Bora-Hansgrohe at last get their victory through Lennard Kämna
It’s been a strange Tour de France for Bora-Hansgrohe. On one hand they’ve caught the eye with their aggressive racing, using some really entertaining tactics in their attempts to prize the green jersey back for Peter Sagan off Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), while also populating many breakaways throughout the race.
But on the other hand, the GC hopes of their leader Emanuel Buchmann faded early on, Sagan continues to languish behind Bennett, and, despite all their efforts, they were not able to bag a stage victory.
Until today. Their young German star Lennard Kämna was the man to deliver victory, proving to be the strongest of the large 23-man breakaway group that went up the road.
Just four days ago, Kämna was at the heart of Bora-Hansgrohe’s nearest miss of all, when, despite teaming up smartly with team-mate Max Schachmann to try and do-over Dani Martínez, he was unable to outsprint the Colombian at the finish.
This time, however, he didn’t have to rely on his sprint, breaking clear of Richard Caparaz over the summit of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte 20km from the finish having marked the Ineos Grenadiers rider’s attacks all the way up the climb.
Having also triumphed on a mountain stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Kämna seems to have a knack for winning, and, as a former under-23 world time trial bronze medalist, also appears to have the all-round capabilities to become a GC contender one day.
In a Tour de France characterised by fine performances from young riders, Kämna is the latest breakthrough.
Ineos Grenadiers enact Plan B
Ineos Grenadiers are used to spending the final week of the Tour de France defending the yellow jersey. Over the years they’ve mastered the art of controlling the race and stifling their rivals during the endgame of the race, where every rider has fulfilled a role in protecting their leader.
Egan Bernal’s collapse on Grand Colombier, however, has forced them into a drastic rethink as to how to approach this year’s final week. With their leader’s yellow jersey hopes in tatters, those usually tasked with setting tempo at the front of the peloton have instead been reinstructed to get into breakaways and chase stage wins.
The team placed Andrey Amador, Pavel Sivakov, and Richard Carapaz all into the day’s break, and on the final climb the strategy was for the former two to set Carapaz up for an attack.
It would have worked were it not for the strength and canniness of Kämna, who paced himself up the climb without going into the red, and attacked just as Carapaz tired near the summit.
Still, a second-place finish was better than they managed in 2014, which was the last time the team found themselves in this situation (on that occasion, following the collapse of both Chris Froome and Richie Porte’s GC bids, a single third-place on a stage courtesy of Vasil Kiryienka was the best they could manage).
With just five days left to salvage something from this race, expect plenty more similar attacks over the coming stages.
Jumbo-Visma control a day off in the GC race
Although there were five categorised climbs on today’s stage, none of them were quite difficult enough to tempt any of the yellow jersey contenders into an attack, and the top of the general classification remained largely the same.
After a frantic opening in which dozens of riders attempted to get into the break, the race settled down, and the peloton ambled their way to the line in a relaxed pace, expertly controlled by Jumbo-Visma.
Jumbo-Visma are so strong that they are able to commit to shutting down even attacks from outside threats. On two separate occasions, Guillaume Martin (at 11th overall) tried to attack — first at the start of the stage by attempting to get into the day’s break, then again later on Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte with his Cofidis team-mate Nicolas Edet.
Despite being a distant 6-45 behind Roglic, Jumbo-Visma refused to give him an inch. They immediately set riders on his wheel on his first attempt, then let him dangle out ahead by no more than 20 seconds on his second attempt, before he inevitably gave up.
Finally, on the short uphill to the finish, they were able to keep control as first Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) upped the pace as the finish line approached. They will surely come under more pressure tomorrow, over the huge summits of Col de la Madeleine and Col de la Loze, but right now Jumbo-Visma look up to the task of defending the jersey whatever the terrain.
Benoît Cosnefroy remains in the polka-dot-jersey despite challenge from Pierre Rolland
Despite failing in his attempts to get into the breakaway at the start of the stage, and then once again being dropped on one of the early summits, Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) survives another stage as leader of the mountains classification.
It’s an unusual sight to see the polka-dot jersey so easily dropped on modest summits in the third week of a Tour de France, but none of the race’s superior climbers have yet been able to take the jersey from him. On each hilly and mountainous stage there’s a handful of riders who share the points between them, but they’ve all cancelled each other out, with no single rider has yet managed to accumulate enough points.
Today, Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) came closest to doing so. The Frenchman clearly has his sights set on the jersey, and gained 10 points by being the first over the stage’s two category two climbs to draw level on points with Cosnefroy.
All he needed to do to take the jersey was to be one of the first six riders over the category one Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, however Rolland did not have the legs, and was dropped by those in the breakaway chasing the stage win.
That does not bode well for his long-term chances of winning the jersey. With so many points on offer on tomorrow’s hors category climbs, we will likely see one of the race’s elite climbers take the jersey tomorrow — either by Pogačar (two points behind Cosnefroy in third), Roglič (three points behind Cosnefroy in fourth), or a non-GC climber who manages to escape up the road.
Egan Bernal puts on a brave face
For someone whose main goal for the year has only two days ago come undone, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) cut a surprisingly stoical figure in the peloton.
The defending champion hovered around the back of the peloton early in the day, and was once again dropped from the peloton altogether later on, slipping further down on GC from 13th to 16th overall.
But unlike the footage we saw earlier in the race of other struggling GC hopefuls like Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), Bernal looked in relatively good spirits, smiling while talking to his team car, and light-heartedly gesturing to the TV camera inevitably following his every movement.
It’s still alarming to see a rider who has so dominated the sport since bursting onto the scene suddenly look so weak, but Bernal is clearly his unfamiliar inferiority in his stride. Whether he has the physical condition to bounce back and hunt for stage wins from a breakaway remains to be seen, but he certainly does not appear to be mentally perturbed by how his ambitions have unravelled these past few days.