This Tuesday, July 12 was announced as a smooth recovery for the Tour de France peloton after a day of rest: a short course – 148 kilometers – mountainous but not too much, from Morzine to Megève (Haute-Savoie). In short, a little warm-up before entering the hard, Wednesday and Thursday, with arrivals at the Col de Granon and Alpe-d’Huez. However, this 10th stage was kind of eventful, not really for sporting reasons.
The day began with the return of a health threat that everyone thought had been temporarily averted after the negative results Monday of the tests carried out by the whole peloton. Positive for Covid-19, Australian Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) had to leave the race. But, above all, the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar lost a second teammate, four days after the Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen: the New Zealander George Bennett.
In the ranks of UAE Emirates, concern is mounting all the more as one of the Slovenian mountain lieutenants, Rafal Majka, is also positive for SARS-CoV-2. For the time being, the Pole has had the green light to continue the race, but “we are aware that [his] clinical picture may change and we are closely monitoring his situation”, acknowledged the training doctor, Adrian Rotunno.
“We stopped, then we waited”
A few hours later, when the sport had resumed its rights, the race was neutralized for twelve minutes. The cause ? A dam formed by half a dozen people sitting on the road 38 kilometers from the finish. Behind this operation, the environmental group Last Renovation, one of whose members was attached to the net of the Philippe-Chatrier court during the men’s semi-final of Roland-Garros between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic, at the beginning of June.
“It was a little surprising. First I saw the first smoke bomb and I said to myself: “That’s not very smart knowing that it’s forbidden.” Then, a few hundred meters further, there were many more and we could see through the smoke of stopped vehicles, relates the Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal), twelve Grande Boucle on the clock. At first I thought the worst, that someone had been hit by a vehicle. »
Antoine Duchesne also did not fully understand what was happening. “They told us over the ear that there were protesters who were going to stop the stage. We never really knew why. So we stopped, we made sure to refuel well, then we waited, ”explains the Canadian from Groupama-FDJ.
Despite this untimely stoppage, the Quebecer supports their demands. “We see with the temperatures that are coming that we are in a humanitarian crisis. It is important that people demonstrate for this (…) I think there needs to be more and more things like this to make sure that everyone realizes. »
Thibaut Pinot’s roommate recognizes that the resumption of the race stung his legs a bit. He is not the only one. “You run for hours, you mentally prepare yourself for the end and you have to stop. It’s hard, but after that we were all in the same situation,” says American Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), member of the group of 24 chasing the leading man, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education Easy Post ). In the peloton at seven minutes, the priceless Peter Sagan (Total Direct Energie) headed into his sports director’s car to watch the race, already restarted at the front.
Pogacar saves his shirt for 11 seconds
With all this, we would almost forget that at the Megève altiport, Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education Post) was a bit ahead of the Australian Nick Schultz (BikeExchange). The sprinter who has become an adventurer over the years signs the second stage victory of his career on the Tour after that in Carcassonne, in 2018, already in overwhelming heat. Climate change is doing quite well for the Danes.
“Magnus put so much energy into this Tour. It was a great day for us. The team needed that one,” said teammate Neilson Powless. As usual, Cort Nielsen felt the good breakaway, the one formed about sixty kilometers after the start. Since Copenhagen, the brave has traveled nearly 620 terminals at the head of the race.
Tadej Pogacar, too, delivered a small number to keep his yellow jersey. In a peloton pointed nine minutes from the breakaway before the final climb, the Slovenian accelerated, sprinting in the last meters. Twentieth in the stage, 8 min 54 behind Magnus Cort Nielsen, he saves his precious eleven-second tunic against the German Lennard Kämna. And Philippe Gilbert to summarize: “It was a bit borderline for him, but it was beautiful. »
As the heat sets in over France, Wednesday promises to be much more difficult for the peloton with the Col du Granon as the epilogue (11.3 km at 9.2%), thirty-six years after its only arrival. That day, a certain Bernard Hinault had spent the last day of his career in yellow. Despite the shadow of the Covid on his team, Tadej Pogacar intends to hang on to it again, and why not knock out the race.