Kasper Asgreen spent the majority of the 164km Tour de France stage to Bourg-en-Bresse off the front of the peloton with only three other breakaway companions for company, but his journey to a stand-out career victory had been much longer.
The Dane outsprinted his breakaway companions as the bunch bore down on them in the finishing straight, the sprinters coming agonizingly close to contesting the win.
But 12 months ago Asgreen had abandoned the Tour de France before the halfway mark suffering the effects of a crash at the Tour de Suisse in June when he hurt his knee. To make matters worse, just a month later he had to cut his season short with “fatigue syndrome”.
At the time his Soudal-Quick-Step team said: "The stresses of the crash and the subsequent attempts to get him ready for the Tour has unfortunately led to Kasper developing a fatigue syndrome, meaning that his body is no longer recovering from even low intensity efforts."
He eventually returned to competition in January this year and gave flashes of his old self winning the Danish national time trial title last month.
This afternoon after racking up a maiden Tour stage in the French sun, he said: “This victory is really for all the people who helped me out during the last year to come back to my old level. This victory proves that I’m back where I belong.”
The Tour of Flanders winner declined to go into much detail about his recovery but said that “some really good people” had “put a lot of effort” into getting him back to winning ways.
“I felt since Paris-Roubaix that the body was starting to finally react like normal again,” he said. “The last couple of weeks before the Tour I felt like the legs and the body were back to my normal level and to crown it with a victory in the Tour is really nice.”
Asgreen’s win removes the cloud from above his Soudal - Quick-Step team’s Tour. The classics powerhouse has not gone winless at the Tour since 2012.
“Obviously it’s important for our team like ours to come away with a victory we have a long history of doing that. It’s been I don’t know how many years since we left the Tour without a victory, so I’m very happy we’re not going to be doing that,” said Agreen.
He said he suspected that the break might survive today as the final week of the Tour can often prove just how tired all the legs in the peloton are behind. It’s a situation he said he had been on the other end of “quite a few times”.
“When we have had some hard stages everyone can go the same speed but not many people can go much faster so it can be difficult to catch a small group,” he said.
The road back to the top step of the podium may have been long, but Asgreen’s form and quality being what it is, the road to more wins looks quite a bit shorter.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1