The Belgian team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl keeps the blue-white-red jersey in its possession. A year after Rémi Cavagna, Florian Sénéchal succeeded his teammate by offering himself, Sunday June 26, in Cholet, his first title of champion of France. The 28-year-old Northerner edged out Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) and Axel Zingle (Cofidis) in a five-man sprint, claiming the fifth professional win of his career.

“We exchange the jersey with Rémi [Cavagna], smiled the winner of the day after the finish. It’s an emotion… I’m not going back down, I’ll understand when I put the jersey back on. It’s been a pretty tough year, the wheel is finally turning. It’s nice for all the sacrifices I make away from my family. It feels good. »

After a long embrace with his partner, “Senech” (his nickname) let out a few tears on the podium with the tricolor jersey on his shoulders and while La Marseillaise resounded.

In a 240 kilometer course (12 laps of a 20 kilometer circuit) traced around Cholet (Maine-et-Loire) and logically cut for a sprinter, Florian Sénéchal has created a little surprise. All eyes were indeed on Arnaud Démare, who was aiming for a fourth national title which would have allowed him to equal Jean Stablinski’s record. Already winner of four stages this season, including three during the Tour of Italy, the sprinter from the Groupama-FDJ formation was trapped (6th).

Apart from perhaps Bryan Coquard (16th, Cofidis) or Jason Tesson (18th, Saint-Michel-Auber 93), two exercise specialists, no one wanted to arrive at the massive sprint to offer victory on a plateau to Arnaud Démare. “We thought it would be Arnaud in the sprint, but I saw he wasn’t that strong on the climb, so I said to myself, ‘I don’t have to wait for the sprint, I have to attack and, in small committee on arrival, there is a possibility”, explained Florian Sénéchal.

An impressive work of the ghost Alaphilippe

Despite their numerical inferiority – since there were only three on the starting line – the riders of the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team went on the offensive. In the Côte de la Séguinière, 11 kilometers from the finish, Florian Sénéchal took off with Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis), taking advantage of the colossal work of his teammate and world champion Julian Alaphilippe.

Back in competition for the first time since his very violent fall during Liège-Bastogne-Liège (a pneumothorax, a scapula and two fractured ribs), on April 24, the latter was reassured about his form while his participation in the Tour de France is still pending. “It went well, he seemed happy with himself, satisfied,” his coach and cousin, Franck Alaphilippe, told Eurosport. He eventually finished 13th in the race.

Florian Sénéchal and Benjamin Thomas then thought of competing for victory in a duel, before being joined, 1.5 kilometers from the finish, by Anthony Turgis, Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) and Axel Zingle. The latter, French amateur champion last season, had the perfect opportunity to repeat the feat, from his first participation in Elite, with the help of his teammate Benjamin Thomas. But the venture failed, and Florian Sénéchal was the strongest in this final sprint.

Like Julian Alaphilippe, the presence of the new French champion on the roads of the Grande Boucle is far from certain. “Unfortunately, I can’t answer, regretted the latter before getting on the podium. It’s up to my team to make the official announcement. “He is, in any case, reconciled with France, he who had never raised his arms there as a winner.