He is not yet the Breton Wout van Aert, but Valentin Madouas has been one of the most consistent and versatile players of the 2022 season. He showed that he could mix it up on the cobblestones of Flanders and Roubaix, the steep hills of the Ardennes and the high mountains of the Tour de France.
The Groupama-FDJ rider played a key supporting role for David Gaudu on the way to finishing 10th overall and nearly winning a stage. It was a breakout year for the versatile 26-year-old.
“I’ve had real results at WorldTour level, with great leaders and champions fighting for the best races. I feel like they’re looking at me, they see me as a favourite,” he said. The telegram. “My status has changed and it’s a marked milestone.”
After challenging in other cobbled Belgian WorldTour races, he was the revelation of the Tour of Flanders, finishing third. After being distanced by favorites Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar in Paterberg, Madouas and Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) came back to them as the sprint started.
“I briefly thought about [winning]”, he recalled about the frantic ending. “You see the helicopter above and you go 20 kilometers per hour faster. I got up front but my legs quickly reminded me I wasn’t fresh, I was totally dead and that was it.”
It was only France’s second podium finish this century at the Ronde van Vlaanderen after Sylvain Chavanel finished runner-up in 2011.
Madouas had targeted the race since the beginning of the season. When asked to choose between victory in the Tour of Flanders and a stage victory in the Tour de France, his affection for the great race in Belgium was clear. “For cycling insiders, winning the Tour of Flanders is a step forward,” he said.
Madouas came close to both goals this year. In the Tour de France, he finished second after a breakaway on stage 16, when Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) escaped to victory in Foix.
However, Madouas showed his durability throughout the race as the right-hand man for David Gaudu who finished fourth. Madouas reserved the most valuable help from him for the final mountain stage at Peyragudes, pacing Gaudu on the final two climbs to help him overtake challenger Nairo Quintana.
The collective performance of Groupama-FDJ will stay with Madouas. Finishing tenth overall as a Gaudu worker, did you feel capable of more?
“Yes and no. Personally, I felt able to do well. I felt like I progressed in quite a few areas. The experience did me a lot of good, we did a lot of specific preparation at height, which I lacked before.” …but it’s consistency. I was there every day and maybe it was a surprise to do that at this level.”
Meanwhile, Nairo Quintana’s disqualification due to positive tests for tramadol was confirmed by TAS in early November, meaning Madouas belatedly moved up to 10th place overall.
What changes performance for your career? “It’s a release. Now I really believe I’m capable of doing that. I’ve done it, so that’s a milestone.”
“I prepared well for the race, but I didn’t do everything I could,” he added. “There are a lot of little things that can be improved in the next few years.”
Having been close to the top step of the podium throughout 2022, Madouas made a dramatic breakthrough in September. In fifteen days he won the Tour du Doubs and a stage and the general of the Skoda Tour Luxembourg.
Madouas can reasonably expect to share the Groupama-FDJ lead with Stefan Küng in next year’s Spring Classics. Beyond the 2023 season, the team is likely to face offers from other teams for its off-roader.
Arkéa-Samsic’s CEO, Emmanuel Hubert, has no longer hidden his interest in Madouas, saying The telegram last month: “If I get the chance to sign him, I won’t deprive myself.”
“I know him very well. A Breton team wants Breton riders,” Madouas said, indicating that he has a contract option for a second year with Groupama-FDJ in 2024. “There are many parameters to consider. Decisions will be made when they are made and I will be very clear with everyone [involved].”