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Nibali, Barguil key animators as Cavagna and Clarke prevail in Drôme-Ardeche

James Startt was on hand in the Rhone River Valley, to capture the action at two French one-day races considered to be warm-ups for Paris-Nice.

Barguile, Clarke, and Nibali at the 2020 Drome Classic. Photo: James Startt

For the past five years or so I have skipped the week-end opener in Belgium and taken the train from Paris down to Valence for a couple of small French races that just seem to get better and better. I love the small early-season races in Southern France and the Boucles Drôme Ardèche are a great example of them.

Held every year on the same weekend as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the Faun Ardèche Classic and the Royal Bernard Drôme Classic are, simply put, two spectacular races that still are organized very much in a family spirit.

Founded by Guillaume Delpech who first launched the Drôme Classic in memory of his father, who was a great cycling fan, he then coupled it with the Ardeche Classic, as many teams were looking for a full weekend of racing before stage races like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.

While Nibali and Barguil may have come up short on the victory column, they can go away from this year’s Boucles Drôme Ardèche knowing that the condition is right on schedule as they enter the springtime races. “I’m still in the ‘work in progress’ phase,” Nibali said afterwards. “But I’m happy to get my first podium with Trek-Segafredo. Now, a few days at home with my family to recharge my batteries. Then, focus on the Italian debut with Larciano, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo.”