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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 13, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles. - G. K. Chesterton

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Tour de France Stage 14 team reports

We posted the organizer's stage fourteen summary with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Soren Andersen's Team Sunweb:

After tasting sweet success on stage 12 of the Tour de France after some great riding set up Marc Hirschi to take the team’s first win of the race; the team hatched another plan to replicate that success today. Søren Kragh Andersen went solo in the finale, but with the team behind him to halt any chase – taking another fantastic win for Team Sunweb.

Soren Andersen

Soren Andersen enjoys his stage win. Alex Broadway photo.

With yesterday’s stage one for the climbers and GC contenders, today appeared to be a much more open affair, with several possible outcomes for the day. Many thought that it could be a day for the early breakaway and a big fight ensued at the start of the stage, with Cees Bol infiltrating a group of three that almost drifted off the front of the peloton.

The pace stalled and Casper Pedersen attacked, hoping to get others to join him and make a race winning breakaway but when no one followed his move, him and Bol sat up and returned to the peloton.

The battle for the Green Jersey saw an intense pace set on the day’s longest climb and that infernal pace remained for the majority of the stage – only calming for a brief period with around 60 kilometres to go. Heading into the finale the team had hatched a plan to be as aggressive as possible over the last two climbs in an attempt to split the race up.

After Nicholas Roche had brought everyone forward, Tiesj Benoot launched a stinging attack on the penultimate climb, getting a small advantage over the bunch. However, he was slowly reeled back in and a stale mate ensued for a few kilometres before the blue touch paper was lit on the crest of the last climb. Stage 12 winner Marc Hirschi attacked, dragging a group clear but they were soon brought to heel and the pace lulled. It was at this moment that Søren Kragh Andersen launched a perfectly timed attack, with a devastating turn of speed to pull away from the peloton.

With the rest of the team doing a great job at disrupting and halting any chase behind, Kragh Andersen could utilise his great descending and time trial skills to build on his advantage. Coming into the finish straight, he had plenty of time to sit up and salute the applauding crowd – sealing a sublime second Tour de France stage win for Team Sunweb.

“It’s incredible, I didn’t really believe this morning when I woke up that this would happen,” smiled a jubilant Kragh Andersen at the finish. “I’m really happy with the team effort from the guys today, they made it hard enough that I could find the perfect moment to attack. I saw when I went that everybody was tired and they started to look at each other; I knew then that it was the right moment. I had good legs and could go full gas all the way to the line. We’re taking the race in our hands, maybe we don’t realise it’s the Tour de France – but we’re just racing and it happens to be on the biggest stage in the world.”

Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston continued: “Our plan was to try and be in the breakaway if we thought it was big enough to go to the finish. We realised pretty quickly that the break was too small and wasn’t going to go all the way. We had Cees and Casper up the road who we brought back to the peloton and focused on racing an aggressive final. The guys really bounce off each other, they’ve got a really good team spirit; they’re just all in for a Team Sunweb win. We used that to our advantage with Tiesj’s attack first then Marc marking some of the key guys on the climb, and then Søren saw a good opportunity to launch his attack. I think across the board the whole team really worked well, brought the guys into position and Casper was also there and waiting for the sprint. We tried to cover all the bases as we knew this was a stage that suited our team and we hoped to get a good result from it, which we did. Everyone is really happy now and we move on towards the final week.”

Here's the report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Primoz Roglic continues to lead the general classification after the fourteenth stage of the Tour de France. The leader of Team Jumbo-Visma was well-positioned in the front by his team in the difficult and technical final. In the stage, won by Soren Kragh Andersen, the Slovenian finished in the first chasing group at fifteen seconds.

Primoz Roglic

Roglic remains in yellow as the Tour heads back into the high mountains. Sirotti photo

In the stage to Lyon, the pace was high from the start in Clermont-Ferrand. The teams with ambitions for the green jersey controlled the stage. Team Jumbo-Visma rode attentively in the front of the peloton all day and kept Roglic out of the fuss.

“I thought and I had hoped the stage would be a lot easier today”, Roglic said. “It was full throttle from the start due to the work of Bora and CCC. It’s true that we didn’t have to pull, but we still had to stay focused and we had to keep riding in the front. Especially in the technical final. The team was very strong again. It was incredible what the boys did and how quickly they responded to Bernal’s attack. The Tour is the Tour and anything can happen every day. We cannot falter.”

