Slovenian race leader Primoz Roglic again looked in fabulous form as he survived a test of nerves in Lyon on Saturday as the Tour de France heads into a mouthwatering series of mountain stages over the next week. Denmark’s Soren Kragh Andersen of the Sunweb team soloed to victory on a stage 14 that saw him produce a last gasp break into France’s second city and set up another thrilling finale.
“We pulled it off, it’s the kind of thing you dream of,” Andersen said at the line, where no fans were allowed over the final 100m due to coronavirus health and safety protocols.
The 158-strong peloton left a carnival atmosphere in rugby-loving Clermont-Ferrand for a tricky run on a hot day, with Peter Sagan’s Bora team taking charge as the Slovak targeted valuable sprint points in Lyon by shaking off his own rivals over the stage’s five hills. With a perilous inner-city finish it was outsider Andersen, however, who sprung a lightning attack in the final kilometre to clinch a second win for his team this week after Marc Hirschi’s solo win on Thursday.
Sagan came in fourth as the bunch sprinted wildly to the line. But Ireland’s Sam Bennett remains slightly ahead of the seven-time Tour de France points winner in the race for the green jersey. With a touch of irony, Lyon’s Green mayor Gregory Doucet, who this week described the Tour as “macho and polluting”, handed Bennett his green jersey.
Sprinters left behind
Andersen summed up the nervy stage where German outfit Bora changed the nature of proceedings on a day where a bunch sprint had been a more likely scenario instead of the elite clique of the tough one-day specialists and yellow jersey rivals that eventually contested a frantic finale.
“Bora had a big impact on the race, because they almost made the peloton half its usual size. That made it much harder on the hills, but it changed everything because the sprinters were all left behind,” said Andersen.
Race leader Roglic also reflected on the faster, more aggressive than expected racing with Sunday’s stage looming large in the minds of the favorites.
“That was high-level racing,” said the former ski jumper. “I though it would be easier today but as you see it wasn’t.”
The race will climb out of Lyon and into the mountains on Sunday’s stage 15: a 174km ride featuring 35km of climbing in what could be a decisive summit finish on one of the Tour’s iconic finishes, at 1,501m of altitude atop Grand Colombier after a final, gruelling 17.4km ascent at an average 7.1% gradient.
“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, as usual we will just try to survive,” said Roglic, who leads fellow Slovene Tadej Pogacar by 44 seconds.
Defending champion Egan Bernal stands third, at 59 seconds, the 23-year-old Colombian running out of stages to ramp up the defense of his title.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini