Tour de France (st. 19)
Movistar Team’s two big names finish unscathed in Champagnole, tackle TT showdown towards La Planche des Belles Filles with Enric just behind top-5, ‘Bala’ looking forward to retain his top-10.
/ Today’s route
It’s the third-to-last stage in this year’s Tour -166km, apparently flat, from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole, yet with 2,000 meters of elevation gain– and a day open, in principle, to two different scenarios. The most likely: a big breakaway allowed an equally significant margin. The least expected: another sprint finish, two days before the Champs-Élysées. The race contenders were expected to enjoy a calm day before Saturday’s showdown.
/ Weather report
It seems like the Tour will enjoy every bit of summer available in September, until its very end. Another sunny stage, with high temperatures -around 30ºC- and mild southerly winds from start to finish.
/ Keys to the race
- The creation of the early break was the strangest you could find. The first attempt, a solo move, was provided by Rémi Cavagna (QST). After him went another five riders: Van Baarle (IGD), Walscheid (NTT), Soupe (COF), Barthe (BVC) and Martin (COF). However, the latter two dropped back shortly after: Barthe suffered from cramps while Martin’s overall position -12th, one minute behind the top-ten- did not allow the break open a consistent gap. And despite they were caught, BOH and SUN decided to keep pushing hard, seeking for another bunch sprint, and brought the G2 back. Cavagna, in turn, continued to push at the front, anticipating Saturday’s TT. And all of that, in only the first 40km of the stage.
- Cavagna stayed ahead of the peloton with over a minute’s gap until the last 45 kilometers, when a series of counter-attacks after the intermediate sprint -including a move from Imanol Erviti- led to the decisive, unexpected attack. A move with several classics riders, 12 strong rouleurs, which the peloton, despite late, furious moves from Lotto Soudal and Total Direct Energie, could not bring back. Their names: Bennett, Devenyns (DQT), Trentin, Van Avermaet (CCC), Sagan (BOH), Kragh, Arndt (SUN), Mezgec, Bauer (MTS), Stuyven (TFS), Naesen (ALM) y Rowe (IGD).
- From that group, Soren Kragh Andersen jumped with amazing intelligence to take another solo victory, ahead of Luka Mezgec (MTS, 2nd) and Jasper Stuyven (TFS, 3rd). The race contenders finished without any major difficulties, riding calm near the end, as the GC did not experience any changes: Enric Mas remains in 6th, with Alejandro Valverde in 10th.
Carlos Verona: “I don’t exaggerate when I say that this was harder for me than the Alps stages. I think it’s down to the fatigue from the previous stages and the whole Tour. It was quite fast in the beginning, with that pace from the peloton to keep the pursuit group behind Cavagna under control, we probably couldn’t go any faster. It’s really hard from a psychological standpoint after you get over the mountains to keep pushing. When Cavagna was caught, everybody’s legs were screaming, and with those little hills, the attacks, a peloton not really well organised – it seems logical that the breakaway formed with classics specialists.
“Happy with my Tour. Yes, I think so. When you’ve got the right legs and attitude, things go well, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have strength and will to suffer during this race. I’ve always tried to bring everything that I had to the table in different aspects: getting into breakaways, supporting the team leaders, reaching as far as possible… I’m so tired, yet so happy. It’s only one TT left tomorrow and we’ll be enjoying Paris again.
“Tomorrow’s time trial will be really hard, a mountain TT in the end, and we’ll be getting there with Enric in really good form, improving his form every day, confident about this chances. He likes the TT bars, he’s done well over the past few years at the time trials he’s had the chance to race, and with his current form, it could well be a chance for him to get to fifth place. Hopefully he can overtake Mikel in the GC, but if not, we’ll be happy about Landa, who is a friend of this team. We’re confident about Enric, and we know he’ll give it his absolute best.
“We couldn’t win the Tour or contest a podium result, yet we’ve always been there fighting, and other than the results Enric or Alejandro confirm tomorrow, we could secure that team GC victory, which Jumbo made so hard for us in the last few days.”
/ Upcoming goals
Saturday will bring the decisive stage of the 2020 TDF. The only time trial in this year’s ‘Grande Boucle’, over 36.2km between Lure and the top of La Planche des Belles Filles, will be a mixed-terrain effort. The first 30km will be flat or contain slopes not really steep, yet the last 6km will be a Cat-1 climb, with average gradients of 8.5% -bike changes will be allowed-. Enric Mas will start his effort 51″ away from fifth place, now held by Mikel Landa (TBM), and 2’52” from a seemingly far podium finish; Valverde, in turn, will roll off the ramp with a 19″ advantage against Caruso (TBM) for 10th place.
— TT start times: Cataldo 14.37″30, Erviti 14.46″30, Rojas 14.58, Oliveira 15.22, Soler 16.34, Verona 16.36, Valverde 16.56, Mas 17.04.
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto