February 27, 2023
The puncheurs and climbers fought for victory in blustery conditions in the Rhône Valley
While many cycling fans were focused on the opening weekend of Classics in Belgium, connoisseurs of the sport know that there was another great weekend of racing in southern France – Les Boucles Drôme-Ardèche.
For over 20 years, the Ardèche Classic and the Drôme Classic, sponsored by Faun Environnement, offer two days of rugged racing on the two sides of the Rhone River Valley.
Only three riders have won both races over the years. Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) are the only two French riders to have won both races, and Czech rider Petr Vakoč (Alpecin-Fenix).
Last year, Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) stormed to a telling victory in the Drôme Classic, but this year saw two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal – Quick-Step) take the title, proving that he is ready to return to the main stage of racing after a frustrating 2022 season with a convincing win in the Ardèche Classic.
Read more: Do we have a new King of the Classics?
Meanwhile, menacing mistral winds threatened to cancel Sunday’s Drôme Classic with gusts of more than 60 kilometers per hour. Instead, the peloton went on the attack, splintering the field mid-way through the race, before Frenchman Anthony Perez upset the favourites with a long solo attack.
The peloton races towards Toulland, just one of the many French hilltop villages that are commonplace in these races that skirt up both sides of the Rhône River Valley.
Frenchman Rémi Cavagna is a local favorite here. The time trial specialist is frequently driving the breakaway in the Faun Ardèche Classic, a race he won back in 2020. This year he was not so fortunate, but his move set up his team-mate Julian Alaphilippe nicely. The peloton races past one of the several quarries that are found in the Ardèche.
Alaphilippe and his Soudal – Quick-Step team drove the pace at the front over the Cornas climb, peppering the legs of his competition before his convincing attack.
Wine vineyards lace the hills around the final loop of the Ardèche Classic.
After breaking away with Julian Alaphilippe, Groupama-FDJ rider David Gaudu appeared more at ease on the final climb of the Ardèche Classic, but he had little chance of…
Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Rouleur: Cycling Culture | Magazine | Store | Desire | Event…