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Amaury Capiot (Arkéa-Samsic) opened the account on his season at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille La Marseillaise on Sunday.
The Belgian won the grinding false flat sprint after a tough hilly race on the French coast, squeezing out Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Francisco Galván (Kern Pharma) with his strong late kick.
Capiot had come up late through the bunch as Arkéa-Samsic massed to the right of the fast approach to the line. TotalEnergies lit up the sprint early, but Pedersen and then Capiot came up strong.
Pedersen hit the front first before Capiot came around in the final 50 meters to go one better than his second-place at the season-opening Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana last weekend.
It was the first pro win of the 28-year-old’s career, and the first for Arkéa Samsic of 2022.
📸 GettySport pic.twitter.com/jxXZP46GEE
— Team Arkéa Samsic (@Arkea_Samsic) January 30, 2022
The race was the first pro competition in France of 2022 after the season opened on Spanish soil with the Clàssica Valenciana last weekend and the Mallorca Challenge in the past week.
A stack of WorldTour teams were on the startline, with riders like Pedersen, Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) all choosing to start their season in France ahead of next week’s Etoile de Besseges.
Racing heated up at around 50km to go in the grippy GP.
The original break of five stood at just three riders while behind, the peloton shattered. A series of surges from Cofidis, UAE Emirates and EF Education-Easy Post on the Route des Crêtes ascent left the front bunch at around just 30 riders.
Ulissi and Sandy Dujardin (TotalEnergies) went on a mission to try to escape the bunch at 40km to go and soon latched on to the three escapees.
Ulissi hammered hard in the five-up group and went solo at the front of the race for a handful of kilometers before his teammate Alexis Brunel and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) bridged across from the peloton, dragging two of the stragglers from the earlier break with them.
The five leaders took around 40 seconds over the Arkéa-Samsic-led peloton as Capiot’s crew worked hard to set up the bunch kick.
Martin started to put the pressure on his breakaway companions at the front of the race as the roads turned toward Marseille in the final 20km, and the Cofidis captain had soon squeezed clear.
— Team Cofidis (@TeamCOFIDIS) January 30, 2022
Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r-Citroën) lit up the peloton on the final Gineste climb and the 30-rider bunch soon scooped up all the chasers as Martin resisted, around 20 seconds ahead.
The wide, fast roads into Marseille didn’t play into Martin’s favor however.
The Frenchman was caught by the charging bunch at around 6km to go and from there, UAE Emirates took charge to set up the final sprint before Arkéa-Samsic maneuvered Capiot toward the top step of the podium.