It is difficult to stop Fred Wright smiling. Even after he came second at his first chance of winning a stage of the Tour de France, he still had enough energy to raise a wry smile.
The Londoner spent the entire day in the break on the Tour’s 192km thirteenth stage to Saint-Étienne and was second in the final three-up sprint behind Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and ahead of Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech).
The 23 year-old, who is riding his second Tour, said he was “gutted” to lose out in the final but that second was still “pretty good”. “Fair play to Mads he was super strong,” he said.
Reflecting on his plan to win the Bahrain Victorious rider said: “I needed to attack on the last climb. That tempo was as hard as I could go and as soon as I got over it I was like ‘Damn it’s going to be a sprint and I'm not going to be able to beat him.’”
He said he hadn’t expected Pedersen to attack on the final climb and that although he could follow the move and close the gap to the Dane he wasn’t able to up the pace further.
“I just needed that little bit of extra strength,” he said, a touch of regret creeping into his voice. “I nearly did it.”
Wright declined the opportunity to blame his missing out on the heat, which hit 34 degrees Celsius at points during the day. “When you’ve got ice and bottles from the car in the break, it’s actually easier than being in the bunch,” he said.
This year has been a further step up from his performances in 2021 where he mostly fulfilled team duties at the Tour de France. In 2022 He came into the Tour after a breakthrough classics campaign that saw him net a top ten place at the Tour of Flanders and racking up a strong ride at Paris-Nice.
However his Tour preparation was compromised by a bout of Covid in the weeks leading up to the July race around France.
Today was Wright’s third time in the breakaway at the Tour after a first attempt in the race’s first week in France. Then on stage eight he ended up as the last rider ahead of the peloton and was only swallowed up with 3km left to go. He was then again in the break on stage 10 but was distanced before the finish.
Now he has a Tour de France stage podium finish to his name too.
When asked about what he felt was behind the progress he’d made he said, smiling again: “It's funny, it's only small percentages, you're 2% better and all of a sudden things get easier. You're just not breathing so hard so you can focus on what tactics to play.”
Wright added: “I’m learning every time. I did it better this time than last time and I'll do better next time. Hopefully there will be next time. Maybe not this Tour, but at some point there will be a next time.”
When that time comes and he goes one place better the smile won’t need to be bitter sweet.
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