Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) continued his strong showing at the Tour de France, out-sprinting Nick Schultz (BikeExchange-Jayco) in a breathless two-man sprint after a hard-fought climb to Megève.
The 148.5-kilometre stage was dominated by a 25-rider breakaway that gained enough time to see 21st-placed Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) briefly in the virtual maillot jaune. Luis Léon Sánchez (Bahrain Victorious) led out the sprint of the shattered breakaway but his surged was snuffed out by Schultz and Cort who burst clear to contest the stage win, gaining seven seconds in 100 short metres.
"It's unbelievable - I can't believe what just happened today," Cort said. The breakaway split and reformed so many times on the final climb he didn't expect to be contesting for the victory. "I was on the limit for so long on this climb and luckily I had (Alberto) Bettiol and he was really strong and in front in many moments that meant I could sit on and save some energy. Somehow - I was losing the group a couple of times in the last kilometres - and suddenly it was all back together and I was able to take it in the sprint."
Cort won the Tour de France stage to Carcassonne in 2018 when racing for Astana, but has not been able to duplicate that effort until today.
"It's huge. For me, my type of rider, it can't be any bigger than this. This is what I do - chasing stages - and the Tour de France is just the biggest race. Being able to do it again - in my first Tour I won a stage and I've been here a few times without (winning). But I was really wanting and trying and it's unbelievable to do it again.
"When we entered the runway and I could see things were coming back together. I looked up and saw the podium with the sign of the Tour de France, I told myself, 'this one is mine, I have to take it no matter the price'."
Race leader Tadej Pogačar rode steadily into the finish, conserving what is left of his UAE Emirates Team after his second teammate to COVID-19, with George Bennett testing positive before the stage and heading home.
Jumbo-Visma led the yellow jersey group to the final kilometre as Kämna waited tensely to see if he would take over as race leader. He needed the group to come in more than 9:05 behind the stage winner. Biting his tongue, Kämna watched as Enric Mas (Movistar) opened up the sprint only to have Pogačar power past to lead the peloton in at 8:54 to hold onto the maillot jaune by 11 seconds.
Kämna moved into second place ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), who remains at 39 seconds, with the Ineos Grenadiers pair Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates dropping to fourth and fifth. The only other change in the top 10 was Sanchez moving into 10th ahead of Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost).
How it unfolded
The sky was bright and sun baking riders as they headed out for the neutral roll-out for stage 10 but the skies over race leader Tadej Pogačar's UAE Team Emirates squad darkened as news came that climbing domestique George Bennett had to leave the Tour de France with COVID-19, Rafał Majka was positive but remains and the team already lost Vegard Stake Laengen last week due to the virus.
After an extended roll-out as riders came back after various trips to team cars and medics, the race remained together until the first climb, the category 4 Côte de Chevenoz, but despite numerous attacks, no breakaway could stick until the next climb, the category 3 Col de Jambaz, where Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) attacked and drew out Dylan van Baarle (Ineos), Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), Luis Leon Sanchez (Bahrain Victorious) with 92km remaining.
The attack sparked a large counter-move, and 21 riders joined forces to bridge to the four leaders: Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), Alberto Bettiol, Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Mads Pedersen, Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Jack Bauer, Nick Schultz (BikeExchange-Jayco), Ion Izagirre, Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis), Connor Swift, Hugo Hofstetter (Arkea-Samsic), Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Energies), Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), Kristian Sbaragli (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan) and Georg Zimmerman (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).
UAE Team Emirates, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, AG2R-Citroën and Groupama-FDJ were the only teams to miss the move, and Pogačar's team were more than happy to let the move go, with Kämna the best placed at 8:43. By the next climb, the Côte de Châtillon-sur-Cluses, the breakaway's gap had gone out to more than six minutes.
Rolland attacked before the crest to snatch the points, and Wright was quick to jump on the TGV and the pair railed the descent, opening up a dozen seconds on the rest of the escapees. The move did not stick, however, and the 25 were back together with 44km to go and with seven minutes in hand, it was clear the winner would come from this group.
Not long after, Bettiol launched a move on the searing valley road en route to the intermediate sprint in Passy, powering out a 32-second gap before the race was brought to a halt by climate change protestors, Derniere Renovation, who believe inaction by governments is "sending us to a world in which the Tour de France will no longer be able to exist. In this world, we will be busy fighting to feed ourselves and to save our families."
After a tense ten minutes, the race got back underway, with Bettiol staying clear for the sprint and Laporte leading the chasers across 17 seconds later. The peloton lagged more than nine minutes behind, with Kämna moving into the virtual maillot jaune with 21km to go.
As the climb began the breakaway began to come apart, with Wright, Zimmerman and Benjamin Thomas attacking to leave the Kämna group behind. As the group made its way up, Cort carefully marked a surge from Jorgenson, Velasco and Van Baarle and was towed across to the leaders who had already caught Bettiol.
Bettiol attacked again, drawing out Zimmermann with 10km to go but surges from behind nullified the attack with 7.5km to go with Kämna's group dragged across by the Trek-Segafredo duo. As the road tilted upward, Bettiol had to relent, leaving Van Baarle, Kämna, Jorgenson, Thomas, Sanchez, Wright, Lekneussund, Zimmermann, Velasco and Cort in the lead.
Sanchez rode clear with 6km to go and opened up a solid gap to the Kämna group, despite the chasers' best efforts. Schultz and Jorgenson attacked with 2.5km to go, while Van Baarle too forged clear. Sanchez held on for the KOM points but Schultz mowed him down shortly after as the gradient eased and Jorgenson made it three with 1km to go. Van Baarle reeled them in under the red kite and immediately attacked but Jorgenson nailed him back. It didn't matter, because the chasers caught them with 500m to go and Cort held off Schultz in the sprint.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's beat is anti-doping, UCI governance and data analysis.
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