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Lenny Martinez Continues Spring Success by Winning Trofeo Laigueglia

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

This has been an excellent spring for the new generation of young riders, those 22 years of age and younger. The 20-year-old Mexican Isaac del Toro (UAE Team Emirates) has impressed with his bold riding and ability, as he finished third in the Down Under Classic, third in the Santos Down Under and an impressive fourth in the Volta ao Algarve time trial behind the likes of Remco Evenepoel and Magnus Sheffield and ahead of Filippo Ganna.

Great spring for young riders and Martinez

The 19-year-old French Soudal–Quick-Step rider Paul Magnier won a stage in the Tour of Oman and finished third in the points classification. In the same race, 22-year-old Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates) won the points classification and finished third in the GC. And last Sunday, 22-year-old Lennart Van Eetvelt (Lotto Dstny) came from ninth place in the GC standings to win the UAE Tour with a thrilling display of climbing in the final 1800m of the last stage of the race, snatching victory out of the jaws of Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) by 2 seconds.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that another young rider, 20-year-old Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ), won Wednesday’s one-day Trofeo Laigueglia ahead of such riders as Juan Ayuso, Marc Hirschi (both UAE Team Emirates) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost). But this was less of a surprise because the young Frenchman had already attracted notice in the 2022 Giro Ciclistico d’Italia, or “Baby Giro,” when he won the King of the Mountain jersey, and again last year, when he briefly held the race leader’s red jersey in the Vuelta a España.

He won Laigueglia by riding away from a five-rider breakaway near the top of the penultimate climb, the Colla Micheri (2km at 8.2%), with 9.3km to go in the 202km race. He increased his lead on the descent with some daring riding and then held off another young rider, 19-year-old Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates), who closed to within 100m of the Frenchman on the flats. But Martinez powered away on the race’s final climb, the Capo Mele (2km @3.4km), as Christen and the other pursuers had to content themselves with fighting for the lesser podium finishes. Andrea Vendrame (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale won the sprint for second, finishing 29 seconds behind Martinez and just a whisker ahead of the hard-charging Ayuso, who made up a lot of ground in the last 500m.

“When it became clear that that group would not come back, I gave it everything in the last round,” a delighted Martinez told journalists after the race. “I was just able to make the difference against Christen, after which I took 10 seconds in the descent. Luckily I kept that up on the Capo Mele. It was very difficult, but I made it and took the victory for my team.”

Martinez has now finished in the top 2 of the GC classification in each of the three races he has competed in this year. He started off his season by winning the Classic Var, ahead of Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), Michael Woods (Israel–Premier Tech) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ). He followed that up by finishing second in the O Gran Camiño behind Jonas Vingegaard (Visma – Lease a Bike).  If Martinez stays healthy and focused, 2024 could be a watershed season in his career.

First pro victory for Rex as favorite de Lie crashes and fumes

In other midweek-racing news, the 24-year-old Belgian rider Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty) chalked up the first professional win of his career by just holding off 20-year-old Antonio Morgado (UAE Team Emirates) in the bunch sprint finish to Tuesday’s Le Samyn. Jenthe Biermans  (Arkéa–B&B Hotels).

Despite its bumpy course, 204.3km from the Belgian town of Quaregnon to Dour, the 56th running of the race was always going come down to a sprint finish. Rex looked strongest as the riders surged towards the finish line, but he celebrated prematurely and nearly gave the race away. It took team organizers nearly 10 minutes to analyze the finish photo and give him the good news that he had scored his maiden win.

Race favorite Arnaud de Lie (Lotto-Dstny) crashed in a curve with about 30km to go while trying to catch up to the peloton following a mechanical problem. He tried to carry on, but dismounted and entered a team bus when he realized his task was hopeless. In a report by Het Nieuwsblad, the 21-year-old de Lie blamed a race organizers’ car for the crash. “Okay, I arrived quickly,” he said. “But if the car keeps the same speed as me, I can approach the corner better and I won’t fall. It’s not me who makes the mistake, it’s the car. I don’t know why he’s braking. But because of him I may now have one less victory. So thank you!”