Tour de France (st. 12)
Simon Yates (MTS) wins from a 40-rider break -including Imanol Erviti- at TDF’s first Pyrenees stage; no attacks from the peloton as all GC contenders finish nearly ten minutes behind the leaders.
There was no significant battle between the race contenders at the opening Pyrenees stage of the 2019 Tour de France. Thursday’s long route, 209 kilometers towards Bagnères-de-Bigorre, did witness an intense fight for the breakaway (40 riders) in its flat opening section, before the main puertos, Peyresourde and Hourquette d’Ancizan (Cat-1), saw a leading trio detaching from the group before Simon Yates (MTS) won the subsequent sprint.
The Movistar Team sent Imanol Erviti (19th) ahead and kept its GC references tucked inside the peloton -Oliveira and Verona protecting the Blues up to the top of the Peyresourde; Amador, Soler and Valverde in the finale-, all finishing with the main contenders at 9’35” from the day’s winner. Nairo Quintana remains in 8th overall -with Valverde and Landa inside the top-20- before Friday’s crucial 27km ITT in and around Pau, set to further define the GC outcome.
Imanol Erviti: “It was one of those ‘tactical’ breakaways, when you must send someone ahead in case you need it further into the race, should any GC attacks happen. With such a big break ahead you must cover your main leaders from the lead group and send at least one to the front. Nairo crashed yesterday and we needed to keep the situation under control, see how he felt and have a chance to play our cards if there was a move for the GC. In the end, it wasn’t needed.”
Mikel Landa: “We’ve got three very demanding stages ahead, everyone is thinking about the weekend and it meant no one was willing to launch an attack. It was just about saving energy before the TT and the two big mountain routes on Saturday and Sunday. There will be some significant gaps tomorrow, and we will see who’s strong and who’s not. We’ll already be on day 13 of the TDF, and the energy you’ve got left will start to play a big factr in the result. I just hope I won’t lose too much time tomorrow!”
— Pau TT start times (Friday 19th; all CEST): Verona 14.29, Oliveira 15.02, Erviti 15.08, Amador 15.51, Soler 16.05, Landa 16.41, Valverde 16.55, Quintana 17.05
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto