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Valentin Madouas delivers rare French podium at Tour of Flanders

Chasing pair never gave up and ended up sprinting for the victory in late-race catch.

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OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — The French have a new star for the spring classics.

Twenty-five-year-old Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) unexpectedly cracked the podium with third in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

“It’s super. It’s the first time I’m finishing on the podium in a monument like the Tour de Flanders,” he said. “It’s also rare for a French rider to finish on the podium in the Tour de Flanders. It’ll gain a lot of attention back home. I can only keep working like this and hope that I live up to the expectations.”

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Only last week Madouas finished seventh in E3 Saxo Bank Classic and last month he won the mountains classification at Paris-Nice.

In De Ronde, Madouas was the only rider who was able to keep up with big guns Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar on the Koppenberg.

His team leader Stefan Küng was a little further back but he failed to join the front group.

“Stefan was the team leader. I don’t know the race too well and lack experience. I received a protected role. Details decided the race and on the Koppenberg I was in front,” he said. “I glanced back and noticed that nobody else was there anymore. I had no other choice than try to keep up with the two riders ahead of me and give my maximum. I was on the limit there.”

He got dropped later on the final Oude Kwaremont climb, and ended up chasing the two leaders with Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers).

Küng followed a little further back with Dylan Teuns (Bahrain). In a thrilling finale the three groups were within touching distance and in the final meters, Madouas managed to bridge back up and sprint to third place.

“When the victory is at stake it often happens that the leaders are watching each other too much. It’s not good for anything but for me it was top. Dylan and I told each other to give the maximum,” he said.

“In the worst case we would finish third and fourth. It paid off. It’s more than I hoped for before the race. I hoped to be in the mix during the race but to finish on the podium is super. I came close to the win too but the legs talked at the finish. I could not have done anything more than I did,” Madouas said.

Timing the sprint to perfection with surprise podium

While Pogačar and van der Poel were slowing down, Van Baarle and Madouas were coming closer.

Obviously they launched their sprint earlier and Pogacar got boxed in while Madouas moved to the front.

“I was coming up with a lot of speed so I started believing in the win. I briefly led the sprint but then I had to sit back because of cramps. It’s unbelievable for the team that we can get a podium in this race,” Madouas said.

By cracking the podium he already bested his father’s best-ever performance at the monuments.

Laurent Madouas, a good climber in his day, managed a fourth place while riding for the Motorola team with Lance Armstrong at Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in 1996 when Pascal Richard beat Armstrong and Mauro Gianetti in a three-man sprint.

The last French winner of Tour of Flanders was Jacky Durand back in 1992.

While standing in the mixed zone in Oudenaarde, Madouas was quickly asked by French journalists about his aspirations for their home race during the spring classics at Paris-Roubaix.

“Paris-Roubaix wasn’t on my schedule but I’d love to race it, if only to discover the race. I’ve never done it in the elite category. I did it in the Junior and U23 category. It’ll be interesting with the eye on the Tour de France stages too where I can help the team. We’ll see how I recover. There’s the Amstel Gold race too and I’m racing until Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I’d love to do it though,” Madouas grinned.

“I lacked a little bit of strength and probably worked a bit too much during the race but it’s clear that I made a step forward this year. I hope that I can take another step to get the win in these races. That’ll be my major goal during the next few years.”