'I was in the front, then I was in the last group' - Fred Wright's big day out on Tour de France stage 12

British champion says he "completely exploded" after trying to stay in winning move on road to Belleville-en-Beaujolais

Fred Wright rides on the front of the 2023 Tour de France peloton
(Image credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

When the uninitiated watch bike races, the question they always ask is "why do they not simply attack, ride off the front?" Sometimes, bike racing is that easy. A frantic stage 12 of the Tour de France showed why those instances are so rare. 

Just like on stage 10, Thursday's breakaway took a long time, and dozens of attacks, to properly form. Riders who were attempting things as soon as the flag was dropped were still attacking over an hour later, trying to escape from a tense peloton. It was not easy.

One such baroudeur was Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious), who was attacking from the beginning, and eventually made the front group, but could not hang on. The British champion eventually crossed the line in 124th place, in the penultimate group on the road.

"I was in the front, then I was in the last group," he explained to Cycling Weekly post-stage. "I tried my absolute hardest to get into that move, but I just went a bit too into the red, and then when it finally went, I followed Mathieu [van der Poel], but I completely exploded. I don't think I would have lasted long there anyway, but it was such a hard start, it was outrageous."

It was telling that the eventual winner was not an escape artist per se but Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) a climber, with the course proving just too hard for the likes of Wright and Van der Poel. When informed that it was Izagirre who won, Wright laughed: "He's a climber!"

"I think the nature of the climbs, it kept the few punchy riders still in the group, but none of us were strong enough to actually make a gap," Wright said. "UAE and Jumbo were always closing it, keeping it close together, but I tried my hardest. I was feeling really good, it's just kind of a shame the way the race panned out. But you can't control these things."

It was the start that made it so hard, straight into an uncategorised climb before anyone had even warmed up, similar to Tuesday's stage 10.

"It was one of the craziest starts, because I was a bit more involved," Wright said. "It was quite something. It felt longer than an hour an a half. 

"I'm a little bit disappointed not to have been there [in the front of the race], but in the end I don't think I would have lasted very long, I cooked myself trying to make it happen."

There is so much pressure at the Tour de France, so much expectance put on riders and teams, that breaks on a day like stage 12 are not simply allowed to ride away, hence why it took 70km for the day to settle a bit.

"We've been saying in team meetings 'on that descent, or at the top of that climb, it [the break] should go', and both days it has been 20/30km further along than what we expected, so it's been pretty mental trying to get in the breakaway," Wright explained. "Everyone is a bit cooked, and we're still trying to take chunks out of each other."

Bike racing: so simple, and yet so difficult to get right at the same time. Fred Wright tried to simply ride off the front on stage 12, but couldn't. Another day it could be different; he will surely try again.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.