After a relatively quiet Tour de France, Astana have had one heck of a third weekend by laying claim to both of the stages in the Massif Central. Following Omar Fraile’s win in Mende, Magnus Cort took the honours in Carcassonne from a three-man sprint.
The devil is in the detail, and Astana had been planning this one for a while and put their faith in the Tour de France debutant to deliver the goods. Still celebrating Fraile’s win on Saturday, Cort sat down with sports director Lars Michaelsen to strategise for the day ahead. The possibility of what he could do made for a restless night, but Cort repaid their belief.
“The team really believed in me, and they were the ones that put a marker on this stage and said that it would suit me very well,” Cort said. “[Michaelsen] came to my room and he had the road book with him and quite a lot of notes about the stage today. I think he made me sleep a little bit bad, because I got nervous, but he was doing a really good job explaining the stage during the whole race today. When I was in the break, I had him behind me in the car and he explained everything, and I always knew what was coming and for sure that was a big help as well.
“We still have a big focus on Jakob, but it’s also correct that we made the decision to go in the breakaway yesterday and today.”
Cort is one of the few fast men that have come through the mountains after a mass exodus of the sprinters in the Alps. He is not a pure sprinter and was well capable of the terrain that was laid out in front of the riders on stage 15. The Dane was not the only one with a fast finish that saw their opportunity to take something more from this year’s Tour, and the breakaway featured riders such as Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and his own teammate Michael Valgren. All but Valgren had been well distanced on the final climb of the Pic de Nore, but the pair wanted to make sure that the others couldn’t get back.
“In the Alps, I’ve been climbing very well, so I also felt that it could be a good stage for me and that I could make it over the cat 1 climb,” Cort said. “Actually, when we were on the climb and I felt like I had good legs I was afraid that there would be too many fast guys left in the group. Both me and Michael went a couple of times and made some small attacks to try and bring the group down in size.
“When the attacks started, I had Lars in my ears and he told me that he didn’t care how we did it, but we had to win, so we did. Michael was really strong during the whole stage, and he was a really big part of this stage as well.”
The win is Cort’s third in a Grand Tour after winning two on his first appearance at the Vuelta a Espana in 2016.
“This is my first Tour de France, but now I’ve been here for two weeks already so it’s not really new anymore,” he said. “It’s very nice to get the win on your first Tour, and I’m really happy for it. My first Vuelta, I won stages as well, so I knew that it was possible to win on your first time you’re in the race."