With four riders within thirty seconds of the top spot in the GC, it was bound to be a busy day before the second rest day of the race, but few would have expected the stage to unfold in the way it did. With the GC contenders pushing the Yellow Jersey to try to make him crack, the Maillot Jaune had to ride out of his skin to hold his lead. Recognising that this wasn’t the stage to try and make an impact, having missed the early breaks, BORA-hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann stayed close to the race leaders in the final, to fight hard in the final week, where the Tour de France would move into the Alpes.
One stage before the second – and last – rest day of the 2017 Tour de France, today’s route was far from straightforward. This 189.5km parcours saw four categorised climbs over the distance, with these climbs coming two at the start and two at the end of the stage. The GC race was starting to really come to life, and the leaders would be trying to take every opportunity that they could to gain some seconds, while others would be trying to take the win. The finale came at the end of an undulating day with some tough climbs just at the right place to launch a late attack – but riders would have to make it over a tricky first category climb to be in with a chance at the win, and with the GC riders raising the stakes, this would be hard.
The GC teams would be careful just who they would let go in the breakaway, wanting to make sure their rivals didn’t grab any extra time. Taking the chance to get in the escape, BORA-hansgrohe’s Marcus Burghardt jumped in the lead group – a group that was met shortly after by a counter-attack from the peloton. The fierce pace set by the climbers searching for points in the Maillot à Pois contest meant Marcus was forced to ride at his own pace on the climbs, but at this early point, the fireworks were already going off, as the GC riders attacked each other relentlessly – with 140km still to go.
With two large groups ahead of the race leader’s group, further back the GC riders were taking every chance to prod the Yellow Jersey to see if he had the legs to last the whole stage. As the kilometres ticked down, riders were aiming to wear down the race leader and take advantage. The stage already won, all eyes were on the GC riders still out on the course. With a massive push, Sky’s Froome managed to save his race lead ahead of the rest day and the final week, where the race would hit the Alpes. Recognising that the opportunities just weren’t there today, Emanuel Buchmann rode at his own pace, saving his energy to fight hard in the final week.
From the finish, Emanuel explained that he had tried to go in the break, but missed his chance. “I tried to go in the break today, but when the first group with Marcus went in the flat part, the peloton went slow for a moment and I was swapped back. Then in the little downhill before the climb, it was full gas again so there was no chance for me to move up again. I started the climb in position 100 then, so it took me some time to come in front. I thought about trying to bridge then, but Contador attacked in that moment and the race was full on, so it was too late. In the end my legs were also better today and I could stay with the Bardet group for longer. Unfortunately I was dropped on the top of the climb and was thirty seconds back, lost in nowhere between the Froome and Quintana group. It’s a pity I missed the break, but the good thing is I feel better, so will try it again in the last two mountain stages.”
BORA-hansgrohe’s Head Sports Director, Enrico Poitschke, was disappointed Emu wasn’t able to make it in the break. “It’s a pity that Emanuel missed the break today. We knew that today was a good chance, and in the Tour you don’t get a lot of chances, so our plan was to be up there today. But the day is over and the good thing is that he looked good on the other big climb today. If he can find his shape from the Dauphiné after the rest day, something is still possible and for sure we’ll keep on trying.”
After the rest day, it’s going to be climbing from the start on Tuesday. The 165km route starts with a third category climb before following an undulating profile to the second climb of the day – an easy fourth category. Here’s where the race could get interesting though – the final half of the stage sees the race head downhill for a flat finale. Ahead of the mountain stages, the sprinters might have another chance to take centre stage – as long as they can stay in contact when the road points upwards.