French W/Kg Showdown in Besançon

Guardia Sanframondi – Italy – wielrennen – cycling – cyclisme – radsport – Victor Lafay (France / Team Cofidis) pictured during 104th Giro dÕItalia – (2.UWT) stage 8 – from Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi (170KM) – photo Miwa Iijima/Cor Vos © 2021

19-year-old Lenny Martinez continues to perform at a high level on climbs this year and was very close to his first pro victory in Classic Grand Besançon Doubs. Despite resisting multiple attacks from the diminutive neo-pro, Cofidis’ puncheur Victor Lafay had enough strength in his legs to follow on the steep gradients and win the final sprint.

Classic Grand Besançon Doubs profile by La Flamme Rouge

Not many one-day races finish with a climb as there is a high chance everyone in the peloton will wait for the final kilometres to make their move, like in Fleche Wallonne. Belvédère de Montfaucon (3.79 km, 9.23%) is perfect for lightweight climbers and early attacks as the first half of the climb includes 10-14% extended gradients.

As this was a French race, Groupama – FDJ, AG2R Citroën, Arkea-Samsic and Cofidis were active and sent strong riders. It was 19-year-old Lenny Martinez who attacked with 3.1 km to go. Martinez is a very light even for a climber (PCS data: 168cm, 52kg) and obviously suited for steeper gradients. Only Victor Lafay was able to respond to the massive acceleration by the FDJ climbing talent.

Martinez attacks

As Martinez could not drop Lafay there was no point in towing the rival to the finish line, which was slightly flatter in the last 100 metres. Lafay would be the clear favourite in the final sprint against Martinez and he only needed to be patient and sit in the wheel of the young Frenchman, especially with teammate Guillaume Martin not far behind. There were shallower parts in the second half of the climb which suited Lafay more and he began to ride at his own comfortable rhythm to keep the duo clear.

Lafay and Martinez playing games

With no one fully committing, Spaniard Roger Adria closed the gap to the leading duo in the final metres and did a lead-out to guarantee a place on the podium, distancing Guillaume Martin and Thibaut Pinot. Adria is out of contract after this season and it would be logical that Movistar would be keen on signing the young Catalan on Equipo Kern Pharma, as he seems more than capable of scoring points in hilly one-day races.

Lafay opened his sprint first from the wheel of Adria and Martinez had no chance against his punchy compatriot. The 2022 race winner Jesus Herrada finished 7th, despite doing the climb 40 seconds faster than the previous year. The climbing level in 2023 is high even in smaller races during the week.

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As the tempo was high from the bottom, Lafay did huge watts for a 1.1 race – 7.02 ᵉw/kg for 10:45min. This is by far the best we have seen from Lafay and it was a matter of time before he would win a punchy one-day race. The peloton did 13.47 kj/kg/h for 4:10h before the climb which is a moderate pace for a one-day race as everyone’s legs are fresh compared to stage races.

Lenny Martinez will turn 20 in July and he has shown strong climbing performances this year in WorldTour competition. On Lo Port in Volta a Catalunya Martinez finished sixth ahead of Hindley, Landa and other elite climbers. The biggest downside for lightweight climbers is that they fatigue relatively more on the flat before the climbs than bigger guys like Pogačar, Thomas and Vine. Martinez in easy races/stages can push high ᵉw/kg on steep gradients as he showed in this race but he struggles on harder days. In Catalunya, he finished 19th on La Molina and 14th on Vallter 2000 (both are mid-high altitude climbs) and perhaps he is more suited for pure w/kg tests and not hard mountain stages. Regardless, given his youth, he has plenty of time to develop and it must be very encouraging for Groupama-FDJ that he is already performing at this level in Spring. He is scheduled to race in Romandie, Dauphine and La Vuelta where will be plenty of hard climbing days to showcase his talent.

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