PARIS – Team Dimension Data’s Tom-Jelte Slagter and Julien Vermote had key roles to play in the crucial break in Tuesday’s 16th stage of the Tour de France.
Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-Floors) won his second stage of this year’s Tour, crossing the line solo after a daredevil descent of the final climb.
Gorka Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida) finished in second place with Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) taking third.
The stage got off to a fast start with nearly every team hoping to place a rider in the break of the day. The common interest made it very difficult for the break to form and it was only after 105km of attacking that the break eventually went clear.
In fact, it was the African team’s duo of Slagter and Vermote who forced the 47-rider break, and Edvald Boasson Hagen was also included, clear with a double attack.
Before the break formed, though, there was a bit of drama when some local farmers’ protest turned ugly. The farmers were trying to stop the race from the roadside when police intervened.
It seemed some type of gas was used to disperse the protesters but it affected some of the riders as they rode past. After a 15-minute halt to the stage, racing resumed with no serious injuries.
The big break with the African team’s trio drove the pace up until they had a lead of over 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the break was littered with climbing talent and on the penultimate climb of the stage, Slagter was the final Dimension Data rider to be distanced from the front group.
Out front, it was Yates who attacked the final climb, followed by Alaphilippe 15 seconds later. The 10km descent to the finish was rather tricky and the pressure was on the Australian as he knew the Frenchman was the superior descender.
In the end, he succumbed to that pressure and made a mistake on a hairpin corner, crashing to the ground. Alaphilippe went into the lead and rode away with the stage.
All the Team Dimension Data riders came home safely behind the yellow-jersey group after a tough first stage in the Pyrenees.
Said breakaway rider Vermote: "It was a really hard start to the stage and it took over 100km for the break to go. They also had to neutralise the race for a bit because of the farmers’ strike, that probably contributed to the break taken so long as well.
"In the end, we were in the move with three guys – Eddy [Boasson Hagen], Tom [Slagter] and myself – so that was good. On the first climb, we survived well. On the second climb, they went full from the bottom and that’s where Eddy and I dropped.
"Tom was still up front but later on, he also dropped. For sure it wasn’t easy, this is the Tour de France and it’s only top-quality riders up there. Certainly, we used a lot of energy to get into the break as well so we knew it would be hard up against so many good climbers.
"At least we tried and we were there so we will keep on trying and on Thursday, we will have another opportunity to try to get a victory."
African News Agency (ANA)