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Mohoric says 'I felt like a criminal' after zipping lips in Tour de France stage win

LIBOURNE, FRANCE - JULY 16: Matej Mohorič of Slovenia and Team Bahrain - Victorious stage winner celebrates at arrival during the 108th Tour de France 2021, Stage 19 a 207km stage from Mourenx to Libourne / @LeTour / #TDF2021 / on July 16, 2021 in Libourne, France. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) celebrates his stage 19 win at the Tour de Frane (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Matej Mohorič stormed to a second stage victory of the Tour de France just two days after his Bahrain Victorious team's hotel was raided by French police as a doping investigation was launched.

The Slovenian, who crossed the line on stage 19 in Libourne alone after attacking the break 25 kilometres out, responded to that investigation with 'shushing' and 'zip-the-lips' gestures as he celebrated his win.

50 police officers raided the team's hotel and seized computers and phones in Pau on Wednesday night, with the Marseille prosecutor's office opening an investigation into the possible 'acquisition, transportation, possession and importing of a prohibited substance or method for use by an athlete without justification by members of Team Bahrain Victorious'.

Mohorič was asked after the stage what was going through his mind in the final kilometre, rather than being posed a direct question about his celebratory gestures, reminiscent two-time Tour stage winner Lance Armstrong's gestures at this race 17 years ago. His response confirmed that the events in Pau two days ago were on his mind during the run-in.

"Especially I was thinking mostly about what happened two days ago in the evening when I felt like a criminal with all the police coming to our hotel," he said. "From one point of view, it's a good thing because there is still control in the peloton and they are checking all the teams. Of course, they didn't find anything because we have nothing to hide.

"So from one point of view, it's a good thing, but from another I'm a little bit disappointed with the system because it's not a nice thing when the police walk into your room and starts just [searching] all your belongings even if you have nothing to hide – it feels a little bit weird. It never happened to me before.

"When they go through personal photos, of your family, through your phone, your messages it feels a little like this. But at the end of the day, I have nothing to hide so I don't care too much about other people checking through my stuff but it's OK at the end – I hope."

Mohorič, who won the hilly stage 7 to Le Creusot after attacking from the breakaway 18 kilometres from the finish, and who has been in the breakaway on several other occasions during the race, said that his team's strategy on this stage was to stay attentive with the breakaways at the start.

He was the only rider from his team to make what was eventually a 20-man move, but he was vital in ensuring the earlier six-man break stayed away, he said.

"I saw I had good legs and I also knew it was quite hard. I spoke to the guys in the breakaway and told them that a good strategy to keep the speed as high as possible for the start of the stage. They were a little big hesitating but then they agreed because I think that's a good way of getting the breakaway all the way to the finish because the sprinter's teams need many guys to control.

"I can't believe it. I was just trying to do my best. Our tactic today was to be attentive of the breakaways, especially if it was more than eight guys with Deceuninck-QuickStep or Alpecin-Fenix in them. When I saw the start, it was super hilly, so I thought it would be better to stay in the front and you can still start after if you need. When I saw those guys going, I just did a super big effort to get back to them."

The attacking at the front started at around the 50-kilometre mark, with the peloton already over 10 minutes down and a sprint finish out of the question, but Mohorič bided his time, eventually taking off after suffering in the wheel of Nils Politt and then emptying himself to stay away for another win.

"Then unfortunately there was another big group joining our small breakaway and we had no teammates there, so I was a little bit disappointed," he said. 

"But I never give up and I just hoped for the best, tried to save some energy, and then in the final I tried to follow the attacks. When Nils went on that final climb, I was so on my limit I was almost exploding but I said if this is the hardest moment in the race then I need to do one more sprint.

"If I explode that's OK, but I really went for it and I looked back, and nobody was there. I just went as hard as I possibly could, and I completely finished my legs – towards the finish I was dying I was doing ridiculous low power, but I was trying to be as aero as possible. Fortunately, I managed to keep my gap to the line." 

Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in 2019 after working freelance at pretty much everywhere in cycling media for seven years.