Gallery: Early season battles at French boucles Drôme-Ardèche

Americans Brandon McNulty and Sepp Kuss show strength in February French races.

There was a time when the early season started in France. Before professional cycling kicked off the season in far parts of the world like Australia, Argentina, and the Middle East, races like L’Etoile des Besseges and the Tour Med served as season-openers. And while Besseges still very much still exists, a new generation of races are also making their mark, races like the Tour de la Provence or this weekend’s Boucles Drôme-Ardèche, two modest French races that have blossomed in recent years.

Also read: Brandon McNulty, Sepp Kuss storm Americans into spotlight at Ardèche Classic

This was never more the case than in the Les Boucles which hosted powerhouse teams like Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates, Trek Segafredo, and Bora-Hansgrohe. Three-time Vuelta a España champ Primož Roglič was on hand as was two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe with his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.

It was Americans Sepp Kuss and Brandon McNulty who lit up the racing in the 2022 editions, on the rugged slopes of the Rhone River Valley in the Faun Ardèche Classic. Known for its terraced wine vineyards on the hills over the village of Cornasm, the stage was once again set for a spectacular finish. Kuss was the first to go on the attack but it was McNulty who launched the winning move over 20 kilometers from the finish. Using his time trialing skills he powered away from the pack, perfectly pacing himself over the final climbs for a spectacular solo victory.

Also read: Six things we learned from the first classics races

And on Sunday it was Roglič’s teammate Jonas Vingegaard who powered to victory in the Faun Ardèche Classic. The surprise runner-up in last year’s Tour de France, Vingegaard bolted away with Spaniard Juan Ayuso on the longest climb of the day the Côte des Roberts, over 30 kilometers from the finish. And despite a spirited chase by the French trio of Alaphilippe, Guillaume Martin, and Benoit Cosnefroy, Vengegaard used his time trialing skills to hold on for an impressive victory for his Jumbo-Visma team.