For the sixteenth time in its history, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will be at the start of the Etoile de Bessèges (2.1, 2-6/02). Three days after the GP de La Marseillaise, the French opening classic, the Belgian team stays in the south of France for the first stage race of 2022: four bunch races and the traditional closing time trial.
The event starts with the longest stage around Bellegarde, with a finish on top of the Côte de la Tour. It is the only difficulty on the parcours of 160 kilometer on sea level. An explosive final awaits the riders also on the second day in Rousson. The Plateau de Castellas (1.6km at 6.4%) is where the riders will finish after a hilly stage. The third stage brings the peloton to the heart of the Cévennes national park, with a race of 155 kilometer around Bessèges. Four climbs are categorized, but more are spread on the parcours. The difficult Mont Bouquet (4.6km at 9%) is where the riders will battle for the victory in the fourth stage. Finally, the decision for the general classification will be made after the closing time trial of 11 kilometer around Alès.
Belgian sprinter Gerben Thijssen and Danish rider Julius Johansen will make their debut in the colors of the team under the direction of Hilaire Van der Schueren and Pieter Vanspeybrouck. It is also the first race of the season for road captain Boy van Poppel. Belgian rider Aimé De Gendt, Frenchman Théo Delacroix, Italian climber Simone Petilli and German rider Georg Zimmermann continue their season on French soil after the GP de La Marseillaise last Sunday. The last named rider was 7th in Marseille and shone in the Etoile de Bessèges back in 2020. It was his first race as a professional and he immediately took second place in the stage towards Bessèges and took the climber’s jersey home. Aimé De Gendt finished eighth in the general classification of the same edition.
Stage 1 (2/02): Bellegarde – Bellegarde (160,86 km)
Stage 2 (3/02): Saint-Chritol-lèz-Alès – Rousson (156,21km)
Stage 3 (4/02): Bessèges – Bessèges (155,65km)
Stage 4 (5/02): Saint-Hilaire-de-Brethmas – Le Mont Bouquet (145,41km)
Stage 5 (6/02): Alès – Alès (10,63km) (=TT)