Kasper Asgreen grabs victory from the breakaway on stage 18 of the Tour de France in Bourg-en-Bresse

Danish rider takes first win of the race for Soudal Quick-Step as breakaway holds on to the line

Kasper Asgreen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kasper Asgreen took a superb stage win from the breakaway on stage 18 of the Tour de France in Bourg-en-Bresse.

After a long day up the road with Pascal Eenkhorn and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny) as well as Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X), the Danish rider held on by a handful of metres to grab Soudal Quick-Step’s first win of the race ahead of the rampaging peloton.

As the leaders tore under the flamme rouge, the catch seemed somewhat inevitable although Campenaerts had other ideas. The Lotto rider put in one huge final turn with the finish line in sight as he looked to set up Eenkhorn but Asgreen would capitalise on the move from the Lotto riders.

The former Tour of Flanders winner launched a powerful sprint in the last 300 metres to take a sensational victory and his first at the Tour. Eenkhorn took second and Abrahamsen grabbed third.

Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck took fourth ahead of Lidl-Trek’s Mads Pedersen. Philipsen will now have to wait for a fifth stage win in the 2023 Tour.

Jonas Vingegaard came home safely in the main field surrounded by his teammates to defend his lead in the yellow jersey. As expected, there were no changes in the overall standings or any of the other competitions.

How it happened

After an action-packed last few stages - including two in the Alps - the relatively flat parcours of the 185 kilometre stage between Moûtiers and Bourg-en-Bresse will have been a welcome sight for the Tour de France peloton.

However, time was running out for teams without a stage win with just a handful of stages left in this year’s race and Paris drawing ever closer.

The long and flat road to the finish meant that it was almost nailed on to be a mass bunch sprint for the victory with little chance of a breakaway succeeding.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, a three-man move went up the road as soon as race director Christian Prudhomme dropped the flag to get the stage officially underway.

Denmark’s Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step) was there, as was Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X) and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny).

As the kilometres ticked past, the peloton kept the breakaway well in sight as they tackled the two categorised climbs on the route and the gap to the leaders rarely extended to much more than a minute and a half.

The racing was relatively subdued for much of the stage. However, Simon Geschke (Cofidis) was forced to abandon due to suffering with illness later on.

There would be slight controversy on the second categorised climb as Pascal Eenkhorn (Lotto-Dstny) looked to bridge up to his teammate Campenaerts in the breakaway. As the Dutch rider moved off the front of the peloton, green jersey wearer Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) went with him and attempted to block the attack.

Philipsen’s efforts to prevent Eenkhorn from attacking would ultimately prove to be fruitless. The Dutch rider would try again shortly afterwards and eventually made it up to the leaders.

With 65 kilometres to go, Eenkhorn provided extra firepower for the breakaway as they pushed on towards Bourg-en-Bresse and pushed their advantage back out to over a minute. The trio’s advantage had tumbled slightly beforehand but Eenkhorn’s presence enabled it to increase once more.

As the finish approached, the peloton started to panic and several teams looked to unite their efforts in order to chase the leaders down. Lidl-Trek got on the front along with Bora-Hansgrohe, Jayco-AIUla and Philipsen’s Alpecin-Deceuninck squad.

The breakaway were relentless and tore under the 20 kilometre to go mark with their lead still intact.

With five kilometres to go Nils Pollitt (Bora-Hansgrohe) put in a huge effort at the head of the chasing peloton which cut the breakaway’s advantage down to just a handful of seconds. Bahrain Victorious and Astana Qazaqstan also had riders present although the peloton were unable to organise themselves when it mattered.

Campenaerts led the four-man break under the flamme rouge and put in a massive final effort as he looked to set up Eenkhorn for the sprint with the peloton breathing down their necks.

As the Belgian finished a huge final turn, Asgreen launched a vicious sprint in the final 300 metres. Eenkhorn was unable to respond and the Danish rider held on to take a huge victory for Soudal Quick-Step.  

Eenkhorn was forced to settle for second and Abrahamsen took third ahead of Philipsen who led the peloton home.  

Tour de France stage 18: Moûtiers to Bourg-en-Bresse 185 km

1. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Soudal Quick-Step, in 04-06-48
2. Pascal Eenkhorn (Ned) Lotto-Dstny,
3. Jonas Abrahamsen (Nor) Uno-X,
4. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck,
5. Mads Pedersen (Den) Lidl-Trek,
6. Cees Bol (Ned) Astana-Qazaqstan,
7. Jordi Meeus (Deu) Bora-Hansgrohe,
8. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Emirates,
9. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma,
10. Luca Mozzatto (Ita) Arkea-Samsic, all at same time

General classification after stage 18

1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma in 72-04-39
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 7-35
3. Adam Yates (GBr) UAE Team Emirates, at 10-45
4. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers, at 12-01
5. Simon Yates (Gbr) Jayco-AIUla, at 12-19
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 12-50
7. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 13-50
8. Felix Gall (Aut) AG2R Citroën, at 16-11
9. Sepp Kuss (Usa) Jumbo-Visma, at 16-49
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 17-57

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.