Wout van Aert concurred. “It was a tough final with many obstacles. It was very hectic, but you know to expect that with a finish in a city like Lyon. It was important to stay sharp and focused all day and to try and stay in the front. It was all hands on deck for the team. We would punch ourselves in the head if we were in twentieth position when Bernal attacked. The team responded well to that situation. As a team, we have to stay on top of our game every day. After all, you never know when someone will attack. Just look at Bernal. We did not expect him to attack, but he is a winner who will not give up and tries to take every opportunity. We are happy that Primoz got through the stage unscathed and without time loss.”

Tomorrow’s stage finishes on top of the Grand Colombier. A stage that the team and Roglic know very well. The final of the stage is identical to the final stage won by Roglic in the Tour de l’Ain. “Tomorrow will be a good challenge for us”, Roglic said. “The team is strong and we have to keep doing what we always do.”

Luka Mezgec's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this report:

Slovenian Luka Mezgec claimed a bittersweet second place on stage 14 of his debut Tour de France, winning the reduced bunch sprint behind a solo escapee.

After the bunch controlled most of the day, including a number of moves on two late climbs, Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) timed his move to perfection when he sensed a momentary lapse in momentum with just over three kilometres remaining.

Despite yet another active start to the stage, just two riders formed the breakaway on a day that was largely shaped by the green jersey competition.

BORA-hansgrohe were committed to gaining as many points as possible for Peter Sagan, and kept the gap to the duo manageable as they contested the intermediate sprint behind.

Keeping the pace solid over the main climbs of the day, BORA-hansgrohe shouldered much of the work that shelled the pure sprinters from the peloton and out of contention for the stage win.

Two late category-four climbs were poised as perfect launchpads for late attacks, and despite a number of attempts, it looked like the work of BORA-hansgrohe and then CCC Team was enough to bring it back to a reduced bunch sprint.

Sensing that lull, Andersen picked his moment to perfection, sneaking away from the reduced bunch which took too long to arrange itself for the chase.

Mitchelton-SCOTT’s Jack Bauer went to the front inside the final two kilometres to try to pull the race back, but it wasn’t enough and Mezgec was forced to settle in the bunch sprint for minor placings.

Luka Mezgec

Luka Mezgec (shown riding in the 2019 Vuelta a España) had to settle for second in stage fourteen. Sirotti photo

Luka Mezgec:
“It’s bitter sweetness and disappointment because I knew it was a big opportunity missed to win a stage of the Tour de France, but it’s my first Tour de France and I know my form is good.

“We all knew there would be some attacks especially from (Julian) Alaphilippe. Somehow, we tried to follow him, and he couldn’t succeed but that one moment we stopped with three kilometres to go, Soren attacked and that was it.

“Hats off to BORA-hansgrohe, everybody knew what they were going to do, and they did it. It was hard on the climbs and then the final was even harder.”

Here's the update from Green Jersey Sam Bennett's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Site of the first ever stage finish at the first ever Tour de France, back in 1903, Lyon returned on the race for the first time since 2013, when Matteo Trentin claimed the victory for our team from the breakaway. Just like then, stage 14 got off to a nervous and intense start, as Sam Bennett was put under pressure on the first classified climb of the day. Despite losing contact, he didn’t panic and comfortably picked up points at the intermediate sprint in Courpière, which came just ahead of the long Col du Béal.

The Wolfpack immediately moved into position and went on to set the rhythm on the first part of the climb, before other teams took the helms and intensified the pace to put the sprinters to the sword. Dropped from the bunch just one kilometer from the top, Bennett could count on a large Deceuninck – Quick-Step contingent, which paced him over the summit and just took it easy, knowing that there was no point in engaging in a mad chase of the peloton, where several teams combined efforts to make sure the sprinters wouldn’t return.

With the gap going out to five minutes in the space of just a couple of kilometers, it became clear that the focus would be shifted to the stage victory, that was to be played out between the puncheurs on the two four-category climbs in Lyon. The only Frenchman to wear the yellow jersey at this edition, Julian Alaphilippe was again prominent and surged clear on the Côte de la Croix-Rousse, spreading panic in the reduced bunch, which got on terms with him only on the descent.

