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LYON, France (VN) — The Tour de France closed its second week on Saturday in Lyon with its first successful breakaway. It was not easy this year with three sprint teams, a team for Peter Sagan, and the GC race to consider.
A mixture of the three blew Friday’s stage apart. Omega Pharma-Quick Step shattered the peloton for Mark Cavendish (Sagan was along for the ride) and left Belkin and Saxo-Tinkoff to finish it for their GC riders.
“Everyone wanted to be in the breakaway today to Lyon. It was a big fight to be in it, let alone to win,” stage winner Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) said in a press conference.
“Once you’re in it, it’s hard. Everyone tries to win because its the only chance for days.”
Why did it take so long for a breakaway to succeed?
“It’s simple — we have three super sprinters in the race and their teams don’t have GC racers. They are here to just control the flat stages and to have a sprint,” Philippe Mauduit, Saxo sport director, told VeloNews.
“They make a pace, and quite simply, no one can go faster.”
Katusha sport director Valerio Piva shook his head: “Some teams won’t even bother trying to get into the escape.”
Added Lotto-Belisol sport director Hernan Frison, with a smile: “It’s normal. The three of us — Lotto, Omega and Argos — are here specifically to control the breakaways.”
Their work has paid off. Omega Pharma won two for Cavendish, Argos-Shimano three for Marcel Kittel and Lotto one for André Greipel.
When they failed, Cannondale took over. It shattered the peloton, dropped the pure sprinters and caught the escape in stage 7 to Albi. Sagan missed the win, but gained valuable points for the green jersey.
Saturday’s stage to Lyon covered seven category-three and four climbs that suited Sagan’s style, but in the end, a group escaped. Almost all of the 22 teams had riders in the 18-man move, which made it that much easier for it to keep its freedom.
And there will be more opportunities along the road.
“Lyon and the stage to Gap [Tuesday] are for escapes,” said Frison. “The classification is now made up of guys who are 20 to 30 minutes down. It’s no longer a problem if an escape goes when we are in the mountains. The GC riders can still have their fight behind and let an escape win.”
Piva anticipates a similar scenario on Mont Ventoux on Sunday.
“That’s what I think will happen on Mont Ventoux,” he said. “It may be like 2009, a big escape ahead and a race for the GC behind.”
After two weeks without a successful breakaway, the Tour de France was ready for one on Saturday. After Trentin’s success in Lyon, Gap may welcome another escape artist.