Sandwiched between two massive mountain days, Stage 14 of the Tour de France from Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon was a day for the attackers – the puncheurs, the classics specialists, and the breakaway artists. Someone named Thomas De Gendt, or Marc Hirschi perhaps.
In the end, it was less about a single rider and more about a textbook display of attack-counterattack tactics from Team Sunweb. First, it was Tiesj Benoot, then Hirschi, and finally Søren Kragh Andersen who launched out of the field one by one. On the finish line in Lyon, Andersen took a glorious stage win well ahead of the reduced peloton. Oft forgotten amongst two other big-name Slovenians, Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton–Scott) surprised a few by squeezing past Peter Sagan (Bora–Hansgrohe) in the closing meters to win the bunch sprint for 2nd, and secure his best-ever finish at the Tour de France.
After a relatively mellow start, the peloton nearly exploded on the Côte du château d’Aulteribe, a cat 4 climb topping out just 5km before the day’s intermediate sprint at kilometer 37. With Sagan and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) locked in a tight battle for the green jersey, Bora-Hansgrohe drove the pace up the Côte du château d’Aulteribe in an effort to drop the Irishman and help Sagan make up a handful of points.
The effort to stay with the front group was nearly 500w for Mezgec, a pace that was enough to drop Bennett already before the major climb of the day.
Mezgec – Côte du Château d’Aulteribe:
Average Power: 430w (5.7w/kg)
Peak 2min Power: 490 (6.5w/kg)
A few kilometers later, the peloton began climbing the second-category Col du Béal, an 11.9km climb with an average of 5.3 percent. Bennett was less than a minute behind the peloton, but again, Bora–Hansgrohe drove the pace up the climb, ensuring Bennett’s failure to reattach.
Mezgec – Col du Béal:
Average Power: 404w (5.4w/kg)
After a massive 400w effort, Mezgec and what was left of the peloton began to descend down into Montbrison. It wasn’t all downhill, however, and with Bennett and his Deceuninck-Quickstep teammates still close behind, the pace stayed high – over 400w for eight minutes – over the second uphill lump on the road around Mont Semiol, the category 3 Côte de Courreau.
Mezgec – Côte de Courreau:
Average Power: 407w (5.4w/kg)
Bennett and his teammates finally sat up by Montbrison, and so the pace slowed – albeit slightly – for the next 70km until the twisting streets of Lyon. With 12km to go there were just two category 4 climbs remaining: Côte de la Duchère and the Côte de la Croix-Rousse.
Benoot kicked off proceedings on the Côte de la Duchère, attacking solo with just 11km to go. Mezgec was nearly sprinting into the bottom of the climb, peaking at 906w as the road kicked up to over 8 percent. The climb offered only a brief respite in the middle, and outside of that, Mezgec was pushing 500-600w just to hold the wheel as Benoot built up a few seconds lead.
Mezgec – Côte de la Duchère:
Average Power: 456w (6.1w/kg)
Just three kilometers later began the Côte de la Croix-Rousse – 1.4km at an average of 4.5 percent, this gradual pitch packed three switchbacks into less than a kilometer and served as the final launchpad for anyway breakaway hopefuls. Benoot was caught by the bottom, and then it was Lennard Kämna (Bora–Hansgrohe) who attacked on the lower slopes of the climb. Halfway up, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) started to bridge, and moments later Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) jumped across. By the crest of the climb, it was a who’s who of breakaway artists and classics specialists – March Hirschi (Sunweb), Sagan, and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) headed the chase with Jumbo–Visma just behind. Mezgec cleared the summit well within the front group and readied himself for the finish coming in just five kilometers.
Mezgec – Côte de la Croix-Rousse:
Average Power: 477w (6.4w/kg)
De Gendt – Côte de la Croix-Rousse:
Average Power: 540w (7.7w/kg)
As Sagan swings off after the crest of the Côte de la Croix-Rousse, Søren Kragh Andersen attacked up the right-hand side of the road with a full head of steam. The Dane immediately opened up a massive gap as the peloton fanned out behind. In the blink of an eye, the stage win was gone. At 60kph, even the strongest lead-out train could’ve hardly made a dent in Anderson’s lead. The Dane crossed the line to win solo as the sprint opened up behind. Sagan looked to be pole position, but then Mezgec managed to squeeze past his right-hand shoulder, checking his sprint at 65kph and bolting to the lead with 50m to go. Mezgec won the sprint with nearly a bike length to spare, earning his first-ever Tour de France stage podium, and adding even more Slovenian success to this year’s Tour.
Mezgec – final sprint
Average Power: 784w (10.4w/kg)
Peak 15s Power: 1087w (14.5w/kg)
Peak Power: 1347w (18w/kg)
Max Speed: 70.5kph (43.8mph)