Matej Mohorič said thoughts of his late team-mate Gino Mäder has made it an emotional Tour de France for him and his Bahrain Victorious team – but given them extra determination too.
The Slovenian, who outsprinted Kasper Asgreen in Poligny from a breakaway to win in Poligny on stage 19, said: "It has made it a really emotional Tour de France for our team, but maybe it gives you that extra bit of determination."
He described how close he was with the Swiss rider, who died after crashing on a high-speed descent in the Tour de Suisse, adding: "We spend more time with our team-mates than with our families."
Only the photo-finish camera was able to separate Mohorič and Asgreen (Soudal-Quick Step) as they crossed the line in Poligny, following a lumpy day out in the Jura. Fellow breakaway Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroën) had kicked off the sprint but faded early.
Mohorič won two stages of the 2021 Tour and Milan-San Remo last March, but his emotion after the finish was partly down to having spent so long searching another big victory and enduring multiple setbacks, he admitted.
"I was probably in the best shape of my life for this year's spring campaign," he said. "But first there was a crash in Gent-Wevelgem, which I caused myself; then there was a big, big crash in Flanders. I also missed the decisive moment in Paris-Roubaix," he explained.
He also described struggling through last year's Tour with Epstein Barr virus.
He repeatedly talked about how hard the Tour de France is, and how much goes in to almost every aspect of it, and said that he wished every rider could experience the thrill of winning a stage. He even said that he sometimes felt guilty for beating other riders, knowing just how much they had put into trying to win.
"I knew I had a chance to win a stage," he said, "because I knew what it takes because I won two stages in '21. But everyone is just so good and everyone sacrifices so much for this race."
“Every single rider would deserve to win – I saw the faces on the Col de la Loze – you know what everyone is going through.
“I know how much a Tour stage can change your life," he added. "I wish everyone could win but it's just not possible, and that's cruel.”
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