Kaden Hopkins savours first race win in France
Kaden Hopkins will be going into the biggest test of his career high on confidence after a superb showing in the three-stage Boucle de l’Artois race in France.
In advance of the toughest challenge of his start to life with Vendée U, when he will compete in the prestigious Circuit des Ardennes series (four stages) on the UCI Europe Tour against a host of world tour teams, Hopkins took his chance to shine last weekend.
The 23-year-old got off to a scintillating start as he claimed his first win for the French team in Saturday’s opening stage, an 83.4-kilometre ride from Frévin-Capelle to Parc d’Olhain, where he held off Killian Theot and Kevin Le Cunff in a sprint finish.
Building on that performance, the Bermudian rider finished fifth in stage two, an 80.3km ride from Fruges to Beaurainville, before wrapping up the series with a third-place finish in the 163.3km final stage from Beaurains to Bapaume.
His efforts saw him claim an outstanding second-place finish in the general classification, just three seconds adrift of winner Pierre Thierry, of the Fybolia Morbihan team.
Hopkins also finished the weekend as the top scorer with a total of 53 points, seventeen clear of nearest rival Antonin Souchon, and was runner-up in the mountain classification.
“I am really satisfied with this weekend. I felt really in control of my effort the whole weekend and was able to follow all of the big moves throughout the three stages,” said Hopkins, who hailed the vital supporting role of his Vendée team-mates in helping gain his first race win.
“We had a strong team and on every stage we had a numerical advantage in the front groups meaning we could share the workload of following moves equally. It meant that at the end of the stages I was still able to fight for results, so I owe a lot to my team-mates in every stage.
“To get my first win of the season is a great feeling both physically and mentally going into these next few weeks.”
Hopkins will now be aiming to take that form into the 48th edition of the Circuit des Ardennes, which feature 156 riders battling it out over four super sprint races with a total distance of 584.5km.
While the magnitude of the upcoming race is not lost on Hopkins, his recent success has given him a timely confidence boost ahead of the opening race on Thursday.
“I think this will definitely be my biggest test yet as the level of the race is incredibly high,“ added Hopkins, who is also preparing to represent Bermuda at the Pan American Road Cycling Championship, in Panama on April 23, which serve as a qualifying event for the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, from October 20 to November 5.
“The start list is all riders of other development teams for pro and world tour teams. So the best of the best at this level, and on very demanding terrain, but I believe if I race smart I am capable of doing well.
“The weekend was a great confidence boost to know I am hitting the necessary form at the right time to be able to perform in these events, so I am really looking forward to them.
“I know I am close to the best level I’ve had and I hope to build on this weekend for these next events.
“My major goals for the first part of this season were always the Circuit des Ardennes and then competing at the PanAm Championship at the end of the month with the Bermuda Team.”