“Coquard beats Cavendish in Tour de France sprint.”
That’s a headline the young French sprinter would love to read — it would be the biggest victory of his career — but instead of France, he’ll have to settle for a different continent and another county.
Substitute the Tour of Oman for the Tour of France.
Coquard, the star signing of the new French Pro Continental Squad Vital Concept, won stage one in Oman, going faster than Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) at Sultan Qaboos University. Don’t want to lose at Qaboos!
Coming over from Direct Energie, Coquard had hoped to get an invite to his home grand tour after missing it last year when his team manager Jean- René Bernaudeau got pissy about Coquard’s plans to leave. Bernaudeau then decided to scratch his best sprinter off the Tour roster no matter what damage it did to their win probability.
Sadly, for Coquard, his new team missed out on one of the Tour wildcard invites for the 2018 edition. This threw him into classic athlete revenge mode as he promised to show Le Tour they’d made a mistake concerning his young outfit.
He had his first real chance on home soil in the Etoile de Bessèges but botched his sprint and let Pierre Laporte of Cofidis come around him for victory. However, in Oman, he had his train rolling and on the front as they swung right with about a kilometer to go.
He launched right up through the middle, beating Cavendish on the left and Nizzolo on his right. The British star admitted he had to come from too far back and the Italian claimed he’d mis-timed his effort.
Coquard made neither mistake and you only had to witness the reaction on his face and the way he punched the air to know how badly he needed this win and how happy he was to nail it.
“I’m very happy to win in Oman, because it’s my first big race of the season,” Coquard said. “It’s a new team, a new project and my first win – the second win of the team for the season. It’s very good, I’m very happy.”
It may be smack dab in the desert but a win is a win and UCI points. “There are a lot of good sprinters here and I’m very happy to win in front of these big names in sprinting,” said the Frenchman.
Coquard’s big season goal is the Amstel Gold race where he placed fourth in 2016. The Netherlands isn’t the Tour de France but then again it’s far more prestigious than Oman.