‘Very emotional’ Ion Izagirre thrilled to follow compatriot with Tour stage win
Ion Izagirre took a superb solo victory at the end of an explosive stage 12 of the Tour de France to Belleville-en-Beaujolais.
Eleven days after Victor Lafay ended a 15-year wait for a stage win for the Cofidis team, Izagirre doubled up with a perfectly-timed attack from the breakaway, also giving him his second career Tour stage victory seven years after his first in Morzine.
The Basque rider, 34, went solo during the final climb, still with 31 kilometres remaining of the 169km stage through wine country from Roanne that was again raced at a ferocious pace.
The much-reduced peloton came in more than four minutes after Izagirre. Jonas Vingegaard retained his 17-second lead over Tadej Pogacar as the Alps loom this weekend, but only after putting a big effort in over the first part of the stage which he admitted could come with a price to pay in the days ahead.
The stage was always seen as one for the breakaway, but it was a war of attrition from the off as the peloton was quickly whittled down to a few dozen riders by a series of attacks.
With his Jumbo-Visma team-mates Wout van Aert and and Tiesj Benoot seemingly determined to be in any move, Vingegaard was repeatedly left isolated in the yellow jersey, forced to chase down moves as Jai Hindley, third overall, followed the wheels to protect his own position.
It was not until 85 kilometres to go that a 15-strong group got away, but their lead over a peloton reduced to just 39 riders never grew rapidly – fatigue seemingly having set in for everybody.
And having taken half the stage to form, the break lasted less than 40km as a fighting force. Mathieu van der Poel attacked from that front group along with Andrey Amador on the penultimate climb of the Col de la Croix Montmain, soon leaving Amador behind to set out alone with 47km left.
But it was too much for the Dutchman, who was caught midway up the final climb of the Col de la Croix Rosier as the front group swelled to eight.
Izagirre had led the chase, but still had the power left to launch the stage-winning move as others did not react, instead eyeing his team-mate Guillaume Martin.
By the time they did consider a counter, Izagirre had gone, winning the stage by 58 seconds from Mathieu Burgaudeau and Matteo Jorgenson.
When Pello Bilbao won Tuesday’s stage 10, it was a first Spanish stage winner in five years. Two days later there was another, both from Basque riders thriving in a race which began in their home region.
“I felt strong in the last kilometres,” Izagirre said. “Many things went through my mind. It’s all very emotional. It’s a very Basque Tour de France. It started at home for us and we took two stage wins. I’m happy to follow the line drawn by Pello Bilbao.”
The Ineos Grenadiers had done much to pace the main contenders in the latter part of the stage, ensuring that Thibaut Pinot’s presence in the breakaway did not threaten Tom Pidcock’s eighth place overall as the Frenchman moved up as far as 10th.
The Tour now heads into the Alps with Friday’s stage a 138km test that ends with the climb of the Grand Colombier, where Vingegaard may find out if there is anything to pay for Thursday’s efforts.
“Every race day is full on, and today’s was no exception,” the Dane said. “From your perspective, I’m sure this is being a great Tour de France. Today’s stage has been very hard.
“The consequences of this difficulty will be seen in the third week. Everything is building up for a very hard Tour de France. I’m ready for a big battle tomorrow and hope for having my best legs.”
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