Patrick Konrad blasted to a fantastic solo win on stage 16 of the Tour de France 2021 in the Pyrenees.
Bora-Hansgrohe rider put in a huge effort to bridge across to the leading group mid-way through the stage, before he attacked on the Col de Portet-d'Aspet to drop his rivals with more than 30km left to ride.
Despite a formidable chasing effort from David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Austrian national champion Konrad only continued to extend his advantage into the final kilometres, taking only his third professional win, and by far the biggest of his career.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) fended off a half-hearted attack from Jumbo-Visma in the final 10km to keep his yellow jersey for another day without losing any time.
How it happened
Stage 16 of the 2021 Tour de France, the return to the Pyrenees after the rest day, with four categorised climbs on the 169km route from El Pas de la Casa.
After descending out the mountains in Andorra at the start, the peloton had to take on the Col de Port (11.4km at 5.5 per cent) 36km into the stage, followed by the Col de la Core (13km at 6.6 per cent) at the half way point.
After the descent from that climb, riders had to take on the famous Col de Portet-d’Aspet (5.4km at 6.7km) inside the final 40km, and then finally the short and punchy Côte d’Aspret-Sarrat, which is just under a kilometre long and came in the final 10km of the stage. It was then a short uphill dash to the line to decide the winner.
Due to the cold and rainy conditions at the start in Andorra, the neutralised start was extended with riders stopping at kilometre zero to remove their rain jackets before racing.
It was an unusual start to the stage, with Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) the only rider willing to attack on the early descent, with other teams reluctant to send anyone in pursuit.
Asgreen was eventually caught before three new riders were able to get a gap and began to establish a breakaway, with Christopher Juul-Jensen (Team BikeExchange), Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies) and Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) going clear around 100km from the finish.
That group crossed the intermediate sprint together, sweeping up most of the green jersey points on offer, as another breakaway group began to form behind under the impetus from Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), who wanted the remaining points on offer, with Matthews taking fourth in the sprint and Colbrelli fifth.
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) was nowhere to be seen but comfortably kept his green jersey at the end of the stage.
After the sprint, Konrad, Colbrelli and Matthews formed part of a 10-rider chasing group trying to close down the advantage to the leading trio on the first climb of the day, the Col de la Core. Meanwhile the peloton began to slip to more than seven minutes behind the first group on the road, as no teams were willing to take up the chase.
It was on that climb that Konrad opted to attack and drop his companions, bridging across to the leading trio with 70km to race.
Onto the Col de Porte-d’Aspet and Konrad once again decided to up the pace, dropping his breakaway companions one-by-one and reaching the summit alone with 32km still to ride.
Behind, David Gaudu and Colbrelli launched a two-rider attack and worked well together to try and close down Konrad on the Portet-d’Aspet, but they weren’t able to dent the morale of the lone leader, eventually being caught by the rest of the chasing group.
Konrad continued to extend his advantage, reaching the line on his own, 42 seconds ahead of the chasers, taking the biggest win of his career, with his two national titles the only other races on his palmarès.
As the chasers followed Konrad home, Colbrelli put in a huge sprint to take second on the stage, once again showing his strength in this Tour, followed by Matthews in third.
Meanwhile back in the GC group, the pace did ramp up on the final climb as Cofidis set a strong pace before Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) launched an unexplained sprint to the summit, leading the group over before the pace fell away again.
That effort did cause a split at the front of the yellow jersey group, as Jumbo-Visma continued to press on down the descent towards the line.
The 14-rider GC group came to the line with a gap over the rest of the main bunch, 14 minutes after the winner, but the yellow jersey safely made it to the line with no time losses for any of the main contenders after a slightly underwhelming sprint for the line.
The Tour de France continues on stage 17 with a huge 178km climbing stage, finishing at the summit of the Col du Portet.
Tour de France 2021, stage 16: El Pas de la Casa to Saint-Gaudens (169km)
1. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-01-59
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 42 seconds
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
4. Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fra) Cofidis
5. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
6. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech
7. Toms Skujiņš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo, at 45s
8. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux, at same time
9. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 47s
10. Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux, at 1-03
General classification after stage 16
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 66-23-06
2. Rigberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 5-18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 5-32
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-33
5. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r-Citroën Team, at 5-58
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-16
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 7-01
8. Enric. Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 7-11
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 7-58
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 10-59
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