Gallery: The Tour de la Provence returns with the Mads Pedersen show

Rouleur photojournalist James Startt made his way to the Provence region of France to capture the wet and wild conditions of the Tour de la Provence

Founded in 2016, the Tour de la Provence quickly earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful early-season races on the calendar, as it looped around picturesque French region of Provence. But only months ago, the future of the race was in doubt after the 2023 edition was cancelled due to management problems, and it was far from certain if the race would return. Thanks to a small group of investors, as well as the founding newspaper La Provence, the race was salvaged. And after a successful return, it is safe to say that the Tour de la Provence has been reborn.

This year’s edition opened with a short but picturesque time trial along the beaches of Marseille, while the following three stages finished in the picturesque towns of Martigues, Manosque and Arles.

While only five WorldTour teams were on the start line for the first year back, the Lidl-Trek team came with a powerful squad led by their star, Mads Pedersen. And they quickly took control of the race, with Pedersen winning the opening time trial and the two following stages. For Pedersen, the Tour de la Provence was his second straight stage race victory after l’Etoile de Bessèges in early February. It is safe to say that he is ready for the spring Classics.

Pedersen was the heavy favourite in the opening time trial, which rolled along the Mediterranean beaches in the heart of Marseille. He delivered, taking the stage and the overall lead of this four-day race.

Pedersen reflects on his victory. Already the winner of l’Etoile de Bessèges, he is evidently on an early season roll.

Despite the sunny opening stage in Marseille, rain greeted the riders at the start of stage two in Aix-en-Provence.

Julien Bernard set a steady tempo on stage two.

Ah, the villages of French Provence! Even when blanketed in winter rains, they have a look all of their own.

Pedersen made it two-for-two with an impressive sprint into the seaside village of Martigues.

The breakaway got off to an early start under another daunting day of freezing rain on stage three.

It is safe to say that lavender fields have a different aura to them come summer.

Recent Lidl-Trek recruit Tim 'The Tractor' Declercq drives the peloton through another cold, wet day in Provence.

The breakaway had little time to enjoy the picturesque villages of French Provence as they raced towards the finish in Manosque.

 Italy’s Marco Frigo, the last remaining rider from the breakaway, drives towards the finish line of stage three.

The Mads Pedersen show continued as the Dane made it three-for-three on stage three in Manosque.

Marco Frigo reflects on his near-miss victory after he was caught less than a kilometre from the line. Pedersen was all smiles at the start of stage four in the Tour de la Provence. And why shouldn’t he be? After all, he had just won the first three stages of the race, and the sun was shining.

Local pom-pom girls greeted the riders at the start of stage four in Rognac.

The peloton made their way through fields of vineyards in the opening kilometres of stage four.

The peloton rolls through the picturesque town of Arles mid-way through stage four. While Vincent Van Gogh was perhaps the town’s most notable resident, it remains the region's cultural capital. The breakaway went through the marshes of the French Camargue.

It’s not every day that the race leader can be seen driving the pace at the front, but Pedersen (second from left) took plenty of pulls as the pack shattered into numerous echelons along the windswept flatlands of the French Camargue.

The breakaway retains a tight formation along the isolated roads of stage four.

And no, Pedersen did not win the final stage of the Tour de la Provence, instead, Belgian sprinter Tom Van Asbroeck pipped Sam Bennett at the line in downtown Arles. Pedersen makes his final round of interviews after the finish of the Tour de Provence, which he dominated in an incontestable manner.

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