Rapha Condor JLT’s Graham Briggs became the first ever British winner of the Tour du Loire et Cher, after he successfully defended the lead he took on the third stage all the way to the finish on Sunday.
The highly regarded five-day French stage race has been running since 1960, and boasts a extremely competitive international field. Briggs’ victory here is significant one for the 30 year-old, as well as his Rapha Condor JLT team.
Briggs had shown excellent form since the start of the season and, following the team’s recent successes in the Tour of Normandy and in South Africa, was highly motivated going in to the race.
“I knew that I was going well, and I’ve been close to taking some big wins already this season. I came here not expecting to win the overall but I wanting to make sure that I got the most out of my form. Winning a stage was great, but I am over the moon to take the overall of a race like this.”
Briggs seized the initiative on the third day; attacking early on the 208km stage and going on to take an excellent win ahead of two remaining breakaway companions.
“I was thinking about the stage win to start with, but when I was away with the two others in the last 15km I started thinking about taking the yellow. One of the riders I was with was fourteen minutes down so I knew I only had one rider to worry about. I knew that I was the strongest of the three of us, and I ended up taking the stage and yellow too.”
Despite taking yellow with two days to go, victory was far from assured for Rapha Condor JLT, as crashes on the first two stages had forced both Ed Laverack and Will Stephenson to retire, meaning the Briggs was down to just three team mates to help defend the jersey.
“Stage four was really hard with only three guys to ride. But we’ve shown we’re all going really well at the moment, and they dug really deep for me. I can’t thank the whole team enough for all the work that they put in for me this week.”
Briggs’ overall win at the French race adds to the brilliant start to the season for Rapha Condor JLT, who have already taken stage wins in the Tour of Normandy and the Mzansi Tour in South Africa, so far this year.