Sometimes you’ve just got to pause and take a long look at the big picture. For us, that moment came some 20 kilometers into the first stage of Étoile de Bessèges in southern France, when our first rider called for assistance.

For the first time in a very long time, we could hear the sound and the speed of 150 bikes. The race radio called Israel Start-Up Nation to the front and the adrenaline in the air was palpable.

Months after the last race of 2020, after we watched numerous races derailed because of COVID, we were back again, doing what we are all passionate about. “It was a great feeling being part of the peloton,” said our Dane, Mads Würtz Schmidt. “We all shared that.”

The first 133 km of this flat stage was a sort of a waiting game in anticipation of the real race, which unfolded in the last 10 km: the battle to be in the front at the turn to the uphill finish.

Hectic? You bet. The team held its own. Guillaume Boivin and Rudy Barbier carried our GC leader Würtz Schmidt into the final corner, and newcomer Sep Vanmarcke was right there in the front.

Ultimately, Sep lost some gas in the end – “I did not have the legs to go with the sprinters” – but Mads finished 14th, just two seconds behind the winner Christoph Laporte from Cofidis. “We were there in the middle of things, and we lost no time so I will call it a success,” he said.

On the menu for tomorrow is 154 km that may end with a classic sprint. Barbier should be our man for the day.