Three weeks Maciej Bodnar had been waiting for this opportunity. The BORA-hansgrohe time trial specialist had ridden hard in support of his teammates on every stage of the Tour de France so far, but today was his chance to take centre stage. Smashing the day’s previous best time by over a minute, the former Polish national time trial champion rode a perfect race that stood for the remainder of the day. With his stunning ride, Bodi takes a well-deserved first stage victory at the Tour de France, and BORA-hansgrohe’s second of the race.
The penultimate stage of the 2017 Tour de France was a time trial – 22.5km long and with a course that would challenge every kind of rider, with its long straight sections, a steep, challenging climb, along with some twists and turns on a circuit through the streets of Marseille, starting and finishing in the famous Orange Vélodrome. In spite of three weeks of racing in the riders’ legs though, this would be the last day that there would be a chance to go full gas, ahead of the traditional procession into Paris for the race’s grand finale.
The crowds at the vélodrome finish had already been whipped into a frenzy by the La Course women’s race, and were eager to see the outcome of the men’s time trial. The first riders out on the course were setting times around the half-hour mark, with the early leader having set a time of 29:21. While the first BORA-hansgrohe riders out came in with some strong times, they were still short of the time needed to take the top spot. Jay McCarthy came close, with a time of 29:43 while Emanuel Buchmann and Marcus Burghardt each came in with the same time of 30:41, but it wasn’t enough to unseat the top-placed rider.
This was until Maciej Bodnar hit the course. The former Polish national time trial champion took every corner perfectly and took as much time as he could on the flats, riding at an incredible pace for the final part of the stage. Entering the Orange Vélodrome, Bodi smashed the provisional first position’s time by more than a minute, finishing in 28:15. It was where he stayed, watching intently the performances of the GC contenders as they all pushed hard to take time from each other. The last rider who could beat him was the Maillot Jaune, Chris Froome of Team Sky, but as the overall leader came to the finish six seconds down, Maciej’s first stage victory at the Tour de France, and BORA-hansgrohe’s second of the race, was confirmed.
Having waited three hours in the Orange Vélodrome for his win to be confirmed, Maciej could finally celebrate his first victory. “It was a really amazing day for me today. I’ve waited a long time for this moment, for my first stage victory at the Tour de France. When I was a child, my dream was to race in the Tour de France, and now I’ve taken a stage! It is a fantastic moment. I’d like to thank my girlfriend who always stood by me, my mother and, of course, my father who, unfortunately, passed away and wasn’t able to watch this great moment. Thanks go also to my team, BORA-hansgrohe. This victory is for them. We had a tough start at the Tour this year and this victory goes also to Peter and Rafał. We have shown we are a great group.”
Having watched the day unfold, BORA-hansgrohe’s Team Coach, Patxi Vila, was thrilled.“Congratulations Bodi! That was an amazing ride. We knew that this was a good opportunity. We took some risks because, in our plan, the finish was on the top of the climb and then it was just about surviving. In the Tour de France you never win without taking some risks. Bodi rode a perfect race. He stuck to our plan and I knew from the last days that today we had a chance to take the win, and he did it. He really deserves this win – he has worked so hard during the whole race and put in a perfect ride today.”
Tomorrow, after three weeks of hard racing, the 2017 Tour de France comes to an end. The final stage into Paris is more of a procession than a serious road stage, but in spite of the short distance – the stage covering just 103km – the Champs-Elysées is where the race will come to life. The day finishes with eight circuits in central Paris before the final sprint – one of the biggest spectacles of the whole race. With the reduced field for the bunch sprint, the final stage is really up for grabs.