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The day after the Tour de France twice took on Mont Ventoux, racers were presented with opportunities to ride easily, or ride aggressively in the breakaway on Thursday’s stage 12.
Julian Alaphilippe, wrapped in the rainbow jersey of the world champion, was on the attack again on Thursday. He was one of the animators on the first climb up Ventoux yesterday, and it appeared he was not content to let the Tour de France roll on without trying a dig.
Before the start of the stage, Bora-Hansgrohe announced that Peter Sagan would not start, as he was suffering from knee pain from a crash earlier in the Tour.
Without its star sprinter — and winless so far in this year’s tour — Bora-Hansgrohe sent Nils Politt into the break, where he rode solo to take the first Tour stage win of his career.
Here’s what the stars said after the 12th stage of the 2021 Tour de France.
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ): 4th, at 1:58
Küng was at the front of the break for most of stage 12. While André Greipel was the most-feared sprinter of the bunch, and Julian Alaphilippe was marked as the rider who might try and escape on the rise before the finish, it was Küng, a skilled time trialist, who was marked as the rider to most likely attempt a long-range attack off the front.
“After only thirty kilometers today, I felt like I was a bit empty,” Küng said. “I thought that everyone felt the same, but in the end, I did not have anything left in my legs. I was at the limit. I just didn’t have enough energy today to be able to play for the win.”
And like others, he was still recovering from the previous day’s double-assault on Mont Ventoux, and was just not feeling “it.”
“I held on, gave it my all, and really tried everything. I fed myself very well during the stage, but if you don’t have energy from the very start, that is not a good sign,” said Küng. “I started to have cramps and my body was just exhausted. I couldn’t do more. We do have limits and my body reminded me of that”.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates): 21st, at 15:53
Pogačar was content to let the Tour roll on, and recover from the previous stage. The yellow jersey rode unchallenged, as the day’s flat route was one designed for sprinter — or for a break to succeed.
“So far I haven’t wasted any time, everything is going great. I felt much better than yesterday (Wednesday), the legs were turning perfectly, maybe because the temperature has dropped,” Pogačar said. “I didn’t even notice the breaks in the peloton, [and] I stayed in the front.”
“The priority is to defend the jersey. But, of course, if I feel good on a stage, I’ll try to do my best [for a win],” Pogačar added.
André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation): 6th, at 2:06
With 40km to go on the stage, Greipel was the best sprinter of the 13 men in the break. And with 11 Tour stage wins on his palmares, the “Gorilla” was one of the riders to be feared should the finish wind up in a bunch gallop for the line.
While he made the initial selection for the stage, the German sprinter did not make it to the four who escaped off the front in the final hour of racing.
“It was quite nervous with the crosswind at the beginning. We went full over a little climb and after that, the peloton split in the wind. It was a strong group of guys and we worked together really well,” Greipel said. “I knew that Küng would go early and I could have gone with him, but I wasn’t sure if this would be the right move. In the end, I’m happy for Nils. I’ve seen him grow up and we train together every day. He’s a really good friend. However, I would have liked to win the sprint in the chase group, but I got boxed in at the end.”
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): 42nd, at 15:53
Wout van Aert had a busy stage 10 and 11. On stage 10 he tried to outsprint Mark Cavendish. On stage 11, van Aert became a one-man wrecking crew who smashed the entire peloton to bits when he twice soared over Mont Ventoux to take the stage win.
An easy day might be what the Belgian rider needed if he’s to try to win more Tour stages. With opportunities to take sprint stages or uphill victories in the Pyrenees, van Aert has options to exercise, while also tending to his team’s GC hopeful Jonas Vingegaard.
“In the beginning [of the stage], there was some stress. It was a fast start and I was happy that at some point a group pulled away. So it became a slightly quieter day,” said van Aert. “I think I could use today’s ride after Wednesday’s rough day. I would have liked to try it in a possible sprint, but the Tour continues and there will be more opportunities.”