News: Jake Stewart 9th on stage 1 of Bessèges

Ahead of his first full season at WorldTour, Coventry’s Jake Stewart was 9th on stage 1 of Etoile de Bessèges, a performance where he had the confidence and backing of his World Tour team

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News: Jake Stewart 9th on stage 1 of Bessèges

On the second day of racing in 2021 for Groupama-FDJ, the team had its first top 10 on Wednesday thanks to Coventry’s young rider Jake Stewart, who was ninth on the up hill finish near Bellegarde, at the end of the first stage of the Étoile de Bessèges. The 21-year-old British rider is ranked the same on the overall and is in second place in the youth standings tonight.

While the riders were undoubtedly excited to take part in the first stage race of the season, the Etoile de Bessèges got off to a relatively peaceful start on Wednesday afternoon. After just a few seconds of racing, the peloton decided to let the first attempt at a breakaway develop.

Three riders, Louis Louvet (St-Michel-Auber 93), Alexandre Delettre (Delko), and Tom Paquot (Bingoal-WB) were able to get away and build a maximum lead of eight minutes. “The start of the stage was actually rather quiet,” confirmed Thierry Bricaud of Groupama-FDJ. Considering the level of the event (UCI 2.1), it went a bit like a WorldTour race. A small breakaway formed and then the stage was controlled all day.”

Knowing that there was no wind today, the scenario of a stage on the edge like last year was quickly ruled out. The peloton brought the breakaway back as the tension in the peloton climbed a notch or two at the start of the last hour of the race. From then on, all eyes were on the hill climb final at Bellegarde, where Alexys Brunel had triumphed last year.

Jake’s team explained “We recognized the climb in training and Jake felt he could do something on it. It was a bit tense so there were collisions and falls. In the first crash, which came six kilometers from the finish, three of Jake’s teammates including a key rider for the team, (Benjamin Thomas) were held up. In the second crash, another of Jake’s teammates, Romain Seigle, fell.

At the front of the peloton, William Bonnet and Fabian Lienhard worked to position Jake Stewart. “The final was very nervous, and it was difficult to organize,” said the young Englishman. “We don’t have a train to speak of here so in the last 10-15 kilometres, we just tried to stick together with Fabian and work our way through the peloton. William did a great stint to get me back before the village and then Fabian caught up with me two kilometres from the finish to lead me to the foot of the climb”.

“I can be satisfied”, Jake Stewart said of his top 10. At the foot of the key climb to the finish of this first stage, the Côte de la Tour (600m at 6.3% and a section of 15%), the British puncher-sprinter was ready to nail it. “I started the climb in about fifteenth position,” he said. “I wanted to do it full on but hesitated and waited a bit too long. Then when Bouhanni started his sprint, it was gone.”

“I had to brake a bit on the last left turn just as I was about to pass Degenkolb. Maybe it cost me a place or two on the line, but I can be happy with my ninth place today given the competition.”

Jake was satisfied with his climb though and while the finish was a bit tough for him, his performance proves he has good legs. A few lengths behind the winner of the day, Christophe Laporte, Jake Stewart thus found his place in the middle of some of the best riders in the world.

“It’s a good way to start the season, especially after the twists and turns of Marseille, where we took the wrong road, said Jake. “I hadn’t had the chance to gauge myself so getting ninth today is good for the confidence and good for morale, especially with this WorldTour level field. I am very happy with the result but also with the way we worked with Fabian. A beautiful collaboration is being born. Now we have to build on this result, not only for this week, but also for the whole season”.

As a result of his performance today, Jake Stewart now sits in second place in the ranking of the best youngsters. Overall, he is naturally in the top 10. Jake’s team is fully up for Thursday’s stage 2 which should lead to a much more traditional sprint finish at La Calmette.

1. Christophe Laporte
2. Nacer Bouhanni
3. Mads Pedersen
4. Giacomo Nizzolo
5. Michael Kwiatkowski
6. Jordi Meeus
7. Bryan Coquard
8. John Degenkolb
9. Jake Stewart
10. Dan van Poppel

37. Owain Doull
54. Dan McLay
62. Ryan Mullen
68. Ethan Hayter
87. Connor Swift
97. Geraint Thomas
131. Chris Lawless

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