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NÎMES, France (VN) — Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is quietly mounting a run at the Tour de France’s final podium in Paris.
The 26-year-old German sits in sixth place, only 39 seconds off of Geraint Thomas (Ineos), and 2:14 behind leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). And whenever the road points uphill, Buchmann has shown himself to be perhaps the second- or third-best climber in the race, behind Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos).
“Nothing is impossible,” Buchmann said of a possible win. “But I need a lot of luck.”
Despite his favorable position, Buchmann does not generate a lot of buzz within the Tour de France village. While reporters swarm around Thomas and Pinot, Buchmann rolls through the village without being bothered.
And the throngs of fans that arrive at his Bora-Hansgrohe team bus aren’t there to see the spindly German step out of the bus. They are there, of course, to cheer for pro cycling’s showman, Peter Sagan.
Buchmann’s place outside of the spotlight has obscured his rapid rise up the GC. While other top favorites such as Nairo Quintana and Adam Yates fell out of contention in the Pyrenees, Buchmann rocketed forward.
He was among the final contenders to ride into the front group on the summit finish to the Tourmalet on stage 14. And inside the final two kilometers, Buchmann launched a series of attacks to the finish. The surges helped knock Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Thomas out of the lead group.
“When I saw the others were suffering, I knew I could still ramp up my pace, so I launched an attack,” Buchmann said after the stage. “I would, obviously, have liked to take the stage but I’m happy I was able to split the group of favorites and I feel satisfied with my fourth place. I think I’m on the right track.”
Bora-Hansgrohe director Enrico Poitschke said Buchmann represents the future goals of the team.
“We had it from the beginning in our minds, that this is our guy for the future,” Poitschke said. “And we built him easy, year by year to top rider. And now we are here and to do it well. We hope it works in the next days.”
Indeed, Buchmann has steadily built on his impressive results in the high mountains. He was 15th place in the 2017 Tour de France, and in 2015 he finished third on a mountain stage alongside some of the top contenders.
This spring, he signaled his intentions for the Tour with a stage win and third place in the Tour of the Basque Country and third place in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“I actually know how strong he is,” teammate Gregor Mühlberger said. “But to compete with the really big names was a bit of a surprise for me, but he already knew he could do that in the Dauphiné.
“He’s one of the best riders. So yeah, we keep going. I think he can can do much more again.”
The team began the Tour with a top 10 in mind. Now even Poitschke admits that more is possible.
“I mean, it will be very hard,” said Poitschke. “We wanted to do a top 10. Even ninth or eighth would be better. But on the podium, I don’t want to think of that yet.”
Buchmann signals the continuation of a new wave of German cyclists with John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin). If he were to win the Tour, he would become the first German since Jan Ullrich in 1997 to do so. The doping admission of Ullrich and other German riders from his generation forced the country to rebuild its foundation in the sport. Since then Germany has produced talented sprinters and classics specialists.
Buchmann is one of the first bonafide Tour de France contenders.
“It’s too early to think about a win, but he is on the good way. And in the last years, he’s growing and growing, and every year, stronger,” said Poitschke.
“But you see also when you watch to Romain Bardet or Nairo Quintana, or a lot of other guys. We thought some years ago that’s the new winner of the Tour de France. And you never know how it works.
“We are happy like it is now. And we are concentrated but we don’t think to win the Tour de France.”