2023 GP Marseillaise Preview

Marseille > Septèmes-les-Vallons 167.1km

The first race of the year in France, a race that’s been dominated by the French since the 2000s. Last year it ended in a reduced bunch sprint, thanks mainly to a very strong Trek-Segafredo team, but Capiot took a surprise win. Injury has denied him the chance to defend his title, will we get another sprint this year?


Nice and sunny but still quite cold. There’s not much wind about, but as usual, the final 35km is a headwind.

Key Points

Route des Crêtes is the hardest climb in the race, it’s a proper leg breaker! 3km at almost 10% and begs to be attacked. The organisers have tinkered with where to position this climb in the race in the past, but they’ve settled with it cresting with 47km, which gives the sprinters a fighting chance.

Pas d’Oullier isn’t the hardest climb in the world, but it does disrupt the chase. At the top of this one there’s 30km to go.

Col de la Gineste is the final climb of the day. It’s steepest at the base of the climb, but the nagging headwind is an issue for those wanting to attack. 10km of descending follows this down to the line in Marseille.


Arnaud De Lie is here, he’s the one they’ll all be fearing. De Lie had a sensational debut season in 2022, and he’s already taken a win in 2023, he won the GP Valencia last Sunday. He’s a hugely impressive young man, he sprints very fast, but it’s his climbing which has impressed me the most, he reminds me of a young Peter Sagan. Saying that, this race will push him to his limits. 

2800m of climbing is a lot, but the position of Route des Crêtes means the fast men can win this race, especially with the headwind which follows soon after the climb. They need to stick to their numbers on the climb, they’ll lose time to the climbers, but that’s okay. Once over the climb, the chase begins, it’s a classic tale of cat and mouse. You need teammates with you to chase, I can see a situation where Lotto leave a lot of riders with De Lie, he’s their only hope of winning this race.

Up front, the composition of the group is vital. It needs to have a good mix of teams with leaders and domestiques, which doesn’t always happen. With the chase coming from behind, there’s no time to play any games. If you are in the front group after Route des Crêtes, you need to work hard to hold off the chasing bunch. Looking at the teams, Lotto, FDJ, Arkéa and Alpecin will be happy with a sprint, everyone else will want the attackers to have their day. If some of these teams get riders in the front group, they can act as an anchor until their sprinter gets back in, it really is a hard race for the attackers to take the win.

If we do get a sprint, the finishing straight is into a block headwind. Patience is key in this sprint, you have to wait until as late as possible to launch.


Arnaud De Lie – winning this race would be a big moment in his career, it would signal that he’s already progressing into a rider who can win stages with 3000m of climbing in them. He’ll get dropped on Route des Crêtes, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s what happens next which will determine if he wins or not. Will Lotto have enough riders left to drag the peloton back to the front group? That is up for debate.

Jake Stewart – last season started terribly for him, but as the year progressed it was great to see him grow stronger. Jake is a massive talent, his sprint after a tough day is hard to beat. As he gets older, he should continue to improve as a climber, which will open up more opportunities for him. Going into this race, FDJ will hope to have several riders in the front group to support him, it’s essential that Sam Watson also makes the cut. In the closing kilometres, a good lead out can be the difference between winning and losing, Stewart and Watson have an excellent understanding and Watson could be the key to Stewart winning.

Axel Laurance – one of my riders to watch in 2023. He’s officially signed for the Alpecin devo team, but he’ll be racing with the pro team, it was just a paper exercise to ensure they had space to sign him. Axel burst onto the scene in 2022, finishing 2nd to Van Aert in Plouay. He’s got a fast sprint and climbs well, perfect for a race like this.

Luca Mozzato – it’s his first race for Arkéa and thanks to the injury of Capiot he has a chance of going for the win. He ended 2022 with a series of top 10 results but he’s yet to take a win as a pro. This is a good chance for the Italian to get that first win.

Marijn van den Berg – confidence will be sky high after winning his first pro race on Thursday, he’ll be bouncing into France. He provides EF with a good sprint option, but they also have attackers.

Benoît Cosnefroy – the first of the puncheurs to consider. He won here back in 2020, but that year the Route des Crêtes was under 30km from the finish. Last year was a good one for him, he’s now back at his best after struggles with form and injury. If he’s going to win this race the front group needs to be small, we’ll have to see if AG2R can make that happen.

Nelson Powless – the classy American should like this race. He’ll be one of many wanting to push the pace on the climbs in the hope of slimming down the front group. He packs a good sprint from a small group.

Benjamin Thomas – last year was his best on a bike. He’s been a talented track rider for many years, but he managed to transfer that to the road in 2022. I expect more of the same in 2023, and he’s the type of rider who could win solo with a long-range attack.

Dylan Teuns – his chances all depend on how hard the race is. He should be one of the best on the climbs, but it’s not exactly the perfect race for him.

Pierre Latour – he’ll attack, that’s for sure, but he’s unlikely to win.

Sandy Dujardin – he’s one I’ve been keeping my eye on. He’s got a fast sprint on him but he’s more than just a sprinter. This is the type of race he could win if everything clicks.

Prediction Time

As my original pick of Jake Stewart didn’t start this morning, I’ll allow myself another go.

Embed from Getty Images

With one less team wanting a sprint, I’ll take a win for Benjamin Thomas.