Race cancelations across the globe have meant that the biggest stars of the WorldTour peloton are in France this week to start their respective seasons at the Étoile de Bessèges.
The start-studded start list includes Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Greg Van Avermaet, and Philippe Gilbert. There are 11 WorldTour teams at the race, mixing it up with a handful of UCI Pro Continental squads and smaller French teams.
At the end of the day, Cofidis rider Christophe Laporte held off a late, uphill charge by Nacer Bouhanni to take the win, in this European return to racing, in the heart of one of France’s wine regions.
A contemplative Geraint Thomas before the start. Thomas will aim his season around the Tour de France in July.
A determined three-man break stayed away from the main bunch until the final 12 kilometers.
Colombian compatriots Rigoberto Urán and Egan Bernal were all smiles for their return to racing.
Belgian national champion Dries de Bondt cruises side-by-side with former world champion Mads Pederson.
Egan Bernal spent much of the day sitting in the bunch, often protected by at least one of his teammates.
Tim Wellens of Lotto Soudal has a chat with Michael Valgren, wearing the recently unveiled EF Education-Nippo team kit.
Total Direct Énergie was one of several French squads to get an early start to the 2021 season.
Filippo Ganna, at six-foot-four, is hard to miss among his Ineos Grenadiers teammates.
Greg Van Avermaet is towed along by the AG2R-Citroën squad.
Van Avermaet is a new addition to the AG2R-Citroën squad. And after several years away, he said he’s happy to be back racing on BMC equipment again. The Rio Olympics champion a few golden highlights on his bike to match the ones on his sleeves.
Christophe Laporte took the stage win in a late uphill dash to the line besting Nacer Bouhanni. Behind them, Mads Pedersen steals a final look before making a push for the remaining podium position.
Tim Merlier of Alpecin-Fenix rolls across the line just outside of 10th.
Laporte now leads the general classification. Alexandre Delettre of Delko currently leads the KOM competition, and Jordi Meeus of Bora-Hansgrohe wears the white jersey of the youth competition leader.