Bora-Hansgrohe played bully at the Tour de France Friday, but failed to deliver the final blow that it wanted.
The German squad set stage 7 of the race to light from the get-go and animated the frenetic day of racing into Lavaur. The stars were all aligned and the tactical script was playing to perfection – until a dropped chain in the final sprint denied marquee rider Peter Sagan the chance to break his 14-month spell without a stage win.
“I’m disappointed,” Sagan said after the stage. “We controlled the race today, with my teammates doing a super job. Everything seemed very good and then I had bad luck in the final.”
With forecasts of a strong cross-tailwind blowing across the flat final section of the race coming early Thursday morning, Bora-Hansgrohe knew what it wanted to do.
“In the morning we had planned to make the race hard, taking advantage of the crosswinds and cross-tail winds,” said sports director Enrico Poitschke. “We got off to a strong start, attacked early, and in particular in the second climb, three kilometers long, we planned to ride as hard as possible and use the crosswinds. The first guys were dropped there and we then kept on pushing.”
Among the first casualties was Sagan’s green jersey-wearing rival Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), along with a number of fast finishers including Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), and Alexander Kristoff (Team UAE Emirates).
With Sagan safely in the front group and the gusts of the Vent d’Autan, whipping across the race, Bora-Hansgrohe gathered en masse at the front of the lead group, negotiating both Sagan and GC hope Emanuel Buchmann into the front echelon when the race split down further with 40 kilometers to go. Not only were many of the sprinters dropped, but a handful of the team’s GC rivals had also popped out of the back as Poitschke’s masterplan played out perfectly.
With the front bunch of 40 ripping its way toward the line in Lavaur, it was just down to Sagan to deliver – only for a dropped chain to pull the plug on the party, leaving the Slovakian finishing in 13th place behind stage winner Wout van Aert.
“My chain just dropped and I missed a lot of points, but that’s cycling,” Sagan said. “I’m proud of all my teammates. They fought very hard from the beginning until the end.”
While Sagan didn’t get the trip to the podium and full tally of sprint points he desired, he did enough to reclaim his customary position in the green jersey after Bennett was left way off the pace early on. The team finished the day with Sagan back in his customary points jersey, a combativity award for workhorse Daniel Oss, and Buchmann regaining ground in the GC battle.
But it wasn’t all perfect.
“Everything was pretty nice but the end was … fucking cycling,” Sagan explained eloquently.