Her smile says it all and would almost make you forget an afternoon of battling under a blazing sun. At the finish in the Velodrome of Roubaix, Victoire Berteau didn't hide her satisfaction and for good reason: she finishes 17th of the race and best French rider. "Finishing 17th in my first Paris-Roubaix at home, in front of my family and my girlfriend, I'm really happy", she said.
At the end of the desire
However, nothing was easy throughout the 124.7 km, including 29.2 km of cobbled sectors between Denain and Roubaix. The Cofidis team, which started the competition this year and was therefore taking part for the first time, learned this the hard way. Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin was surprised on the cobblestones, Valentine Fortin, who has been weak for the last two days, didn't have enough energy to follow the lead.
On their side, Victoire Berteau, Alana Castrique, Martina Alzini and Cedrine Kerbaol were able to resist to the many traps of this tricky course. Victoire and Alana managed to hold on until the end, finishing with a group of about ten runners. They crossed the line in 17th and 20th place respectively, with Victoire taking the symbolic title of best French runner.
An invitation well honoured!
Victoire and Alana thus signed the best performance in a World Tour race of the young Cofidis women's team that started this season. This was a great opportunity as our team was invited to this Paris-Roubaix and was keen to showcase itself. This result is a tribute to the hard work done by the riders and the staff for several months in order to get stronger and compete with the best in the world. It is a great source of enthusiasm for the rest of the season and a strong desire to repeat this type of performance.
Victoire BERTEAU (17th and 1st French): "I was very happy when I crossed the line. With Alana, we had a great race. The encouragement of Arthur (Quilliec) and Gael (Le Bellec) pushed us to get out of our comfort zone and give it our all until the end. As long as we haven't done Roubaix, we can't judge. On the cobbles, you suffer all the time, you hurt everywhere and you have to hang on. It's a real pleasure to finish first in the French race but it's symbolic. On the other hand, I remember my 17th place because it means that we can compete with the best female riders in the world. And I had set myself the 'top 20' as a personal objective and there are two of us in this situation with Alana. We can only be happy about that !"
Gael LE BELLEC, sport director: "At the start, we knew that the breakaway would be caught. It was difficult quite quickly for Gabrielle (Pilote-Fortin) on the cobbles and then for Valentine (Fortin), who was unwell and obviously lacked energy. There were still four cobblestone specialists (Alzini, Berteau, Castrique, Kerbaol) and then it was all down to the pedal. Victoire and Alana were in the right group and then it was a race of elimination. As a track rider, Victoire knows how to manoeuvre in such a scenario. This was her first major objective and she was totally present. It's a very good result with Alana (20th), our best places in a World Tour race this year. We have a young team that has a lot to learn and this kind of result can only encourage us to continue our efforts. For the riders and the staff, it is a real reward for our work over the last few months. And it gives us confidence for the future !"