Juliette Labous clinches French national road race title in dramatic finish

Juliette Labous secured her first elite women’s road race national title in an exciting showdown at Saint-Martin-de-Landelles. Labous, riding for Team dsm-firmenich PostNL, overcame strong competition from FDJ Suez riders Gladys Verhulst-Wild and Jade Wiel in the 125.8-kilometre race.

The race began with a long solo breakaway by 19-year-old Marion Bunel of St Michel-Mavic-Auber93, who held off the peloton for several kilometres before a small group managed to bridge the gap. However, the group’s lack of cooperation led to a general regrouping with just over 30 kilometres remaining. Shortly after, Jade Wiel launched a solo attack, gaining nearly a minute on the reduced peloton.

Cofidis took control of the chase, gradually reducing Wiel’s lead as they approached a steep climb with ten kilometres to go. Cédrine Kerbaol further diminished the gap with a strong effort, making it possible for Labous and Verhulst-Wild to bridge up to Wiel.

On the Côte des Biards, six kilometres from the finish, Labous made a decisive move, dropping Wiel. Verhulst-Wild managed to stay with Labous but did not take turns, allowing Wiel to almost rejoin the leaders. However, Labous maintained a high tempo, setting up a two-rider sprint finish. Despite Verhulst-Wild initially appearing to have the upper hand, Labous surged past her rival to claim victory.

Reflecting on her win, Labous said, “Today was the perfect race for me, I would say. In the first part, I didn’t feel so good, but I knew from my trainer that this could happen since I was not fully recovered from Suisse yet, but that I would feel better at the end, which was the case. I think Eglantine and I raced really well tactically, and she went all in to chase down a dangerous move. It came back together, and then it was all up to me. In the end, I bridged to Jade Wiel together with Gladys Verhulst-Wild. This was not an easy situation to handle, but I just kept believing until the end because I knew I could do it and went all out to the finish line. This title means a lot as I am not winning a lot of races, but I am really proud to wear this national jersey when racing with the team in the next races.”

Wiel held on to finish third, 14 seconds behind, with Évita Muzic leading the chase group across the line in fourth, 36 seconds back. Last year’s champion Victoire Berteau finished eighth. The course, featuring a six-lap circuit around Saint-Martin-de-Landelles, saw Labous’s strategic timing and resilience rewarded with the national title.

2024 French National Road Race Championship Women result

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Main photo credit: Loic Venance | Getty Images