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Étoile de Bessèges: Benjamin Thomas secures GC as Filippo Ganna blitzes final TT

Olympic champ Richard Carapaz did not start due to injuries sustained in crash Friday while Thomas wins his first race with Cofidis.

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Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) defended his overnight lead to win the Étoile de Bessèges on Sunday, while double world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) lived up to his rainbow stripes with victory in the final stage TT.

Ganna beat Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and overall winner Thomas in the short, sharp 11km TT through Alès. The grinding uphill finish meant Ganna had to work to secure his first win of the season.

“It wasn’t nice for me with my weight because it was steep, but we’ll keep this result and think to improve for the next races,” Ganna said. “Every race is important, and today was important to give morale for myself and the team.”

Although Ganna was a shoo-in for stage honors, the GC hung in the balance ahead of Sunday’s decisive test.

Thomas took a seven- and eight-second lead over Alberto Bettiol (EF Education EasyPost) and Tobias Johannessen (Uno-X) into the start of the day, but was able to bring his French national TT talents to Bessèges to beat back both his rivals.

Bettiol finished sixth on the stage while young prodigy Johannessen finished 13th in what was his third-ever TT.

Also read: A new star rises in Tobias Johannessen 

Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) did not start Sunday’s stage. The Olympic champ completed his pre-race recon before deciding to pull out due to the nagging after-effects of his crash on stage 3.

Ineos Grenadiers chose to let the grand tour ace rest ahead of his scheduled start at the Tour de la Provence next week.

“It’s nothing serious. Saturday he tried his best and was up there, but historically the second day after a crash is the worst. Also he couldn’t put his elbow down on the TT pads because of the injuries. He’s racing in Provence next week so we want an extra day of recovery,” team sport director Dario Cioni told VeloNews‘ Pete Cossins from the start village.

Thomas’ GC victory brings Cofidis a winning start to the season.

The 26-year-old transferred to the French team in the off-season after four years with Groupama-FDJ and swiftly delivered two of his biggest results this week with his solo stage win Friday and Sunday’s overall victory in Alès.

“I’m happy for Benjamin Thomas and the whole team. There has been a lot of work all winter,” Cofidis manager Cedric Vasseur told La Chaine Equipe. “Yesterday he suffered a lot but rode smart. Today he finished it off.”

Étoile de Bessèges stage 5: 

  1. Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers): 15:32
  2. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo): +0:06
  3. Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis): +0:09

Étoile de Bessèges final GC 

  1. Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis): 14:39:32
  2. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost): +0:16
  3. Tobias Johannessen (Uno-X): +0:32