Julian Alaphilippe and Rémi Cavagna were in attacking mode on race’s toughest stage.
As soon as the flag dropped in Châtel-Guyon Friday, one rider immediately shot from the peloton: Rémi Cavagna, who had made a goal long before the start of the race from featuring in the break on stage 13, which visited Clermont-Ferrand, where he hails from. The French ITT Champion put his skills against the clock to good use as he was joined by teammate Julian Alaphilippe and three other riders.
The newly-formed quintet arrived at the bottom of Col de Ceyssat with a one-minute gap over the bunch, but things were far from quieting down, a large group getting clear and bridging across on the second classified ascent of the day, Col de Guéry. In the pack, the pace eased, allowing the 17 riders in the front to nudge out their margin to a whooping eleven minutes by the time they reached the intermediate sprint, where Alaphilippe collected maximum points.
Cavagna and the former yellow jersey continued to bring their contribution in the breakaway, which began fragmenting on the Montée de La Stèle climb, where two riders took off. As Rémi was beginning to pay for the hard work he put in up until that point, Julian moved to the front and tried to organise the chase, keeping the leaders within striking distance. Despite this strong and committed effort, Alaphilippe eventually was distanced when more attacks came on the stinging gradients of Col de Neronne and finished the stage a couple of minutes down on winner Daniel Martinez (EF Education).
“It was nice to spend the day in the front together with Rémi and we did a nice race together. We were full gas from the start as we hoped to get a gap over the bunch on the first climb, which we both knew really well. It was very fast and very hard today, definitely the toughest stage of this year so far. I would have liked to win, but it wasn’t possible, so that’s that. We are content with our ride, the effort we put in and we’ll continue to try over the next stages”, Julian explained on Le Puy Mary.
Shepherded by the incredible Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Michael Mørkøv, who paced him on the excruciating climbs of the Massif Central, Sam Bennett concluded this stage – which had a vertical gain of over 4800 meters – well inside the time limit and retained the green jersey, which he will now wear for the sixth time in his career.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images