Kudus happy but tired and still learning
The Tour de France is a learning experience for 21-year-old Merhawi Kudus of MTN-Qhubeka. As he nears the end of his second Grand Tour, the Eritrean said, “mentally I am really fresh but physically I am really tired.”
He had planned to get into the break group of Friday’s difficult stage 19, but he said, “after the beginning of the first climb, I was last, last, last position. I came back after 80km or something but actually I was feeling better and better as the stage went on, and I did my best to help Serge [Pauwels] get back into the group. Really hard but really happy with today.”
Kudus rode the Vuelta a España last year but say the Tour is “completely different. Also I am a second-year professional so I am still learning. I still don’t have enough knowledge but I am learning and learning everything.
“I am the youngest so my future is really clear and I am confident.”
Dennis: survival and Paris
Things started out well on stage 19 for Rohan Dennis (BMC) but unfortunately that didn’t last long. He admitted that “the last week has been pretty tough.”
The first climb I actually felt alright but I decided to ride my tempo and I saw everybody was going full gas from the bottom. I went from pretty much first wheel to last wheel in three kilometres then towards the top I started going past people, which was the plan. I just kept the same tempo and there was a big bunch off the back and we got on and then it was just survival.”
The Australian finished the stage as 65th, over 28 minutes down. “The opportunity of just finishing will be enough for me,” he said, not relishing the prospect of the final Alpine stage. “110km finishing on Alpe d’Huez. I am just going to get the finish inside the time cut and then Paris.”
A bad day for Barguil
It has been an up-and-down Tour de France for Warren Barguil. The Giant-Alpecin rider had hopes of maintaining his hard-fought top-10 position, but things have started pointing down again. The 23-year-old dropped to 14th place, exactly 27 minutes down, after a disappointing stage 19.
He managed to stay with the group of favourites on the way up the Croix de Fer, but was dropped before the summit. The Frenchman caught up again on the descent, but was unable to maintain contact on the next climb.
Barguil’s problems started with a crash on stage 10, and were exacerbated when he ran into Geraint Thomas on stage 16, causing the Sky rider to hit a utility pole and flip off the road. He has also had to bear the pressure of being a hopeful for French cycling.
“I had a difficult day, which is frustrating so close to Paris,” he said after the stage. “Physically I was not capable of doing any better today. The crash of stage 10 took a lot of energy out of me and I pay that in cash now, but I don’t want to look for excuses.”
This is Barguil’s third Grand Tour, having ridden the Vuelta a España in 2013 and 2014, but it is his first Tour. “I am here to learn and I am really satisfied with my performance so far at the Tour de France and happy to make it to Paris.”
Van Avermaet becomes a dad
Greg van Avermaet left the Tour de France on Monday to return home for the expected birth of his first child. An early delivery was expected, but did not happen. The BMC rider and his partner Ellen were happy to welcome their daughter Fleur on Friday.