Never celebrate early and Groupama-FDJ on a roll: Five things we learned from the opening races of 2024

Five takeaways from the opening set of races as Opening Weekend edges closer

Simon Carr
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Tour Down Under has been and gone in a blur and the racing season has well and truly kicked off for 2024. 

Hot on the back of all of the racing action in Oz was the Challenge Mallorca series. The likes of the Trofeo Calvià often fly under the radar once some of the bigger one-day affairs get going, but the early season races still provide plenty of exciting talking points.

The racing we’ve seen so far hasn’t disappointed from a British perspective, especially. We’ve seen young riders flourishing and others continuing to prove themselves which has resulted in plenty of wins so far. 

Many of the general classification heavy weights - the likes of Remco Evenepoel, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar - are yet to enter the fray but despite their absence, the action has been memorable. 

Here are five things we learned from the opening round of WorldTour action. 

Groupama-FDJ and Willier seems to be the perfect match

Kevin Geniets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

French team Groupama-FDJ inked a new bike partnership deal with Italian brand Wilier Triestina last winter bringing an end to the team’s long standing association with home brand Lapierre

The new partnership has already got off to a superb start, with the team taking two solid wins in the space of just a few hours on opposite sides of the world. 

Kiwi rider Laurence Pithie took his first ever WorldTour win at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia and that was followed up just a few hours later by Kevin Geniets on home soil for the team. The Luxembourger triumphed in a two-up sprint with Alex Baudin (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) to win the GP La Marseillaise in southern France. 

Geniets win capped a remarkable 24 hours for Marc Madiot’s outfit. The team’s general manager will be keeping everything crossed that his riders can keep the hot streak going.

Celebrating early will always cost you

Julian Alaphilippe

Emil Herzog clearly missed Julian Alaphilippe's mistimed celebration at the 2020 Liège–Bastogne–Liège

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Celebrating early, whatever sport you’re taking part in, is rarely a good idea until you’ve seen the job through. 

Julian Alaphilippe is probably the most high profile example of that in cycling. The Frenchman, resplendent in his first world champion’s rainbow jersey, celebrated too early during the final sprint for the line at the 2020 Liège–Bastogne–Liège. 

Alaphilippe thought he had just edged out his rivals to the line, sat up to punch the air, and was then dramatically pipped to the post by Primož Roglič who stole the win from under his nose. 

Emil Herzog then suffered similar embarrassment last weekend in the Trofeo Palma race of the Challenge Mallorca. The Bora-Hansgrohe man launched what he thought was a late attack for the line and the subsequent victory, temporarily forgetting that there was still another lap of the course and roughly ten kilometres to go. 

Awkward indeed. 

Sarah Gigante is proof that you should never give up  

Sarah Gigante

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Forging a career in the top echelons of professional cycling can be brutal, just like it would be in most other sports. 

Riders can experience so many false starts or opportunities that don’t come to anything, or a minor injury or crash can suddenly see any hope of a career in the WorldTour go out of the window. A perfect example of that in the men’s peloton is James Shaw and Sarah Gigante’s story is a similar example within the women’s WorldTour. 

Widely considered the next big thing in Australian cycling, Gigante burst onto the scene in 2019, winning the elite women’s road race ahead of substantial competition including Amanda Spratt at just 19-years-old. 

After further success, a contract with Movistar soon followed. Unfortunately a series of injuries and health issues followed which, coupled with not being utilised in the best possible way by the Spanish squad, ultimately brought an end to her time on the team. 

Transferring to AG Insurance-Soudal was the answer. As we saw in Australia, that new environment and fresh opportunity to show what she could do ultimately breathed life back into the 23-year-olds promising career and that resulted in an impressive win at the Tour Down Under on Willunga Hill

Simon Carr continues to shine

Simon Carr

(Image credit: Getty Images)

EF Education-EasyPost’s Simon Carr continued to make a name for himself on hilly terrain with an impressive victory in the Trofeo Calvià. 

The British climber got the better of Aleksandr Vlasov and other solid competition to land the win in the opening race of the Challenge Mallorca. The most impressive aspect of his performance was that Carr was the first man to attack and the first man over the line to seal the sixth win of his career so far. 

Despite being out front since the very early stages of the 150 kilometre one day race, Carr still had enough gas left in the tank to outsprint Vlasov as the two riders tore into the finishing straight. 

Carr took his first GC stage race win last year, winning the Tour de Langkawi in south east Asia to wrap up a solid season. The 25-year-old also won a stage of the Tour of the Alps in the spring but missed out on riding any of the Grand Tours. 

If he continues his solid start to the campaign, Carr may well force his way into EF’s line up for one of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España in 2024. 

Stevie Williams is still one to watch

Stevie WIlliams

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Israel-Premier Tech’s Stevie Williams is a man on the up and will enter the European calendar with a spring in his step, and rightly so. 

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Williams’ career was slightly stop start in the beginning but the 27-year-old has seemingly finally found his groove at his current team. 

The Welshman’s overall win at the Tour Down Under was a superb example of perseverance and solid race craft in order to land the overall title. 

Capping it off with a stage win in the leader’s jersey was the cherry on the cake and proof that Williams is certainly more than capable of going toe to toe with riders who on paper may seem his superior. 

Williams inked a contract extension with his squad late last year and impressed at the Tour of Britain for the Great Britain Cycling team in September. His form in Australia was a good indication of what’s still to come from the man from Aberystwyth later on in the season. 

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