Italian Damiano Caruso came into the Tour de France fresh from second place at the Tour de Suisse but with the sole ambition of placing BMC teammate Richie Porte on the podium in Paris. A week on from the Australian crashing out of the Tour, Caruso has taken on the team's GC aspirations and sits top ten with one week of racing to come.
Caruso was one of the instigators of the stage 15 breakaway across the Massif Central, with Team Sky happy for the 29-year-old to enjoy a day at the front of the race. With the breakaway swelling to 28 riders and given the clearance to contest the stage, Caruso found himself steadily moving up the standings. Meanwhile, teammates Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche had also managed to bridge across.
Seemingly holding all the aces with four riders in the break, the stage win was BMC's primary objective. Explaining his pleasure at improving from 14th to tenth overall, Caruso said that despite it being a good day for him he would have preferred a team victory.
"I hoped there would be a big breakaway and this morning I was motivated to do this. In the end, the breakaway went with good riders. We missed the big goal of the day, the stage win, but of course it was a good result for us because we did a big jump in the GC. Now, finally we have a rest day and we approach the last week really motivated," said Caruso who has finished top-ten overall at both the Giro and Vuelta.
"My teammates did a really good job, it was amazing. They helped me to keep the tempo high in the breakaway and in the end, Nicolas Roche was top ten on the stage. It's not a really, really big result because we wanted to win the stage, but it's not bad."
While Caruso finished the day in 12th place, over a minute down on solo winner Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Roche took on the challenge of hunting down the stage win. The Irishman was sixth across the line in Le Puy-en-Velay just four seconds ahead of Caruso's group.
"I think that the particularity of this Tour de France is that there are so few mountain stages that every single one of them is raced flat out, and this one was no different. It was some battle to be in the breakaway. I think the team managed pretty well. At some stage we even had Greg Van Avermaet and Danilo Wyss with us so we almost had six in that group," Roche reflected on the day. "We fought very hard to be there and I think we raced well. When they attacked us on the last categorized climb we just couldn't follow and we rode as hard as we could, the two of us."
Despite missing the stage, Roche added the team can take comfort in the fact that Caruso is riding well and could continue to improve upon his GC position when the race heads into the Alps.
"Damiano Caruso was looking to do two things. When you are at the front you have your fingers crossed that it will work out for the GC but obviously also having a go for the stage win," he added. "I think Damiano showed that he was riding very well in the Pyrenees and I think it will be good to have him in a good position in the last two stages in the Alps."