Followed by an individual time trial tomorrow and a flat sprinter stage on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, today was the sedan of last chance for one of the non-specialists – most of the peloton – to win a victory in this Tour de France. .
s we left Bourg-en-Bresse this morning the peloton was buzzing in anticipation of what was to come and as soon as the flag fell each attack was like pushing a honeycomb with a stick as the riders swarmed all over the road to the slightest puff of nectar that an early escape could provide.
After about 10 km, however, Lukas Postlberger, winner of the 2015 Rás Tailteann, got stung. Literally.
If an early break didn’t work we had Cees Bol with us if it came down to a massive sprint, but we also knew the second part of the stage was pretty hilly and there might be another opportunity for someone ‘one to get on the road. .
With the idea of keeping our starting train fresh and sprinting ready while protecting Tiesj (Benoot) and Soren (Kragh Andersen) if the groups left towards the end, I was more suited to the job of riding in the front of the peloton early on if necessary.
In a smart move, Remi Cavagna was the first to open a substantial gap, after perhaps 10km, which meant his Quickstep team could sit down and wait to help Sam Bennett in the intermediate sprint with 40km to go. and again on arrival.
As Cavagna opened up a lead of about two and a half minutes, a group of four sat down between him and the field, so I started rolling up front with two of the guys from Bora to try and cut it down. gap and keep our options open.
As we approached the fourth category Côte de Château-Chalon after 75 km I felt that we had narrowed the gap a bit too much and that might encourage more attacks on the climb so I told the guys de Bora to just let me up the tempo. and I let it open a few more seconds.
In the end, I was about 100km ahead today, my stint ending just as we approached the intermediate sprint after 117km.
By this time, I had drifted to the car to get some bottles and have my radio fixed as it hadn’t been working for about an hour.
As the mechanics tuned my radio, I could see the road going up and the attacks starting again.
For fear of falling, I hastily crammed the bottles into my cages and told the mechanic to put the radio in my pocket.
Just as I was getting back into the peloton there was a crash involving Rigoberto Uran and a small group had been caught behind him which forced me to sprint around them and close the gap.
There was still 40km to go so it was too early to sit down but I barely regained contact as we started to climb.
With the first players caught up, the attacks started again and around 10km later a dozen runners emerged in a movement containing the two protagonists in the green jersey, Sam and Peter Sagan, while we had Soren and Nikias (Arndt) in motion.
At 8 km from the end, I heard in my earpiece that Soren had been cleared and was one minute ahead of the rest of the leading group.
Coming down towards the finish I was glad we weren’t heading for a massive sprint on such a narrow and twisty road, but I also knew it favored Soren and he had a good chance of getting on stage. Fortunately, by the time we reached the 4k to go sign, news had come over the radio that Soren had won the stage, his second in this Tour de France and the team’s third victory here.
The atmosphere was great in the squad before our first win last week, so having three now is fantastic.
We have a lot of very young riders in this group and it feels good to be around them. We hang out after dinner most evenings chatting and there is always a bit of slag or mess.
I have to say that I really enjoy my role as a big brother on the team here. The guys must have liked that too because for the last few days they have jokingly asked me to ride the classics with them instead of going to the Vuelta.
I have probably the most painful stages of the Tour tonight, but for the guys to end today with another victory, it is totally worth it. Behind Soren there was also good news for the Irish fans today as Sam beat Sagan for eighth place and took more points for his green jersey.
While it’s never over until it’s over, neither of them should get any points in tomorrow’s time trial and they look good to win it now.
Tour de France, Live, Eurosport / TG4, 11.50