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Cofidis hits back at critics with Provence victory

Cofidis produce 'perfect team performance' after accusations of being too passive on the wind-hit previous stage.

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MANOSQUE, France (VN) – While Ineos Grenadiers and its sprinter Elia Viviani were riding off with the garlands on the wind-hit first stage of the Tour de la Provence on Friday, members of two of France’s leading teams were seen having a heated argument on the front of the chase group about who should take responsibility for the pursuit of the leaders.

Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ were the only two WorldTour teams without a rider at the front and both had potential stage-winners in sprinters Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Démare, respectively. However, as Groupama attempted to rally their rivals, Cofidis opted not to lend their weight to the chase, a decision that provoked criticism during the live TV coverage and, later, in other media.

Piqued by accusations that they had effectively wimped out, Cofidis were determined to answer their critics on the road during the second stage into Manosque. In the process they served up what Coquard described as “the perfect team performance.”

After his teammates had hustled all through the stage, keeping the pace high on the climbs, their sprinter finished it off by winning. Victorious at last week’s Étoile de Bessèges after a drought of 551 days, the Frenchman has now had two wins in little more than a week.

“They worked super hard,” Coquard said of his teammates. “In this morning’s pre-stage briefing we said that yesterday had been a bad day, and I wanted to do better and bounce back. We rode all day. We decided to make it hard on the last climb of the day to eliminate as many sprinters as possible.”

Also read: After 18 months, Coquard wins again

Following Coquard’s sprint victory, Cofidis road captain Pierre-Luc Périchon, who had been involved in the argument in the wind on stage one, wanted to set the record straight about what had happened the day before.

“We were criticized by the media yesterday, but just as we did at Bessèges we’ve given our answer on the road,” said Périchon.

He then explained: “Bryan was caught out by a mechanical issue when the echelons were forming. He got bumped by someone and his chain came off and the whole team waited for him. We went from the fourth echelon to the third to the second, and that took quite a lot out of us.

“People watching on TV who didn’t understand what had been happening on the bike were saying that we hadn’t ridden with Groupama and hadn’t lived up to the status of a team looking for the stage win, so it’s good to explain things a little and let everyone know what really happened yesterday. We went into the stage with the right focus but, unfortunately, sometimes cycling isn’t an exact science,” said the Frenchman.

“We wanted to make amends for yesterday and show that it was just one of those accidental things that happens. This has set us up really well for the season.”