Powless Wins Etoile de Besseges
The fifth and final stage of Étoile de Bessèges 2023 was a 10.7-kilometer individual time trial from Alès to Alès.
Saturday’s mountainous stage 4 had been won by Trek-Segafredo’s Mattias Skjelmose in a fierce sprint against Nelson Powless (EF Education First-EasyPost) across the finish line – a result that left Skjelmose with a narrow four second lead over Powless in the general classification, followed by Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) in third position, 22 seconds behind Skjelmose. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos-Grenadiers) was fourth in the general classification, though with little hope of advancing due to a one-minute drawback.
Today’s stage 5 time trial was won by Denmark’s Mads Pedersen, teammate of Skjelmose and winner of the points classification in last year’s Vuelta a Espana. Pedersen powered to victory in 00:15:25 and produced an average speed of 41.49 km/h. Ineos-Grenadiers’ Joshua Tarling finished second, 8 seconds behind Pedersen and teammate Ben Tulett took third a further two seconds back.
Latour delivered the strongest performance of the general classification challengers by finishing fifth, 15 seconds slower than Pedersen. Powless finished 8th, 21 seconds behind the time trial winner and - more importantly - five seconds faster than race leader Skjelmose. The strong performance was sufficient for Powless to move past Skjelmose in the general classification and take the overall race victory.
Stage winner Pedersen was thrilled to start his 2023 season on a high note following his impeccable performance in last year’s Vuelta, which concluded his best-ever season.
“I knew from last year that I could deliver a good result on this course, so it is nice to win a time trial,” Pedersen told Roadcycling.com.
“It’s been some years since I’ve won a time trial and I felt fast out there on the route. Normally, I’m not a fan of racing time trials, but it was nice to have this feeling today, so perhaps I should spend more time in the time trial bike from now on. Also, because we are starting to focus on the Paris-Nice 2023 and there’s a team time trial in which we have to perform really well for Mattias (Skjelmose).”
Experienced time trial rider Powless started the final time trial fully focused, but irritated due to a tactical error he committed in stage four that caused Skjelmose to take the stage victory. “I was really torn up that I slipped up on my tactics at the very end yesterday,” Powless explained. “I knew I had to be first into the final corner, but Skjelmose knew the same thing and went earlier than I anticipated, so he got the better of me at the very end, but I felt like I still had a lot left to give, so I really wanted to make up for that today.”
Powless said he owned his race victory to his teammates and staff members who had supported him during the five-stage race and shown great loyalty. “You need an impeccable team, good stage tactics, a good race strategy, and a good doctor to win a race dominated by cross winds, punchy finishes and a need for perfect position in the peloton. Across the board, the staff, my EF Education-EasyPost teammates, the director, everybody was just one hundred percent committed to winning this race overall.”
“We were not allowed to lose our focus for even one second because the wind was blowing each day. The crosswinds were tearing the race apart every day. To deliver such a performance over five days is such a testament to how strong our team is and how committed we are.”
It was the second victory for Powless this year. Powless also won the 2023 Grand Prix La Marseillaise.