.6%). Only Victor Lafay, Juan Ayuso and Mauri Vansevenant followed. Vansevenant had already attacked and finished 2nd in Faun-Ardeche Classic on Saturday, showing good condition.
The tempo was not insanely high as four more riders, Quinn Simmons, Sylvain Moniquet, Quentin Pacher and Lennard Kämna, caught the leading group. Almost every big team was represented in the 8-man group. The biggest losers were AG2R Citroën (a stacked team with Cosnefroy, Godon, Calmejane), who were pacing in the peloton.
A brief moment later, after four more riders joined the leading group, Ayuso attacked on a smaller hill, dropping everyone except Vingegaard. Vansevenant tried to follow, but he was not powerful enough to close the gap.
It was bad news for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, who started to chase in the peloton as Vansevenant was dropped. Quick-Step had world champion Julian Alaphilippe as the main option. The peloton caught everyone except Ayuso and Vingegaard, who had a 30-40 second lead. Alaphilippe attacked multiple times and created a small chasing group, but it was caught by the peloton as no one was fully committed to working with the World Champion. It was a similar tricky situation for Quickstep to navigate like Lombardia with Masnada up the road with Alaphilippe behind last year.
Guillaume Martin launched an attack on the steep and narrow Mur d’Allex climb (0.7km, 8.4%) from the group. Alaphillipe countered, and the chasing group with three French puncheurs, Cosnefroy, Martin, Alaphilippe, was formed.
It was a hard task to catch Ayuso and Vingegaard as they both worked well together. The Dane seemed stronger and he did more work than the Spaniard, who was seemingly struggling on the flat sections when Vingegaard paced, like Bernal on Roglic’ wheel on the way to the base of Covadonga in the Vuelta. As the finish was approaching Vingegaard took on more and more of the load, while Ayuso was struggling to pull through at all. The second group with Alaphilippe, Cosnefroy and Martin was closing. They reduced the gap to 14 seconds but, despite working well together, they were not able to catch the leaders. Meanwhile, in the peloton Trek-Segafredo, Bora-Hansgrohe and Jumbo-Visma were chasing. Jumbo-Visma probably chased as they thought Alaphilippe group would catch Vingegaard, who would not stand a chance against French puncheurs on the finish climb.
In the final kilometres before the last hill, Ayuso sat the whole time on Vingegaard’s wheel. He was not bluffing as Vingegaard easily dropped him before the finish. The Dane looked incredibly strong, attacked early, did the most work and won his first one-day race. Jumbo-Visma leader, Primož Roglič, allowed Kuss yesterday and Vingegaard today to attack whilst he sat in the wheels, this week-end being his warm-up before Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Ayuso cracked so much on the last rise that he lost 21 seconds to Vingegaard, finishing 4th. Surprisingly, Martin beat Cosnefroy in the uphill drag, with Cosnefroy typically being very dangerous on this type of finish. Maybe the race before was too hard and fatigue influenced his kick, which certainly affected Alaphilippe, who cramped before the finish and was only 5th.
As always, the ‘French Opening Weekend’ provided an excellent couple of days of racing across Ardeche and Drome Classic, with some of the best hilly one-day riders in the world lining up like Roglic and Alaphilippe. It is a shame that they coincide with the start of the classics in Belgium, as Omloop and Kuurne inevitably receive more coverage and interest globally. For teams like Cofidis, TotalEnergies, Intermarché and Arkéa-Samsic, they provide an important points boost in their World Tour relegation fight – we have fully updated rankings of this battle on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month.