In much of sport success lies in playing the percentages; in calculating and taking controlled risks. As cycling fans we enjoy the riders willing to take a punt on breakaway success in a large part because they seem to ignore this fact.
Their percentage chance of success is always small, the energy expended to gamble on it disproportionately large. Sure they might have even less chance by not attacking but it is a difference of fractions.
If he didn’t know it before, Fred Wright has learned this lesson all too well at this year's Tour de France. Four times he has been in the break, twice he has been the last rider caught and twice he has come within a few hundred metres of his first pro victory.
Stage 19 was the scene of his latest near miss. This time in Cahors he was off the front with 500 metres to go when Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) came charging out of the chasing pack to overtake him.
Asked if he might attempt yet another long range, long odds move in Paris he smiled the same broad smile that he has worn most of the Tour through the highs and the lows and joked: “I don't think so. Maybe I'll give the bunch sprint a go, I think. I've done my attacking. [After all] the Champs-Élysées is quite hard, harder than you think.”
The Bahrain Victorious rider added: “I just want to get my hands in the air, man. You know, I feel like I'm due one at some point. You keep pushing.”
Wright hadn’t planned to be in that position. “Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) went with a big strong attack on that final climb, the space opened up and I just followed. There were four guys that attacked but I thought we’re going to need ot do more than this so I just went flat out to the top of the climb.”
Wright said the final grouping of himself Gougeard and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) had worked well together. “We nearly did it, it was maybe possible. But you can only do what you can do. People were asking were you disappointed but you can only do what you can do and to be on the front of the Tour de France is pretty special.”
Plus there were features of the parcours suited a group of escapees. “The roundabouts really helped,” Wright said. “I knew we had those to our advantage in the end. But that drag to the finish if you have a guy with fresh legs like Laporte in the bunch… we were riding for 30km, so what can you do?”
While he was sanguine about the stage result the Londoner was a little upset not to get that day’s combativity prize which went to Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) who had been on the attack earlier in the day. It echoed his Wright’s fate on stage 13 when Mad Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) got the award. “I just wish I had the red numbers, what’s that all about? I know I wasn’t in the early move but they weren’t pulling that hard because they didn't’ have that much of a gap.”
Maybe you should appeal, Cycling Weekly suggested. “I think I might,” Wright responded, tongue firmly in his cheek.
Wright looks set to leave this Tour still crazing the stage win he desires, but he has shown all the attributes he needs to get one. Those breakaway long odds look like they’re creeping down incrementally in his favour.
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