Omar Fraile added a second Grand Tour stage victory to his palmares in dramatic style. The Astana rider, who won a stage of the 2017 Giro d’Italia, caught and passed Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) in the final kilometres of stage 14 at the Tour de France and held off a chasing Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) to take the spoils.
Fraile is making his Tour de France debut after riding two Giri d’Italia and three Vueltas a Espana. He was brought in as a support rider for Jakob Fuglsang but was given the freedom to select a number of stages to take his own opportunities. Stage 14 was one such stage, and he played it very well, getting in the day’s break and keeping his calm as earlier attacks went off the front earlier in the day. A slight headwind on the run towards the final climb helped soften up Stuyven before Fraile made his move.
“Right from the start, when I was told that I was coming to the Tour de France, I knew that this stage would be good for me,” Fraile explained in his post-stage press conference. “I knew that I had to work as hard as possible in order to make the most of this opportunity. I had set a couple of stages as goals with my team, and this was one of them.
“Stuyven took a big gap. He had 1: 40 and I knew that he had spent a lot of energy on the flat because we were taking pulls in the breakaway, we could tell that there was some headwind. I decided to do my effort right from the bottom of the climb and go all in to try and chase Stuyven as soon as possible. Fortunately, it went well. It’s incredible to be here and to win this stage.”
Fraile may have other opportunities in the remaining seven stages of the Tour de France, but despite the win, he says that his main priority it to assist Fuglsang in the Dane's overall ambitions. Fuglsang has slipped down the standings in the last week and sits in ninth place at 6:14 behind the yellow jersey of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
“I came to this Tour with the intention to work for the team and making the most of the opportunities I had,” said Fraile. “The team has also set me free for some specific stages, and fortunately I was able to take advantage of a specific opportunity. From now on I will devote myself to Jakob Fuglsang and try to help him to the highest possible placing in the GC.”
On crossing the line, Fraile kissed his wrist on which he was wearing a bracelet his girlfriend Eva had given him. He dedicated the win to her and the rest of his family and also made sure to mention the black band he was wearing on his left arm in memory of the Kazakh ice skater Denis Ten, who was stabbed to death earlier this week.
“The bracelet was given to me by my girlfriend and this victory is for her and my family because they’re the ones that support me every day,” explained Fraile. “I was also wearing a band on my arm also in memory of a very famous ice skater in Kazakhstan, who died recently and was very loved within the team.”
Fraile has taken five stage wins at various multi-day races, including the Tour de Romandie and Vuelta al Pais Vasco earlier this year, and was asked if he had thought of focusing on more one-day races.
“This has been my goal for the past couple of years,” Fraile said. “The Classics were one of my goals in the first part of the year, and I have had a good performance at Liege-Bastogne-Liege [his best finish is 25th – ed.], but for some reason, I haven’t managed to give my best at the Classics. For the coming seasons, this is a goal for me.”