Fireworks on Bastille Day as BORA-hansgrohe fight hard on full-on Tour de France mountain stage.
As the race for the Maillot Jaune saw a change in the wearer of the jersey yesterday, a short stage today meant it was going to be racing from the drop of the flag, with the GC contest really coming to life. With a Frenchman taking the win on Bastille Day, Emanuel Buchmann was the first BORA-hansgrohe rider to finish, taking 20th position after catching many of the GC riders at the top of the day’s final climb.
Short, sharp but far from sweet. Today’s 101km parcours was the Tour’s shortest road stage, but this meant that the day was likely to be particularly hard. There were plenty of opportunities to take some time in the GC race, as well as three first category climbs on which the Maillot à Pois contest would come to life. The racing would be on from the drop of the flag, and with a relatively short distance over which to make an impact, would be full gas from start to finish – the long, fast downhill to the finish making it possible that it wouldn’t be a pure climber on the podium today, in spite of the difficulty of the climbs.
A change in the top of the GC on yesterday’s stage meant today was a day to keep an eye on the breaks and the attacks, with riders starting to put their cards on the table as the race prepared to enter the final week. A flurry of attacks in the early kilometres proved this, with the peloton wanting to be sure any rider who escaped wasn’t likely to have any impact on the overall standings. Counter attacks followed the attacks, with BORA-hansgrohe’s Marcus Burghardt and Pawel Poljanski in the chasing group. While the chasing group shed members on the first climb, the stage was unusual in that the break didn’t last the day. With only 30km raced, a small group of GC riders made their attempt to bridge, and having succeeded, went on to distance them ahead of the second climb.
Never breaking the two-minute mark, the escapees pushed on hard. On the final climb – the Mur de Péguère – there were ramps ripe for attacking for the chasing GC riders, and towards the top, ‘the wall’ lived up to its name, with slopes of up to 18%. The climb out of the way, there was no time to relax on the descent, with 27km of downhill riding to the finish line. A small group of chasers bridged to the lead duo, and with the Yellow Jersey group almost two minutes further back, there would be a huge chunk of time taken from the Maillot Jaune, as the day ended with 2:07 separating the top eight riders, and a Frenchman taking the win on Bastille Day.
Finishing the day in twentieth position, Emanuel Buchmann was the first BORA-hansgrohe rider home, just over four minutes after the stage winner. “Today we had a really fast Tour de France stage – it was full-on all day and we were on the limit for three hours. I didn’t have a very good start but as the day progressed I felt better. I was able to stay with the GC leaders and I tried to go in a group on the first climb but I couldn’t follow the attacks of first Contador and then Quintana. I stayed with the GC group until the final climb where I decided not to follow their acceleration and instead ride at my own pace. I think this played out well because near the top of the climb I managed to go a bit faster and catch some of the GC group who had been dropped. Overall, I feel my form building, and I will try hard in the next mountain stages.”
Head Sports Director, Enrico Poitschke, “We really wanted to join the breakaway group today, and Marcus Burghardt and Pawel Poljanski gave their best to make it. We were sure the big guns would stage a big attack and this is what took place. As a result, we decided to help Emu stay with the GC leaders as much as he could. I think he did better today than in the previous mountain stages and he was in a better position. We will try again to go in the breakaway when a big group is formed and aim at stage wins in the mountains.”
Tomorrow’s 181.5km stage rises gently from the start. The two third category climbs won’t trouble the peloton, but the whole day is more like one long ascent before a small downhill into Rodez for the finale. There’s a slight kick to the finish on a day that might suit the all-rounders, but at this stage of the race, anyone could take the win on a parcours like this.