Christophe Laporte takes stage one of Étoile de Bessèges 2021 in rapid uphill finish

The Frenchman battled to the line with his main rival, Nacer Bouhanni, in a late attack

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Christophe Laporte took stage one and the overall lead of the Étoile de Bessèges ahead of French rival, Nacer Bouhanni with Mads Pedersen taking third in a rapid finale that saw a large crash take several riders out of the challenge for the win.

Laporte (Cofidis) followed a late attack by Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), pulling away from the rest of the peloton who could do nothing to pull back the French sprinters.

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) closed out the podium spots, losing two seconds to the front two, with young British rider, Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) getting a solid top-10 result in ninth.

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How it happened

The first stage of Étoile de Bessèges started in Bellegarde with the race taking in two circuits around the town before finishing back in Bellegarde after 143.55km.

The early break was made up of three riders, Alexandre Delette (Team Delko), Louis Louvet (St Michel-Auber93) and Tom Paquot (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) and they pulled out a maximum gap of just over four minutes.

The peloton was controlled largely by Ag2r-Citroën, who were working for Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen, with a bit of help from Bora-Hansgrohe who were working for Pascal Ackermann.

As the race went on other teams started to show interest at the front with Arkéa-Samsic and Total Direct Energie joining with 45km to go, dragging the gap down to just under a minute as they passed the finish line for the first time.

After that the pace was ramped up and up as more teams came through, Lotto-Soudal and Qhubeka-Assos both has short periods on the front before Ag2r-Citroën retook the lead with 25km to go.

As the peloton went into the final 20km teams started to go into colour order with Ineos Grenadiers appearing at the front for the first time, Geraint Thomas leading the way with Egan Bernal, Filippo Ganna and the rest of the team on his wheel.

The break managed to hold off the pack up until 10km to go as the Kern-Pharma team took over as they started working for Francisco Galván after his impressive fourth place at GP La Marseillaise. Total came up too as they looked to work for Chris Lawless and Edvald Boasson Hagen with 8km to go.

A big crash with 6km to go took out multiple big names with several Qhubeka-Assos riders and Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) hitting the deck with riders such as Bernal and last year's second overall, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo), caught up behind it.

Intermarché-Wanty Gobert took over on the front with 2.5km to go as well as Cofidis, blocking Trek-Segafredo and Ineos out as the race took on multiple roundabouts.

The peloton hit the final climb with Lotto-Soudal and Trek-Segafredo drilling the pace for their riders, but it was Bouhanni  who put in a hard attack with Laporte going over the top of his bitter rival.

Laporte managed to hold off any resurgence by Bouhanni to take his first win of 2021, as former world champion, Pedersen, took third on the day.


Étoile de Bessèges 2021 stage one: Bellegarde to Bellegarde (143.55km)

1. Christophe Laporte (FRA) Cofidis, in 3-14-32

2. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) Arkéa-Samsic, at same time

3. Mads Pedersen (DEN) Trek-Segafredo, at 2 seconds

4. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) Qhubeka-Assos

5. Michał Kwiatkowski (POL) Ineos-Grenadiers

6. Jordi Meeus (BEL) Bora-Hansgrohe

7. Bryan Coquard (FRA) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept

8. John Degenkolb (GER) Lotto-Soudal

9. Jake Stewart (GBR) Groupama-FDJ

10. Danny van Poppel (NED) Intermarché-Wanty Gobert Matériaux, all at same time

General classification after stage one

1. Christophe Laporte (FRA) Cofidis, in 3-14-32

2. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) Arkéa-Samsic

3. Mads Pedersen (DEN) Trek-Segafredo

4. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) Qhubeka-Assos

5. Michał Kwiatkowski (POL) Ineos-Grenadiers

6. Jordi Meeus (BEL) Bora-Hansgrohe

7. Bryan Coquard (FRA) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept

8. John Degenkolb (GER) Lotto-Soudal

9. Jake Stewart (GBR) Groupama-FDJ

10. Danny van Poppel (NED) Intermarché-Wanty Gobert Matériaux

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

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