Attacks continued to come thick and fast, and it was the one launched by Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) with two kilometers to go that stuck, the Dane taking a solo win, some 15 seconds clear of the peloton. Escorted by Kasper Asgreen, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Michael Mørkøv, Sam Bennett rolled over the line in a 50-man group and shortly afterwards took to the podium, where he received his seventh green jersey.

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett wil start stage 15 in green. Sirotti photo

“It was a hard day, but quite ok in the end. On the climb before the intermediate sprint they tried to hurt the legs, but I gave it my all, and even though I got dropped, I soldiered on and was happy to take some valuable points”, explained Sam, who has a 43-point buffer in the classification. “The team did a great job for me and tried to get me back, but it wasn’t possible, so we decided to ease up after the third climb as there was no point in chasing hard. I can call myself fortunate to have such amazing teammates around me, guys who embody this unique and incredible Wolfpack spirit and help me get over the daily challenges of the Tour. It’s still a long way to go to Paris and we know it won’t be easy, but we will keep fighting.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

Classed as a flat stage, the road from Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon wasn’t quite so straightforward. The 194km parcours featured five categorised climbs, and while the hardest of the day would be out of the way by the time 100km had been covered, two fourth category hills less than 10km before the finish line meant the stage win could be taken by anyone.

Setting a high pace from the start, the BORA-hansgrohe riders worked together to tire out the sprinters in the peloton while simultaneously keeping the day’s break – a duo that had built a slim lead – in check. The day’s intermediate sprint was early in the day, and it was here that the team’s efforts made their mark, with Peter Sagan taking the maximum points left after the break had passed through. Once the sprint was out of the way, the team set about making things hard again, and the high speeds along with the second category Col du Béal saw the green jersey contenders dropped off the back.

The break had nearly six minutes over the peloton, but this was coming down fast with Lennard Kämna, Max Schachmann, Felix Grossschartner and Emanuel Buchmann each taking their turn on the front. With 80km to go, it was all back together and by the time Lyon came into view, the pure sprinters were a distant memory, more than ten minutes behind. Into the last 10km, a solo rider attacked off the front and Lennard was quick to pull them back, before riding off the front himself. Peter Sagan was well placed and riding hard, chasing down the attacks and, with 3.5km left, looked to see who was still hanging on who could challenge for the stage.

A late solo attack saw the pack distanced and few wanted to work to make the catch, having expended so much energy chasing the earlier moves. The stage won by the attacker, the chasing bunch fought it out for the win, and while Peter was blocked in the sprint, he rode well and claimed fourth, adding 23 points in his battle for the green jersey ahead of a hard mountain stage tomorrow.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan has a ways to go before he's in green again. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"We wanted to make the stage tough today and drop the sprinters. We worked hard all day for that, until the finish. I took fourth and got more points in the fight for the green jersey. The goal was to take more, but in the end, this is the best we could do. This is a very hard Tour de France and I'd like to thank my teammates for their fantastic job, not only today, but every day since the start in Nice." – Peter Sagan

"Of course, our goal was to get more than 23 points back. We rode a strong race again but in the finale we missed one extra rider to control the race. Still, even one rider more wouldn’t have been enough, but our chances in controlling could have been a lot higher. Without that additional rider, it was an open race with lots of attacks. I pulled to catch one rider that attacked, when I saw the gap I gave it a go. This wasn't planned, but it felt quite good to be at the front in that last climb with lots of spectators." – Lennard Kämna

"Our strategy was to make the race hard early on. We saw a possibility in the short, steep climb before the intermediate sprint to put pressure already there, since afterwards it was 5km, mostly downhill to the intermediate sprint. Peter was with Max at the top, kept on, and took some initial points. Later on, in the second, long climb our aim was to drop all the sprinters. That also worked out very well, the squad did an amazing job. Unfortunately, we had a bit of bad luck, Lukas had a puncture when he was in the front, so we missed his contribution there. We continued and worked until the finish but it was hard to control the race in the last kilometres, that's why a rider was able to escape and take the win. Peter was at times blocked and finished fourth. Again, the whole team did an amazing job. Thanks to all our riders, it was a very good stage." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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