EF Education-EasyPost returns to racing
Our season starts Sunday at the Grand Prix La Marseillaise
Camp is over. We have got our new uniforms and had our pictures taken. The first test is this Sunday in the south of France.
We can’t wait.
The Grand Prix La Marseillaise is cycling’s traditional European season opener. It starts in Château-Gombert, a well-heeled suburb to the north of Marseille, and winds for 171 kilometres through the hilly Provençal countryside, crossing several steep, wind-blasted cols, before arriving back in the glittering port city after which it is named - Marseille. The finale is sure to be exciting. After a loop out to La Ciotat, following the rugged Riviera after Cassis, the race crosses the infamous Route des Crêtes, Pas d'Ouillier, and Col de la Gineste, before dropping straight to the finish in the city centre. A group of attackers might go clear over the top of one of the climbs or they might be caught and the race might end in a bunch sprint.
Magnus Cort, Alberto Bettiol, Owain Doull, Jens Keukeleire, Tom Scully, Michael Valgren, and Łukasz Wiśniowski will be looking to make the most of their chances.. One thing is certain: it’s not going to be easy. The days of pros using the first races of the year to work off the partying they did during the winter are over.
“No one goes to a race just to train or get back in the rhythm or whatever anymore,” says EF Education-EasyPost sport director Matti Breschel. “It’s full on from kilometre zero, so I’m expecting to see a fast, intense race. That’s what the riders expect. They know they aren’t going there on holiday. If they hadn’t trained properly over the winter, they would get their butts kicked. That’s for sure!”
Matti has just returned from the team’s camp in Girona and is impressed by the guys’ form.
“It’s amazing to sit in the car and see how well they are going now. Everybody looks fast and motivated. It looks like they have done their homework for sure. I am pretty optimistic,” he says.
Owain Doull met his new teammates for the first time in Girona and has already made friends.
“Across the board, from the staff to the riders, everyone was super welcoming,” he says. “We would eat at eight, and you wouldn’t go back to your room until ten, because you were having a good chat with everyone. It was just a really sociable atmosphere.”
It won’t be once the flag drops. Then, the business of bike racing will begin.
After training all winter in the UK, Owain is looking forward to going to Marseille to show what he can do.
“Obviously, it depends a lot on how the race is ridden, but for the team, I want to try and start with a bang,” he says.
Alberto Bettiol does too. Our Tour of Flanders champion and Giro stage winner had to end his season early last year due to an injury. After months of rehab, he was able to get back to full training at the end of October and has been working hard on his home roads in Switzerland and Tuscany ever since.
“I’m really excited to race again after a long period,” he says. “The first race of the year is always an exciting one. We wear the new kit, use the new bike, and race with new teammates.”
Alberto is impressed by our 2022 roster.
“I had good feelings at the Girona camp. Everybody was excited. We have a lot of new guys in the team this year. It has kind of been a revolution, but we have a good mix between veterans and new young riders who are excited to race with us. It is going to be a good year,” he says.
On Sunday, the season will get started, and then it will hardly pause till the last race in the fall. After La Marseillaise, the team will go straight to the Étoile de Bessèges, a five-day stage race that also takes place in the south of France. Then, they will be in Spain and the United Arab Emirates, building up to the first classics in Belgium.
How will they feel on the morning of the first race?
“I was always a bit nervous in a good way,” Matti says of his racing days. “I’d have butterflies in my stomach, and really be looking forward to starting racing after a long period with just training. You wanted to get back in there and use your elbows and get that adrenaline going again.”
Owain is just excited.
“Until you put a number on your back and start racing, you don’t know where you are at. The first day you are always a bit taken aback by the speed that you go around corners and the number of accelerations that you have to do in a race, but it comes back pretty quickly, pretty naturally.”
Alberto just wants the starter’s gun to go off.
“Nervous is not the right word,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to racing.”
Wish the guys luck!