Lotto Soudal were unable to take a second stage win in a row on stage 9 of the Tour de France on Sunday, when Tiesj Benoot was left frustrated to finish as runner-up to Mitchelton-Scott's Daryl Impey.
Benoot's teammate Thomas De Gendt had won the previous day's stage into Saint-Etienne. On the way back out of the Massif Central city, the 'most aggressive rider' award given to Benoot on the podium that evening in Brioude – while eliciting a smile and a salute to the crowd – was of little consolation to him.
"I targeted the victory today, and didn't ride this stage to win the most aggressive rider award, obviously," he said on his team's website. "To finish second from such a strong breakaway is already huge, but when you're in such a position, you want to win, of course."
Benoot and Impey jettisoned Sunweb's Nicolas Roche from the front of the race inside the final 10km, after the day's 15-rider breakaway had been whittled down first to eight and then three riders on the 170km hilly stage, which featured three categorised climbs.
"During the stage, I felt really strong," said Benoot. "I tried to take the initiative myself in order to thin out the group of 15, which succeeded. It seemed that I would have been able to beat Roche, but Impey is, of course, a different story, and the downhill section to the finish also didn't play into my hands."
Benoot had initially escaped with Roche on the day's final climb of the category-3 Cote de Saint-Just with 13km to go, but the pair were caught by Impey just before the top. Benoot then made what turned out to be the decisive move with eight kilometres left, this time dropping Roche, but with Impey still stuck doggedly to his wheel.
"In Daryl Impey, I probably had the quickest rider of the break alongside me," lamented the 25-year-old Belgian. "When the South African is able to win from reduced bunch sprints, you just know it will be difficult. "I tried to surprise him in the sprint and corner him, but that wasn't enough to turn it to my advantage.
"I haven't been feeling great these past two days, so this performance brings good news," Benoot said. "I've clearly found my good legs again. And with 11 stages still to go, there'll be more opportunities. The team is in a good 'flow', and I'm sure there'll be some more chances for Thomas, Tim [Wellens] and me to get in breakaways during the second and third week."