Jay McCarthy kicks hard on savage uphill sprint to take 5th on stage 14 of the Tour de France.
A glance at the parcours for today’s stage could fool riders into thinking it was going to be an easy day. While the profile was much flatter than the previous two mountainous days, there was a sting in the tail today, with a steep final kilometre ready and waiting to tear the bunch to pieces. Staying under the radar for much of the stage and picking the right time to start his kick, BORA-hansgrohe’s Jay McCarthy made his way through the field to take fifth.
Bright sunshine welcomed the riders to the start line for today’s 181.5km stage. This was to be the theme for the whole day – both in terms of the weather and the riders’ spirits – relieved to be riding a flatter parcours after two hard mountain stages. There were just two climbs today – and with both of these being third category, it was unlikely that these would trouble riders, with just tired legs being the only challenge at this stage of the race. The road climbed gently from the start, taking in the climbs of the day, before a short descent to the finish in Rodez – a gentle kick up to the line meaning it would be hard to know for certain just who would be in a position to take the win today.
The prospect of a relatively flat day today meant everyone wanted to be in the break. A group of four could barely wait for the Race Director to get the race started, but once they got the go ahead, they were off up the road, quickly building their advantage, before being joined by another, who bridged over to make a group of five off the front. Their advantage never really broke three minutes, but there were some strong riders in this escape group always ready to work to put some more distance between them and the peloton. However, in spite of holding the peloton at bay most of the day, with 50km remaining, the break starting dropping members, leaving only one at the head of the race, who strode out on his own when he saw the break dropping riders and losing time.
As the kilometres ticked down, it was clear that the solo breakaway rider wasn’t going to be able to hold the chasing bunch at bay – the seconds falling rapidly until looking back, it was clear that the catch was seconds away. The race was all back together at 12km, but it remained to be seen who could take the win – the sprinters falling off the back meant it wasn’t going to be a true bunch sprint. In the final 10km the attacks came, as the all-rounders started to test the bunch and see who had the legs to go with them. The final kick to the finish was relentless and savage, climbing for almost the whole final kilometre. This is where BORA-hansgrohe’s Jay McCarthy came to life, having stayed safe in the bunch, conserving his energy. Pushing hard past other riders who had started too early, Jay started from 600m out - picking his line and steadily climbing up positions on his push to the line. The Australian rider came over the summit in fifth spot, and held that position to the line.
Biding his time and saving his energy in the bunch, Jay had checked the profile and knew where to make his move. "I knew I had just one bullet in today's stage and that was the final, uphill 600m. I had to stay calm during the day and avoid any unnecessary moves that would make me spend energy and jeopardise our goal. The team did a brilliant job in protecting me and setting me up for the finish. Ideally, I could have been a bit closer to the front but I think I was well positioned in the final corner, as I was able to keep my momentum and pass many riders that were struggling in the tough climb. I'm happy with my performance today and the fifth place I got."
Seeing how well the team was working together, Team Coach, Patxi Vila, was proud of BORA-hansgrohe’s performance. "It is really nice to see that we work every day like a real team - BORA-hansgrohe has a strong-knit group of dedicated riders. After the setbacks we suffered, we don't have an overall leader but, every morning, we designate a leader and a goal for the stage and the squad sacrifices itself to reach it. Today again, all of them did a great job and this showed in the result. As we said before, the morale is high and we will keep giving our best all the way to Paris."
The character of tomorrow’s stage is very different, with undulating terrain ready to put more climbing into the riders’ legs before their second – and last – rest day. There are four categorised climbs – two at the start and two at the end – but this isn’t the only climbing the peloton will be doing. There’s barely a flat spot over this 189.5km stage, with the road either rising or falling. A downhill run to the finish means this is another stage where anyone can take the win provided they make it through the day.