After a great day of racing in Australia for Groupama-FDJ, their fortunes continued in Europe as Kevin Geniets outsprinted Alex Baudin (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team) to win the GP La Marseillaise and take his first pro win outside of the Luxembourg national championships.
Geniets kept calm after Baudin forced him into pole position for the two-up sprint, with third-place Kévin Vaquelin (Arkéa – B&B Hotels) closing in on the duo, but the bigger man’s kick was too powerful and allowed him to make it one win from one appearance in 2024.
Baudin was the strongest climber on the day after dropping Geniets and his teammate Rémy Rochas on the Route des Crêtes. (4.1 km at 7.6%), but the rider from Luxembourg stayed close and got back on before the descent with 28km left in the day.
They shared the work on the scenic downhill run into the historic French city until their final kilometre of trying to outfox each other, but the work was done with Vaquelin, despite his time trial strength, and the remaining chasers unable to close the deficit.
Geniets’ victory in the first French Road Cycling Cup race of 2024 gave him the overall lead in the competition which was last year won by his teammate Paul Penhoët.
As the peloton left Marseille with 167.5km between them and the finish, the attacks started to fly for those desperate to get in the break. A group of five riders would make it stick after around 30km of racing, Hugo Toumire (Cofidis), Jelle Vermoote (Bingoal WB), Alex Colman (Team Flanders-Baloise), Théo Delacroix (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93) and Jean-Louis Le Ny (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur) who joined the quarter last.
Their gap would grow out past the three-minute mark until the chase behind began to heat up inside the final 100km, led by the French WorldTour teams Arkéa-B&B Hotels and Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team.
With the Route des Crêtes. (4.1 km at 7.6%) approaching, the fight for position began on the downhill run that preceded it, and among the stress came a nasty-looking crash involving Milan Menten (Lotto Dstny) and Stefano Oldani (Cofidis), but thankfully neither went over the railings close to where they hit the deck.
The attacks started 32km from the line with the leaders running out of steam, and it was Alex Baudin (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team) who made the difference alongside the Groupama-FDJ duo of Kevin Geniets and Rémy Rochas after the latter lit up the racing.
Baudin was the strongest on the uphill, dropping Rochas and seemingly Geniets along with him, but the Luxembourger had enough to catch back on as they started the descent off the Route des Crêtes.
Behind, the second group on the road found it hard to organise any sort of concerted chase to bring back the leading duo with 14km remaining, prompting Vaquelin to attack alone in search of a podium place, or better – the win.
The Arkea rider struggled to make much of a dent into the duo’s now 50-second lead, bringing it down to 22 seconds with 3.5km left to race, but he would need them to look at each other if he was going to challenge the victory into Marseille.
Baudin played it perfectly as the smaller figure and likely slower sprinter, making sure Geniets led out the sprint-à-deux. Geniets looked for his fellow escapee to take a final pull on the front without any response, but he kept calm and launched his explosive sprint at the correct moment with Baudin unable to get back onto his wheel in the run to the line.
The Groupama-FDJ man roared across the line with his first victory in 2024 in hand, adding to the French side’s success at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race by Laurence Pithie on the other side of the world.
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