After stage 12 of the Tour de France had seen the early break kept on a leash and caught early before a late breakaway won the day, stage 13 to Puy Mary was instead a chance for the early break to take the glory.
Among the 17-man group were multiple riders from Deceuninck-QuickStep, EF Pro Cycling and Bora-Hansgrohe – not a new tactic in the breakaway playbook, of course, but one played to perfection on the road to Sarran the previous day by Team Sunweb.
Indeed, the finale of stage 13 was contested by two of those teams, EF Pro Cycling and Bora-Hansgrohe, with the former's Daniel Martínez successfully outmanoeuvring two of the German team on the steep slopes to the finish.
Max Schachmann had been out on his own ever since catching and dropping EF's American climber Neilson Powless 30km earlier, while Lennard Kämna had shadowed Martínez as the Colombian ventured off in pursuit 14km from the finish. Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Enrico Poitschke later called the final "a big Bora-Hansgrohe show."
The final climb up the Pas de Peyrol didn't give the team their desired outcome though, with Schachmann having nothing left on the double-digit gradients after he was caught 2km from the top, while Martínez simply had too much for Kämna in the closing metres of the climb.
"Of course, we wanted to win today," said Paris-Nice winner Schachmann after the stage. "I knew that the last two climbs weren't the best ones for me, so I tried to go earlier. On the way, I thought I could have a good chance at the stage win, but Martínez showed a strong performance and won the sprint."
Kämna had less work to do on the run to the finish than the Critérium du Dauphiné winner, but said that he just couldn't get the better of Martínez in the final.
"I was able to save some energy in the valley but also afterwards because Martínez was pulling, and I was on his wheel since I didn't have to take any turns.
"I wanted to drop Martínez in the finale because I know I'm not a very fast sprinter, but he showed he was also strong and had a good acceleration in the final metres while I was nearly standing still. I felt in good shape in the final climb and launched a few attacks, but he stayed on my wheel."
Both men said that chances to win remain in the Tour de France, with Kämna eyeing the Tour's trip to the Alps early next week, while Schachmann noted that he's coming back towards top form after breaking his collarbone after being hit by a car in the final kilometres of Il Lombardia.
"I'm getting better and better and I'm happy that part of my old shape, before my crash at the Lombardia, is coming back," said Schachmann. "I think I would need two to three rest days and we'll see how my legs feel in the final week."
The team will be keen to finish their Tour with a flourish, having achieved three stage podium finishes so far – including Peter Sagan's third place on stage 10. Pre-Tour, the aim had been to target green with Sagan and a podium spot with Emanuel Buchmann.
While the latter is out of reach due to the injuries Buchmann sustained in a crash at the Dauphiné, Sagan can still mathematically take his eighth green jersey, despite a relegation for a dangerous shoulder barge on stage 11. Regardless, the team will continue to battle for victories, Poitschke said.
"Once again, we did our best and we'll try to maintain this spirit and type of riding in the next stages to hopefully get a victory but also entertain the public on the road and the fans watching from home."
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