Michal Kwiatkowski storms to Tour de France stage win on Grand Colombier
Michal Kwiatkowski held on to take a solo win on stage 13 of the Tour de France on the Grand Colombier as Tadej Pogacar’s bid to snatch the yellow jersey from Jonas Vingegaard fell narrowly short.
Former world champion Kwiatkowski admitted he could not believe the position he was in as he emerged from a breakaway to take his second career Tour stage win, delivering for the Ineos Grenadiers a year after Tom Pidcock took a Bastille Day win on the Alpe d’Huez.
All eyes had been on UAE Team Emirates and Pogacar, who sought to control this 138km stage from Chatillon-Sur-Chalaronne aiming to repeat Pogacar’s stage win the last time the Tour finished here in 2020, and looking to overhaul Vingegaard’s slim advantage in yellow.
But although Pogacar was able to distance Vingegaard a little in the final few hundred metres, launching his attack just as Kwiatkowski came home, he picked up only four seconds, plus four bonus seconds for third place, meaning Vingegaard kept yellow by nine seconds.
UAE were left to rue allowing as many as 19 riders up the road on the flat start, a group that proved too big and powerful to bring back.
After sixteen riders hit the final climb with four minutes of an advantage, Kwiatkowski was initially distanced by a group of four riders that included Tour debutant James Shaw.
But he rode back to them and then straight past still with 11km to the summit, quickly opening up a sizable gap and winning by 47 seconds from fellow escapee Maxim Van Gils.
The last time the Tour visited the Grand Colombier in 2020, Kwiatkowski was nursing a struggling Egan Bernal who abandoned the race two days later, but this time he could savour very different emotions.
“When I entered the break I thought, ‘this is just a free ticket to maybe the bottom of the climb’ or something like that, I never thought this group will fight for the stage win because UAE were pulling pretty hard,” Kwiatkowski said.
“But it is not easy to chase 19 guys on the flat for more than 100km… I think UAE let too many guys in the front and I found the best legs I ever had in my life. I didn’t believe that was possible but here I am.”
Although Pogacar hoovered up the last of the bonus seconds on the line to keep the pressure on Vingegaard, the two-time Tour winner would have hoped for more on a climb which plays to his strengths.
“It’s very nice to take some more seconds, but hats off to the breakaway and Michal Kwiatkowski for today,” Pogacar said.
Instead there was relief for Vingegaard, whose team-mates enjoyed an easier day after the chaos of Thursday’s stage 12.
“The aim was to keep the yellow jersey,” Vingegaard said. “I still have it, so I’m happy. Tadej is more explosive than me and this stage suited him more, so I’m really glad to still be in yellow.”
Pogacar and Vingegaard both picked up time on the rest of the overall contenders, with third-placed Jay Hindley now two minutes and 51 seconds back, and the gap to Carlos Rodriguez in fourth nearing five minutes.
Although Ineos lost Ben Turner to illness, there was more good news as Pidcock came home fifth on the stage, 13 seconds behind Pogacar, to strengthen his hold on eighth. Adam Yates is fifth and twin brother Simon sixth, with all three Brits within six minutes of yellow.
“I think Bastille Day should be renamed Ineos day,” Pidcock said. “Two pretty iconic climbs, two pretty special wins.
“At one point we were talking about Kwiato coming back from the break to help with positioning for the final climb because UAE were not giving the break any time, and then he wins the stage. It always happens when you least expect it.”
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