Matej Mohorič clawed his way to the front on a desperately hard day to take stage 19 of the Tour de France in a two-up photo finish against yesterday’s victor, Kasper Asgreen. Both riders joined a mid-stage move that bridged to the early breakaway and made the selection at every crucial moment on a stage that featured unrelenting action from start to finish. Jonas Vingegaard, by contrast, had a largely uneventful day to finish safely in yellow with two stages to go.
- With only a big-mountain stage before Paris, today was last-chance saloon for a breakaway unless you’re a climber. It took 55 km of attacking for the break to eventually go clear, and the tight leash from Alpecin-Deceuninck meant there were many opportunistic attempts to bridge. The result: chaos, and an average speed of 49 km/h.
- The first significant move of the day, an eight-rider group containing tractors like Nils Politt and Victor Campenaerts, looked promising. But the presence of Mads Pedersen meant Alpecin worked to keep the gap close. When Politt’s chain broke, the front group lost some essential momentum and set up a bridge by a large group of counterattackers, including green jersey Jasper Philipsen and teammate Mathieu van der Poel.
- That group proved too large, unruly, and unstable to work together well, and the expected attacks came both before and on the day’s primary climb, the Category 3 Côte d’Ivory. Asgreen, Mohorič, and Ben O’Connor got clear and held the advantage over the climb, even stretching it out slightly on the long, straight run to the finish. O’Connor, not the strongest in a sprint, tried an attack inside one km to go, but was quickly covered by Asgreen, whose long sprint was nearly successful but for Mohorič’s perfectly timed bike throw at the line.
- Alpecin was in tough straits early and late. With Mads Pedersen in the “early” break, they lost a chasing partner in Lidl-Trek. But even after Philipsen and Van der Poel jumped across to the front group and then made the first chase group behind the lead trio, other riders largely looked to them to lead the pacing, and with motors like Asgreen and Mohorič out front that was a recipe for failure, as the gap grew in the final 15 km. It’s pretty simple: most teams don’t want to work with a dominant rival, and Philipsen’s presence all but killed the chances of any group he was in. The result? Another fourth-place finish.
- The alternating mtn-break-flat route of this year’s Tour afforded some low-key days early in the race, but it’s been a bloc racing since the second rest day, with high speeds and large breakaways. That will likely continue on Saturday’s mountain stage, but a number of riders we might have expected to see on the move then likely burned a few too many matches in today’s wicked pace.
Up next: stage 20 preview
The last mountain stage of the 2023 Tour de France looms with a tough day in the Jura before a long transfer Sunday to Paris for the final stage. The trip from Belfort to Le Markstein isn’t long – just 133.5 km – but it features six categorized climbs. The last 30 km is wickedly hard, with two Category 1 climbs, each averaging over eight percent. What’s more, from the top of the final ascent, the Col du Platzerwasel, there are eight km of lumpy to flat roads to the finish. There won’t be much movement in the overall standings with the gaps we have, but there could be some: look for a wild stage as all teams that haven’t won yet will want to be in the break. Second-placed overall Tadej Pogačar may also want another stage win, and we could see action among the top-10 on GC, in particular the battle for spots 4-6, currently separated by less than a minute.
Quote of the day
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We picked Haig as our quote of the day partly because there’s not a single line in this interview from Mohorič that we want you to miss. Worth watching in full.
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