Polish rider Maciej Bodnar came as close as anyone to winning from the breakaway on one of the Tour de France's sprint stages
The Polish cyclist escaped at the start of the day with only two others and went solo with 23 kilometres left to the city at the foot of the Pyrenean Mountains.
Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) led home group that crushed Bodnar’s hopes, but “that’s cycling.” The German sprinter won his fifth stage in this Tour.
“It was about 200 metres too long, maybe 300 then I would’ve have time to celebrate!” Bodnar said still left with his humour intact.
“What can I say? 200 kilometres in the front and then you only need 200 metres to achieve glory. That’s cycling.”
He came the closest an escapee has in this Tour to winning a stage. The sprinters like Kittel have been far too dominate.
Peter Sagan’s disqualification in stage four and Rafal Majka’s abandon due to stage nine’s crash cleared Bodnar’s path to potential glory.
Bodnar is Sagan’s main team helper since the days they raced in Liquigas/Cannondale. He followed Sagan from Tinkoff to German team Bora-Hansgrohe this winter.
He seldom has his chance. Over the last years in the Tour, he worked for Sagan’s green jerseys.
“I didn’t speak with Peter Sagan about today’s stage, but for sure, if he was here today I wouldn’t be in the breakaway but fighting for a victory for him in the sprint,” Bodnar said.
“I know how [the escapes and catches] work because normally I work with Peter. Knowing that, we tried to do an easy ride because we know that when you go full, the bunch goes full. We didn’t go slowly, but we didn’t go all day full-gas.”
Once free, Bodnar managed his own gap. With 15 kilometres, he has under a minute over the group driven by Sky. Kittel’s men moved forward and his advantage sunk.
The day appeared over for Bodnar at two kilometres out, already in Pau’s city limits, but he held longer.
“Of course, the last 20 kilometres for me was one big sprint. I’m a bit disappointed. Maybe it was a good day for me considering how my legs felt, but those last 200 metres saddened my day,” Bodnar said.
“The last 20 kilometres were painful, but I tried to do a nice time trail. The last two Ks I was looking back, I was thinking I could do it, but the last 500 metres after the corner was a little bit headwind – at least I thought it was a headwind for me! The bunch was too fast.”