Neilson Powless wins the Étoile de Bessèges
Our American star time trialled to overall victory in the French stage race
Neilson Powless won the general classification at Étoile de Bessèges with an amazing final time trial.
The five-day stage race came down to a single second after over 11 hours of racing across the south of France. Neilson rode a stellar time trial on the final day, leaving every ounce of strength he had left on the road to the top of the race’s last climb. In the end, Neilson had just enough power to put five seconds into his main rival Mattias Skjelmose and take the winner’s shirt.
“I knew I would have to ride the TT just off of feel,” the American says. “At the end of a stage race, it’s all just about what you feel and how much you have left in the tank. I’m just so happy I could repay all the hard work that my teammates gave and get some redemption for myself. This feels amazing.”
Neilson and his EF Education-EasyPost teammates made all the right moves during the first four stages to stay within striking distance of the winner’s jersey. Going into Sunday’s 10.6-km TT, Neilson was just four seconds back from the lead. He had gone on the offensive Saturday when the race hit the crosswinds and finished second at the summit of Mont Bouquet. On Sunday, he was determined to get the victory to reward his teammates.
“I was really torn up that I slipped up on my tactics at the very end yesterday,” Neilson says. “I knew I had to be first into that final corner, but Skjelmose knew the same thing. He just went earlier than I was anticipating so he got the better of me at the very end but I felt like I still had a lot left to give so I really wanted to make up for that today. It’s not possible to win a race like this with all these cross winds and punchy finishes and stages where every day you have to have perfect position almost the whole day without an impeccable team, a good race plan, a good strategy, a good director. Across the board, the staff, my teammates, the director, everybody was just 100% committed to winning this race overall. We couldn’t lose focus for one second, because every day the wind was blowing. The crosswinds were tearing the race apart every day. To not put a foot wrong over five days of that is just such a testament to how strong our team is and how committed we were and how good of teammates I have here. I couldn’t have picked a better team if I had my pick of the whole WorldTour to support me this week. It just makes me so proud to be a part of this team.”
For Neilson personally, this victory, and his win earlier this season at the Grand Prix La Marseillaise, affirm his ambitions for 2023.
“It feels amazing to have two wins now already,” Neilson says. “It gives me a lot of confidence and it makes me feel very proud of how far I’ve been able to come and develop as a bike rider and show my standard as a bike racer, not just as a climber or a time trialist or a puncheur. Here, I was able to show my ability to really be a part of the race across any terrain. I think that’s my strength: my ability to be a part of the race no matter what. I’ve grown a lot in terms of my ability to follow my teammates well and use them well. I think it’s really created a nice atmosphere in the team and now I have that confidence to start to lead the team better.”
We could not have had a better leader in Bessegès. Congratulations Neilson. Congratulations to his teammates at the race: Magnus Cort, Stefan Bissegger, Simon Carr, Andrea Piccolo, Mark Padun, and Ben Healy. Onwards!