A fortnight after his solo win in Le Creusot, and two days after having his room searched by French police as part of a doping investigation into the Bahrain Victorious team, the Slovenian champion put his hand to his mouth and performed a ‘zip’ gesture as he crossed the line.
He had insisted he and his teammates would derive motivation from the events in Pau, and that they would be “flying” in the final few days of the race. He was true to his word as he made the day’s early breakaway, survived the selections after more riders had joined from the bunch, then attacked and played his former companions off each other.
He crossed the line in Libourne almost a minute up on his pursuers, with Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) taking second place, having clipped off in the final kilometres alongside Casper Pedersen (DSM), who took third.
The 207km route from Mourenx to Libourne was largely flat but was always open to breakaway hopefuls given so many teams still needed to salvage something from the race, and given the lack of teams really willing to take on Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint.
Eddy Merckx was on the start line and, after a warm embrace, told Cavendish he hoped he’d break their shared record of 34 stage wins later that afternoon, but that will have to wait, with the scene now set for the fairytale finale in Paris on Sunday. Deceuninck-QuickStep never looked interested in chasing, instead letting Alpecin-Fenix do the early work before throwing riders up the road when the race descended into disorder following the intermediate sprint at kilometre-54.
Attacks rained from the peloton and a 14-man counter-attack went clear, sparking Andre Greipel’s Israel Start-Up Nation teammates, Chris Froome included, into a furious chase. They found allies in Bahrain Victorious, B&B Hotels, and even Ineos, but those three teams stopped working when the 14 chasers reached Mohoric’s original break to form a group of 20.
Israel carried on their charge for a little while longer before pulling the plug with 80km to go, at which point the peloton soft-pedalled to the finish, with no changes to the overall classification ahead of the stage 20 time trial.
The breakaway started attacking each other with 44km to go and the group was split in two following an uncategorized climb, leaving Mohoric out front with Laporte, Pedersen, Nils Pollitt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels), Georg Zimmerman (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Michael Valgren (EF-Nippo), and the Trek-Segafredo duo of Jasper Stuyven and Edward Theuns.
As the group caught its breath following another short incline with 25km to go, Mohoric stamped on the pedals and eased clear. He had enough power to hold off the initial responses and once that was done, he was able to build a gap. Once that gap was established, his chasers were never likely to come together to mount a coordinated chase, and the pace was indeed stop-start all the way to the finish.
“I can't believe it,” said Mohoric, who won in Le Creusot a fortnight ago after another long-range break. “There was another big group joining our small breakaway and we had no teammates there so I was a little bit disappointed, 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 ridiculously low power but I was trying to be as aero as possible. Fortunately, I managed to keep my gap to the line.”
How it unfolded
The stage started with a short descent and then the short category-4 Côte de Bareille – the only climb on the 207km route. The attacks went from the gun but there was disruption in the form of a crash inside the first couple of kilometres. Pogačar even hit out to shut down a couple of moves as the riders got going again after the crash.
A few kilometres later, a breakaway did go clear, containing Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Nippo), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash), Franck Bonnamour (B&B-KTM), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious).
They quickly built a lead of four minutes as Alpecin-Fenix and, curiously, not Deceuninck-QuickStep, marshalled the front of the peloton. There was another sizeable crash but otherwise the pattern continued to the intermediate sprint at Saint-Sever after 54km.
Zimmerman took maximum points from the break while back in the peloton, BikeExchange took advantage of the uphill approach to ease Michael Matthews away from Cavendish. The green jersey, however, held on for a minor place to limit the damage to three points and move a step closer to final points classification victory.
After the sprint, all hell broke loose. A number of riders predicted a lack of control and went on the attack. First a five-man group tried a move and then, with others seemingly inspired, the front of the bunch started to split.
After several kilometres, it was back together and bunched up again, but not for long, as Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) clipped off. They carried on their effort and succeeded in dragging a large group with them, and it stuck.
Also in the move were: Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Jasper Stuvyen (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Ballerini (DQS), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix), Michael Valgren (EF Education-Nippo), Elie Gesbert (Arkea-Samsic), Casper Pedersen (DSM), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Omar Fraile, Ion Izagirre, Dimitriy Gruzdev (Astana-PremierTech), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka-NextHash), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Alejandro Valverde, Jorge Arcas, Ivan Garcia Cortina (Movistar), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroen).
Israel Start-Up Nation, with no one in either break and with Greipel as a possible sprint card, soon came to the front of the peloton to mount a chase, and they then found assistance from Bahrain Victorious. A little later, B&B Hotels and Ineos Grenadiers started to help the cause.
As the gap reduced to 20 seconds, attacks came in the breakaway attempt, with first Politt then Stuyven producing big accelerations. The latter managed to trim the group by six, with Movistar losing all three of their riders, Astana losing Gruzdev and Fraile, and Van Avermaet also falling away.
With all three groups riding furiously, they weren’t separated by much on the road. The 14 remaining chasers were a minute behind the original break and 30 seconds ahead of the bunch.
