Tiesj Benoot and Tony Gallopin animated the queen stage at the Tour de France this afternoon. Seven climbs lay on the route between Nantua and Chambéry, including three hors catégorie climbs. A very hard stage, but a photo finish had to determine the winner.
Tim Wellens was the first attacker of the day. Immediately after the official start the Belgian accelerated. After Thibaut Pinot had bridged first, a large group of about 35 riders followed his example. Three Lotto Soudal riders were part of that group: Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin! On the top of Col de la Biche, after almost seventy kilometres of racing, the escapees had their maximal advantage of 6’50”. Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt were already dropped by then. In the descent Tiesj Benoot got in front with six others. During the ascent of the Grand Colombier another selection was made: Benoot and Barguil were the only two leaders left. In the descent they were joined by Mollema, Roglič and Vuillermoz.
In the valley towards Mont du Chat the leaders waited for the first chasing group, so Tony Gallopin joined the front group again. The peloton then followed at less than four minutes. After the intermediate sprint at 55 kilometres from the finish Tony Gallopin and Jan Bakelants distanced their companions. In the first kilometres of Mont du Chat, with top 26 kilometres from the finish, Gallopin set up a solo attack. Later Bakelants returned with Barguil who then went solo. Tiesj Benoot caught several riders and got in second position, but then the GC riders reeled him in. Romain Bardet took over the lead from Bardet in the last ten kilometres of the stage. Just before entering the last two kilometres Bardet was caught by the first chasing group. Rigoberto Uran beat Warren Barguil in a sprint. Tiesj Benoot finished twelfth, at 3’32”. Almost five minutes later Tony Gallopin got 27th.
Tiesj Benoot: “I wanted to get in the large breakaway yesterday, but I was too far behind. The rest of the day I could save my energy a bit and I hoped to play a role today. This morning I didn’t feel great though, but once we started racing the legs didn’t feel bad at all. Today I didn’t miss the right break. When the selection was made, I could hang on. I was riding at the front and that was wonderful. Afterwards Tony got ahead and that was a good situation too. When he was caught I tried to bridge to Barguil, but that was too hopeful.”
“We lost three minutes lead in the valley, otherwise I might have been able to survive Mont du Chat and battle for a higher result. I can be satisfied with this performance and the way I showed myself. I am glad we have a rest day tomorrow.”
Tony Gallopin: “Despite the fact that I was completely exhausted yesterday, I felt pretty good this morning. That’s why I joined the large breakaway. We had to be attentive, so no group would ride away without Tiesj or me. And we had to try to avoid crashing. After the very tough week I had, I can be very pleased. I was riding alone in front for a while on Mont du Chat, but when stronger riders pass you by, you know it’s over. I am happy with this performance, this is promising for the rest of the Tour.”