Jelle Wallays and sports director Willems about the 4 Jours de Dunkerque
First race for Jelle Wallays after a long period of rehabilitation.
For the second time in his career, Jelle Wallays won the pro version of Paris-Tours. Contrary to his first victory five years ago, he now finished off an impressive solo effort of around fifty kilometres and still had plenty of time to celebrate on the Avenue de Grammont!
Early in the race, the peloton split in several parts and a sizeable front group formed, which included Lotto Soudal riders Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Jelle Wallays. On the first of nine gravel sections, at around 50 kilometres from the line, Wallays accelerated and tried to bridge to the sole leader and defending champion Søren Kragh Andersen, but the unfortunate Dane punctured and that way, Wallays found himself alone at the front. Despite Groupama-FDJ leading the chase, the Lotto Soudal rider extended his advantage to a minute and a half.
At thirty kilometres from the finish, the chasing group fell apart, but Nikolas Maes acted as the perfect teammate and shut down various counterattacks. A mightily strong Wallays did not look back and powered to Tours, where he had plenty of time to enjoy his second victory at the French autumn Classic! Niki Terpstra and Oliver Naesen joined Wallays on the podium, Nikolas Maes finished eleventh.
Jelle Wallays: “There is no better way to finish the season. I felt really good the past couple of weeks and I was especially focusing on Paris-Tours, because this race suits me perfectly. Winning in such a way is the icing on the cake. The tough first part of the race certainly played into my hands, and I could take advantage of that later in the race. I could ride along in the first echelon quite comfortably and then, I already felt that my legs were good.”
“To be honest, I attacked in order to make a first selection but suddenly, I was riding alone at the front. I thought that a small group would still join me but that didn’t happen. When Andersen punctured, I was completely on my own. On such a course, it is hard to control the race and I realized it would be a battle, man to man.”
“On several parts, there was a lot of headwind, but I did a very thorough recon of the course and I counted on my own strength, which eventually proved to be successful. At around four kilometres from the line, when I still had 40 seconds advantage, I was sure of winning. Today was my third victory at Paris-Tours, two at the pros and one as an U23 rider. To be called ‘Mister Paris-Tours’ makes me really proud. I even heard words like ‘King Paris-Tours’, that is of course a really special feeling.”