Ineos Grenadiers buried themselves on stage 11 of the Tour de France, leading the peloton over the summit of Mont Ventoux on two occasions and helping Richard Carapaz move up a place to fourth in the overall standings. However, that reward came with a price after the British squad decided to shoulder the responsibility of controlling the peloton for over 140km of the stage. They also lost Luke Rowe from the race with the rider eliminated after missing the time cut.
The British team came into the all-important stage with hopes of taking their first win in the race as well as the ambition of catapulting Richard Carapaz up the overall standings. However, not the first time in this year’s race the team was left with little rewards despite putting in a huge amount of effort. Several riders, including Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart, were used up early in the stage.
The main breakaway of the day contained a stellar lineup and eventual winner Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma) would hold off the chase even with the likes of Richie Porte and Michael Kwiatkowski setting a furious pace on the second ascent of Mont Ventoux.
Their efforts at least shook up the GC group with David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën), and Enric Mas (Movistar) all cut adrift and losing time but with Van Aert proving too strong Ineos were forced to forgo their stage ambitions. Carapaz was among the strongest riders but he was unable to respond when Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) attacked.
The Dane was chased by race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) but he was forced to wait for Carapaz and Rigoberto Uran. Vingegaard was eventually brought back by the trio on the descent with Carapaz forced to settle for sixth on the stage. The 2019 Giro d’Italia winner’s efforts moved him from fifth to fourth overall, 5:33 behind Pogačar, who despite a brief show of weakness remains in complete control of the race.
“Today we had to try and today we had the plan this morning that we wanted to put some pressure on and potentially go for the stage as well,” Ineos’ Gabriel Rasch said at the finish when interviewed by Eurosport.
“But it was hard. It was hard to catch Van Aert. But in the end, we managed to drop some of the GC guys, and I think the team were amazing again. Carapaz was there in the end and it's about staying stable and staying on a high level.”
Ineos’ hope now will be that the cumulative effect from the stage will become an issue for their rivals later on in the race, with several mountain stages to come. Carapaz still looks in decent condition but he hasn’t yet dropped Pogačar, while Uran has arguably raced a smarter race having not expended as much energy in terms of the number of attacks he has made.
Pogačar admitted after the stage that his slight weakness was down to the heat. ”Maybe he was suffering from the heat on the first day in the heat, I don't know,” Rasch mused before the race leader’s press conference. “But he's still the strongest, isn't he? But we have to focus on our own race, get there step by step and see where we end up.”
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