Sam Bennett ticks off his eighth day in the green jersey.
Julian Alaphilippe promised on the last rest day of the race that he will go on the attack in the third week and the Frenchman remained true to his word, being among the first to make their intentions known after rolling out of the neutral zone in La Tour-du-Pin. Despite this first attack being brought to heel, Alaphilippe continued to insist together with other riders and eked out a 20-second advantage.
This 40-man group wasn’t to the peloton’s liking, who pushed hard for the race to come back, but this didn’t prevent Julian from putting in another strong dig, on the fast run-in to the intermediate sprint, which was followed by other riders, who in the end managed to get clear. Once the chasers’ pace abated, the escapees carved out a huge 17-minute advantage and began thinking of the stage win, which was decided on the penultimate climb of the day, Montée de Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte (11.1km, 6.8%).
Alaphilippe was very active there, setting the pace, launching a brace of attacks and shutting down an acceleration of Richard Carapaz (Ineos), who made his move from a select four-man group, some three kilometers from the top. This effort took its toll inside one kilometer to go to the summit, as the Ecuardorian and Lennard Kamna (Bora-hansgrohe) rode away, the latter grabbing the win in Villard-de-Lans.
Tenth at the finish, where he racked up his fourth top 10 at this edition, Julian took us through the first Alpine stage: “I gave everything I had, but it was hard in the final and there wasn’t much I could do. It’s a pity, but I was beaten by stronger riders. The stage was again fast and the fight for the breakaway really intense, and when those attacks came, I was a bit on my limit. We will see if I’ll get any other opportunities to fight for victory this week.”
Sam Bennett started the week clad in the green jersey and was in the spotlight for the first 40 kilometers, until the breakaway formed, as he was permanently attacked by his closest rival in the points classification. Exuding calmness and confidence, the Irishman responded to this wave of attacks and even had several attempts of igniting a break, showing everyone that he’s ready to fight until the last ounce of energy to clinch the jersey.
With the day’s move featuring almost two dozen riders, there were no more points left for the bunch at the intermediate sprint in Saint-Joseph-de-Rivière, which means that Bennett – who will sport the green jersey for the ninth time in his career on Wednesday – keeps his 45-point lead in the classification.
“It was an ok day. I expected a tough start, but in the end it was fine. I carefully dosed my effort, which was important, especially as this Tour is so hard, and tracked down all the moves ahead of the sprint. It’s nice to continue in the green jersey and I’m getting more optimistic, but there’s still a lot of work to do”, Sam said at the finish.
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