Why is it so difficult to form a successful breakaway at the Tour de France? Riders explain

Riders explain what makes it so difficult to form a successful breakaway on the flatter stages of the Tour de France

A break gets away on stage 19 of the Tour de France (ASO)

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) escaped to win the Tour de France's 19th stage to Salon-de-Provence, but not many breakaways during this Tour have been allowed to fly free until the finish line on the flatter stages because of several complex factors and various classification standings.

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In this Tour de France, only one stage saw a rider win from an escape on what could have been a sprint finish. On the other occassions the sprint or classification teams wanted otherwise and pounced on any effort.

"Today I heard that Sky was pulling because someone of Ag2r was in the move and they didn't want him to go to go that far because of the team classification," said Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), who made the winning move.

"All these things start to play and that's why you get teams that start pulling at times that you think it's not even necessary."

Edvald Boasson Hagen won from the breakaway on a potential sprint stage at the Tour de France (ASO)
(Image credit: ASO/Alex Broadway)

"Sky let us go at one point, but they kept it at eight minutes," said Ag2r La Mondiale's rider in the break, Belgian Jan Bakelants.

"They wanted to control the team classification, but we'd have to get 15 minutes of an advantage to threaten them. Even then it would not be enough because they will probably gain more time tomorrow in the TT to win the classification."

A 20-man group moved free eventually. It included several teams that have yet to win a Tour stage in 2017, but no one who was going to threaten the overall classification.

"Everything for the team GC was in place, no real danger and there was no real danger in the general classification. It was all safe," Bakelants added.

"Everyone is on the limit, Team Sky controls it and they must have said, it's enough."

"Someone must have let the gap open and decided it was good group for them to go clear. If another team thought they could win the sprint, they would have ridden all day."

The group rolled in around 10 minutes after Boasson Hagen won the stage. He counter-attacked his final escapee companion Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) to ride solo to the line.

"On other days, if a team is missing from the break, then they could pull, or if they don't want to go in the break then they pull," Arndt said while warming down.

"Like when Marcel Kittel was here, it was Quick-Step pulling it back."

"It's always harder and hard to make breakaways," said Michael Albasini, who made the escape with Orica-Scott team-mate Jens Keukeleire.

"If there is a really hard day with many mountains, the climbers go too hard for guys like me, then on the mixed stages, we have so many sprinters like Matthews, Boasson Hagen or Sagan who climb well so that their teams control all of these days for a reduced bunch sprint and that makes it hard to have an escape."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.