With 100km to go, after a feed zone, the chasers made it across to the break to make it 20 out front, with the gap to the bunch up to 50 seconds. That was the moment the elastic snapped. Bahrain and B&B, with representation up front, soon stopped contributing, while Ineos called it a day as well. That left just Ineos, who were riding hard through Chris Froome and Reto Hollenstein.
They carried on for a good 15km but the gap was only going one way as the break worked well together. When it hit two minutes, with just over 80km to go, they called it off, and the peloton sat up.
As the break pressed on, it was full relaxation mode in the bunch and the gap quickly yawned out to 10 minutes. They quickly became an irrelevance to the complexion of the stage, and once the breakaway had a significant advantage, it was clear they would start attacking each other.
That moment came with 44km to go, with Gesbert kicking off the hostilities. It was a constant flurry of accelerations and counter-accelerations. Rutsch was particularly active, while Ballereini launched a couple of big attacks.
The first real selection came on an uncategorized climb with 39km to go, where Clarke and Van Moer were dropped. The rest of the break came back together over the top, and Laporte attacked next, splitting the group in two.
Up front were Mohoric, Teunissen, Stuyven, Theuns, Politt, Valgren, Pedersen, Turgis, Zimmerman, and Bonnamour. There was another incline with just over 25 km to go, where Politt issued another acceleration.
The group was coming to a lull as the road flattened out, at which point Mohoric hit out. He was quickly away and when the initial counter-attacks came to nothing, he was able to move out to 30 seconds. With a handy gap established, the race settled into the same pattern for the final 20km; Mohoric got his head down and rode as hard as he could, while the riders behind launched attack after attack, followed by lull after lull.
Mohoric was losing power by the time he reached the home straight but he’d already done the hard work and his second stage victory, and the third for his team, was in the bag.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious||4:19:17|
|2||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis||0:00:58|
|3||Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM|
|4||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:01:02|
|5||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:01:08|
|6||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|7||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo|
|8||Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|9||Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies||0:01:10|
|10||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|11||Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo||0:02:37|
|12||Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Qhubeka-NextHash|
|13||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|14||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix|
|15||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo|
|16||Elie Gesbert (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|17||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|18||Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||0:02:43|
|19||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM||0:02:57|
|20||Simon Clarke (Aus) Qhubeka-NextHash||0:10:05|
|21||Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates||0:20:50|
|22||Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|23||Rafal Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates|
|24||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|25||Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates|
|26||Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates|
|27||Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates|
|28||Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|29||Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|30||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team|
|31||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team|
|32||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|33||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|34||Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team|
|35||Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious|
|36||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious|
|37||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|38||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|39||Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team|
|40||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers|
|41||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech|
|42||Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|43||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|44||Maxime Chevalier (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|45||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|46||Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma|
|47||Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma|
|48||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech|
|49||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|50||Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers|
|51||Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|52||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|53||Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|54||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|55||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team|
|56||Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers|
|57||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|58||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious|
|59||Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|60||Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) TotalEnergies|
|61||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|62||Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team|
|63||Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|64||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|65||Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|66||Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo|
|67||Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|68||Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation|
|69||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|70||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|71||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|72||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation|
|73||Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious|
|74||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix|
|75||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis|
|76||Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo|
|77||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|78||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis|
|79||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|80||Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|81||Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers|
|82||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|83||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|84||Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|85||Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo|
|86||Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange|
|87||Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis|
|88||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|89||Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-Nippo|
|90||Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fra) Cofidis|
|91||Cyril Gautier (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|92||Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious|
|93||Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|94||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo|
|95||Julien Simon (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|96||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis|
|97||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|98||Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis|
|99||Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|100||Victor de la Parte (Spa) TotalEnergies|
|101||Petr Vakoc (Cze) Alpecin-Fenix|
|102||Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|103||Fabien Doubey (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|104||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|105||Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|106||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|107||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|108||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|109||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|110||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange|
|111||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|112||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|113||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|114||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|115||Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|116||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|117||Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange|
|118||André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation|
|119||Omer Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|120||Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM|
|121||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo|
|122||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|123||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM|
|124||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Qhubeka-NextHash|
|125||Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|126||Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo|
|127||Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|128||Chris Froome (GBr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|129||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
|130||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|131||Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation|
|132||Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM|
|133||Sean Bennett (USA) Qhubeka-NextHash|
|134||Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash|
|135||Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM|
|136||Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis|
|137||Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo|
|138||Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|139||Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|140||Jeremy Cabot (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|141||Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|142||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|DNS||Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNS||Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||20|
|2||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM||17|
|3||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious||15|
|4||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo||13|
|5||Simon Clarke (Aus) Qhubeka-NextHash||11|
|6||Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo||10|
|7||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange||9|
|8||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious||8|
|9||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange||7|
|10||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep||6|
|11||Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||5|
|12||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix||4|
|13||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||3|
|14||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||2|
|15||Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep||1|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious||50|
|2||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis||30|
|3||Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM||20|
|4||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||18|
|5||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||16|
|6||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||14|
|7||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo||12|
|8||Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||10|
|9||Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies||8|
|10||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||7|
|11||Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo||6|
|12||Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Qhubeka-NextHash||5|
|13||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||4|
|14||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix||3|
|15||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo||2|