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Tour de France

Neilson Powless: Cort’s Tour de France stage win takes the pressure off the team

American talks chasing GC aims, climate change protests, and the environment

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After almost two weeks of threatening to win a stage at the Tour de France, the EF Education-EasyPost team finally pulled it off with victory on stage 10 of the race.

Magnus Cort, the most consistent attacking force on the American team in this year’s race, came through a pulsating finale to beat Nick Shultz on the the line at Megevé, and teammate Neilson Powless believes that the win could spur the squad toward even greater heights.

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Powless is still in contention for a GC top-ten, sitting 11th overall ahead of the major Alpine stages, but Cort’s win is likely to take the pressure off the rest of the team as they look to emulate the Dane’s efforts.

“It means hopefully the start of an upward trend for our team and some forward momentum,” Powless told the press after stage 10.

“Magnus has been pretty incredible in the Tour de France so far and putting on a show for our fans. He’s represented our team really well. I’m just so happy that he could show his stuff at the finish line today.”

EF Education’s first week at the Tour de France had ebbed and flowed between the sublime and the ridiculous. Cort had gone on the attack throughout a number of early stages as he built up a slender lead in the king of the mountains competition.

Then came the farcical scenes on the cobbles with Alberto Bettiol chasing down both Powless and Cort after the pair had infiltrated a break. Bettiol redeemed himself with a number of stellar rides — including a gutsy cameo on stage 10 to help Cort.

“We just kept saying that we had to keep executing our plans everyday,” Powless said when asked about the mood in the EF camp during Monday’s second rest day in Morzine.

“We set out with a plan and we pretty much nailed our plan in every stage so far. A win hadn’t come yet but we were just trying to be faithful that it would work out for us in the end. Today it finally came together for us. Happy days.”

Cort’s win does take an element of pressure off Powless’s shoulders. This is the American’s third Tour de France but his first as a potential GC rider. He’s never been in this position and caution is required at this point when it comes to raising the levels of expectation around him. The next two days in the Alps and the summit finishes to come will have huge implications for the overall standings, but Powless is ready to roll with the punches no matter what.

“For now that’s got to be the goal for myself. I was poking around in the breakaway today, and they weren’t letting me go and that answered my question about whether they would let me slip up the road. For now it’s pretty straight forward and I’ll just hang with the GC riders as best as I can and if I’m performing well then I’ll just keep doing that. If I end up losing time then maybe I’ll lose enough for the guys to let me go in a breakaway,” he said.

“It takes pressure off the team as a whole. You’ve got to get your first one before you can get some real momentum going. Hopefully this just opens the door for more.”

Powless was also asked about the climate change protest that halted and delayed the stage by almost 15 minutes on Tuesday.

“I wasn’t really aware. I’ve still got to get on the bus and read the news. The peloton was happy to take a little break and refill with some fresh water. I’ll have to see what it was about,” he said.

The American was also asked about the Tour de France’s carbon footprint.

“I don’t really know the exact numbers on what’s going on but hopefully we’re off-setting that by getting people on bikes and promoting a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “I think it’s going to be impossible to quantify anything but I’m all for cleaning up the environment and everyone trying to do their part to off-set their carbon footprint. Hopefully it’s getting better in the next few years.”