While Søren Kragh Andersen was left to express surprise at having taken a second stage win at this year’s Tour de France, there was a group of riders behind him on the road left with nothing but a bitter taste in their mouths.
The Dane attacked at the “perfect time”, admitted Ineos’ Luke Rowe, but the chase group failed to organise itself as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) watched each other, the latter caring more about protecting his green jersey than taking a second stage win.
A star-studded cast, which also included Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) amongst others, were forced into supporting roles on the last opportunity for many teams to take a stage win at this year’s French Grand Tour.
“I don’t understand how they raced today,” CCC’s Matteo Trentin told Rai Sport after the stage. “Sagan with the fact that was in the green jersey battle had to close some gaps and he didn’t, I can’t understand why.
“It was a race to make the other lose and not to win.”
Sam Bennett was happier to settle for the minor placings, letting out a roar as he crossed the finish line, one step closer to winning his green jersey in Paris and set to become the first rider to beat Sagan over 21 stages since the Slovakian began winning the points classification in 2012.
“Yeah I was just trying to mark Peter,” was Bennett’s explanation of the final. “I was really frustrating to him and the other guys because it’s the only way I could race, I’m not as strong as them, that’s just the way I had to do it.
“He wasn’t complaining, he knows the deal, and I know it’s happened to him so many times in the past it must have been frustrating. I know I’d do the same if I was in his position, I’d do everything I can to get at the other guy to get him to come forward and get him off my wheel.”
Luke Rowe was happy to keep the Ineos breakaway train rolling after Richard Carapaz and Michał Kwiatkowski’s exploits in stages past, but admits he was always at a disadvantage, regardless of how the stage would eventually unfold.
“I found myself in a group full of sprinters so it was hard to get that right,” the Welshman said. “The only way I could do anything was to attack, I could never come to the line with those guys.
“You look around and it was a star-studded bunch of guys I was surrounded by, I was kind of between a rock and a hard place. Sagan and Bennett were throwing their toys out the pram with each other, that was funny to see.
“Trentin went on the kicker, and Kragh Andersen hit it at a perfect point, everyone knew that was the moment to go but nobody had the legs. Chapeau to him.”
Stuyven was another rider, similar to Trentin, annoyed that there wasn’t more collaboration in search of a stage victory, with both Trek-Segafredo and CCC so far left without much to show in terms of wins this Tour de France.
“It was annoying because they were fighting more for the green jersey than riding for the win,” Stuyven said. “There were a few teams with two in front and they played it well, so I had to gamble a bit.
“It was quite an annoying final but that’s how it is, they had the green jersey to fight for whilst we were fighting for the stage win.
“I think Kragh Andersen went at a really good moment and he also showed that maybe he was the strongest. It’s annoying when there’s not really cooperation behind with such a nice group, but that’s how it is.”
Tomorrow’s individual time trial up La Plance des Belles Filles will likely suit a climber, while Sunday’s romp up and down the Champs-Élysées will see the sprinters battle it out for one of the most sought after prizes amongst the fast men of the peloton.
Luckily for the punchier chancers of the bunch, there are only nine months (hopefully) to wait until their next chance for Tour de France stage glory.