Neilson Powless wins the Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille

American stuns with an impressive solo ride to secure his third pro victory

January 29, 2023

Neilson Powless won today’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille with a spectacular solo attack.

The American rode across to the front group in the finale and then launched with 16 kilometres left. It may have looked like a hail mary move, but Neilson made sure that no one could catch him. He flew to the finish by the Cote d’Azur port to celebrate his victory in France’s traditional season opener.

“It is a pretty awesome feeling," Neilson says. "I was in so much pain on the last descent and when it started to flatten out. I had to push hard, but luckily I pulled enough time out of the guys behind on the final descent that they were racing for second. That gave me a bit of freedom in the last few hundred metres to just sit up and take it in and let the pain ease and just post up. It was really nice."

This is the third victory of Neilson’s career and first of this season. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille is a special race for Neilson. He has made the Cote d’Azur his European home and come to love the cliffs and coves by the coast and the rugged hills of the Provençal heartland.

"It is beautiful here," he says. "We did the preride yesterday and rode the last 70 kilometres of the race and the whole time it was just amazing views of these cliffs dropping straight into the sea with super, super blue water. This is just a beautiful place to race a bike. There is a big cycling culture in this area, so it was nice to put on a nice show for those people."

After setting up his teammate Marijn van den Berg at the Trofeo ses Salines-Port d’Alcudia to secure Marijn’s first professional victory, Neilson made the trip to back France with the ambition to win himself. He knew his form was good after a solid block of training and racing in Mallorca, but pulling it off would be another matter altogether. Neilson felt strong all day. He closed gaps without wasting energy, bridged across to the first group in the finale and then made his move count.

"We knew that there was a steep climb about 50 kilometres from the finish and that was going to be the most likely launchpad for any of the puncheurs to get away from the sprinters, so the plan was just to follow because we knew Marijn was good. He just won a race in Mallorca so we had a lot of confidence in him for the sprint," Neilson says.

Having Marijn in the peloton gave Neilson a great tactical advantage. He could save his strength and pick his time to go.

"I just tried to play it cool, "Neilson says. "Ben Healy and I took turns following moves on the steep climb. There were a lot of guys trying, but in the end I was able to follow a slightly larger group over the top of the steep climb and just stayed in the wheels for a while, and then I started to work with them, and the time went out pretty fast. Almost all of the big teams were represented in that group, so it was a good group that could go to the finish. The cohesion wasn’t super great, so I just tried to play it cool and kept reminding myself that I had Marijn behind and didn't need to force it. I was preventing myself from driving it because my legs felt really, really strong. I had to just keep reminding myself that I have burned myself in the past by assuming that I was the strongest one in the group and burning all of my matches where it didn’t really matter."

Finally, the moment came when Neilson could light up the race.

"It would always be a risk to take ten guys to the finish, so Tejay, our sports director, told me there was a good launch pad to try to get away," he says. "It was kind of the last climb of the day, kind of a stair step climb, but the bottom was pretty steep, so he said that would be the best launchpad to at least get rid of some guys or get away, but going down to it, I ended up just pulling a gap. I pulled through and gave it a few hard pedal strokes and looked behind and there was a pretty big gap. I just told myself that I was going to be attacking in two or three kilometres anyways, so I will just press on and basically from that point on it was just a time trial all the way to the finish. Marijn was telling me in the radio that the peloton was not working super well and the guys in the peloton were still within radio shot and were giving me some encouragement along with Tejay and that really helped push me on and tell me that I could make it over the top and make it down on my own. I am just super happy that it worked out."

This win is the best way for Neilson to get his 2023 season rolling.

“In bike racing, you have to make sure everything goes perfectly and comes together on the right day. I’m just so happy it finally came together for me today,” Neilson said.

What a beautiful ride. Congratulations, Neilson!

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