Matej Mohoric takes photo finish to win stage 19 of Tour de France
Matej Mohoric won stage 19 of the Tour de France in a photo finish at the end of a furious day’s racing in the Jura.
Mohoric and Thursday’s winner Kasper Asgreen came to the line neck and neck, with Ben O’Connor third, after the trio broke away from a 37-strong breakaway when it broke into several pieces on the final climb some 30 kilometres from the end of the 173km stage from Moirans-en-Montagne to Poligny.
A stage characterised by non-stop attacking was raced at an average speed of 49.1kmh over rolling terrain, the fastest stage of this year’s Tour and the fifth fastest ever, but after all that effort it came down to a bike throw on the line.
O’Connor launched his sprint first 400 metres from the finish but knew it was a doomed move against two faster men. Asgreen was the first to come around but Mohoric timed it perfectly to take victory by a tyre’s width.
The front three came in just shy of 40 seconds clear of a chasing group, with Jasper Philipsen repeating his fourth place of 24 hours earlier.
There was no change at the top of the general classification, with race leader Jonas Vingegaard finishing safely within the main peloton almost 14 minutes down, needing now only to survive Saturday’s mountain stage to Le Markstein before he can begin celebrations on the road into Paris.
For a second day running the Tour passed through territory ideal for a breakaway, but such was the fight to get into it that 60km had been covered before a nine-strong group went away.
After Nils Politt broke his chain, their advantage of a minute quickly tumbled and a counter move of 29 riders came up to join them.
Victor Campenaerts and Simon Clarke tried to go off the front but after Clarke cramped up the group exploded on the final climb still with nearly 30km to the finish.
That gave Mohoric, Asgreen and O’Connor their chance to go clear as they went over the top first, and a powerful chasing group could not close the gap on the straight descent into town.
Mohoric had to wait for confirmation of his win, but as soon as it came the emotions poured out of the Slovenian, who paid tribute to some of the unsung heroes of cycling – the mechanics and carers working behind the scenes – while also remembering his late team-mate Gino Mader.
It was a third stage win of Mohoric’s career, and also a third of this Tour for the Bahrain-Victorious team – another opportunity for them to pay tribute to Mader after his tragic death at the Tour de Suisse last month.
“It means a lot because it’s hard and cruel to be a professional cyclist, you suffer a lot in your preparations, you sacrifice your life, your family and you give everything you can to get here ready,” Mohoric said.
“After a couple of days you realise everyone is so incredibly strong, it’s so hard to follow the wheels some days…sometimes you feel like you don’t belong…
“When Kasper went I knew it was the decisive attack, he was so incredibly strong to win the stage yesterday but he has the will and determination to do it again today.
“I knew I had to do everything perfect, I tried my best for Gino and for the team and in the end you almost feel like you betray (your rivals) because you beat them to the line but it’s just the way professional sport is and everyone wants to win.
“If I want to win I have to follow the wheel of Kasper and then try to beat him in the last 50 metres. I just feel so many things right now.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox