Kasper Asgreen sprints to maiden Tour de France stage win in Bourg-en-Bresse
Kasper Asgreen outsprinted the chasing peloton to take victory from a breakaway on stage 18 of the Tour de France in Bourg-en-Bresse.
The sprint teams got their sums wrong on the 185km stage from Moutiers as a four-strong break held on by less than 50 metres to take the stage, with Asgreen beating fellow escapees Pascal Eenkhoorn and Jonas Abrahamsen to take his first career Tour stage win.
Jasper Philipsen, hoping to add to his four sprint stage wins in this first opportunity for the quick men in over a week, came home in fourth having failed to make the catch.
There was perhaps some karma in that given the aggressive tactics Philipsen had used earlier in the stage when trying to block Eenkhoorn’s bid to join the breakaway.
The sprint finish to the 185km stage from Moutiers meant no changes at the top of the general classification, in which defending champion Jonas Vingegaard took an all-but-unassailable seven-and-a-half minute lead over Tadej Pogacar on Wednesday.
This slightly lumpy stage offered up the prospect of a breakaway denying the quick men if enough riders could get up the road, although the sprinters who survived the mountains were desperate for their chance, with perhaps only the Champs-Elysees left after this.
But with exhausted legs throughout the peloton after some punishing days in the Alps only three – Asgreen, Abrahamsen and Victor Campernaerts – chanced their arm and were rarely given more than a minute’s advantage.
That short gap allowed Campernaerts’ team-mate Pascal Eenkhoorn to bridge over with 60km to go, despite being forced on to the verge by Philipsen as he tried to get away from the main bunch.
Even as a quartet, the front group appeared to have little chance, but the sprint teams struggled to reel them in on the way into town, and as the road narrowed into a couple of tight technical corners, it became apparent that the scales were tipping in favour of those out in front.
Asgreen then came around Abrahamsen inside the final 100 metres with the chasing Eenkhoorn unable to get on terms.
It was a first stage victory of this Tour for Soudal-QuickStep, a perennial winning machine who had not reached stage 18 without taking a stage for more than a decade, but also a team who lost star sprinter Fabio Jakobsen to injury earlier in the race.
“The situation was not ideal,” Asgreen said. “We’d have preferred to have gone with maybe six or seven (in the break) but also the last week of the Tour coming off some really, really hard days, we’ve seen it before that even a small group can manage to beat the sprint teams so I didn’t rule it out.
“It was a team time trial to the finish. I really couldn’t have done it without Pascal, Victor and Jonas. They all did amazing out there and to be honest we all deserved the win with the work we put in but I’m really happy to come away with it.
“It means so much. With the period I had in the last year since my crash at the Tour de Suisse and having to leave the Tour de France I’ve come a long way. To cap it off with victory like this I really want to dedicate it to all the people who helped me throughout the last year.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox