Matej Mohoric of Bahrain Victorious has won his second stage of this year’s Tour de France, the Slovakian national champion attacking from the break to win in Libourne, just as he had done a fortnight ago when he won at Le Creusot.
Cristophe Laporte of Cofidis was second, with Casper Pedersen of Team DSM third, the pair crossing the line 58 seconds behind the winner. The main group crossed the line more than 20 minutes later, led by UAE Team Emirates, whose Tadej Pogacar retains his overall lead of 5 minutes 45 seconds.
Today’s 207km stage from Mourenx was one of two remaining in the race that could end in a sprint finish, and Eddy Merckx was at the start to congratulate Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish, who last Friday equalled his record of 34 Tour de France stage wins.
Picture credit A.S.O./Pauline Ballet
The five-time Tour de France champion told Cavendish that he hoped he could make it 35 this afternoon, but the Manxman will now have to wait until Sunday and the Champs-Elysees – where he won four times in succession from 2009-12 to try and take his fifth victory of this year’s race, and with it, the all-time record in his own right.
With 15 teams still seeking a stage win in this year’s race, it was a frantic start to the stage as riders tried to get in the break, although an early crash happening with just 2km ridden delayed the formation of the escape group.
When it did get clear, it included Mohoric plus Trek-Segafredo’s Julien Bernard, Franck Bonnamour of B&B Hotels, the Qhubeka-NextHash rider Simon Clarke, Jonas Rutsch of EF Education-Nippo and Georg Zimmermann from Intermarché-Wanty Gobert, who led the group across the intermediate sprint point, which came with 54km raced.
In the peloton, Team BikeExchange’s Michael Matthews reduced his deficit to Cavendish in the points competition by three points – although the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider still has an advantage of 35 points over the Australian.
A series of attacks flew off the front of the peloton as riders looked to bridge across to the break and following a helter-skelter period of racing, with three groups on the road at one point separated by little more than a minute and a half, eventually the escapees at the front of the race numbered 20 and the peloton called it a day for the chase.
Inside the final 45km, with no prospect the break would be caught, a number of riders launched attacks, one of them splitting the group in two before, with 25km still to ride, Mohoric rode away to win the stage.
It was the third of the race for his team, whose hotel and bus were searched by French police earlier this week, with the Slovenian rider pulling an imaginary zip across his lips as he crossed the line.
His gesture immediately drew unfavourable comparisons on social media with the infamous one by Lance Armstrong during the 1999 race, the first of the seven consecutive Tour de France victories he would be stripped of in 2012 when he was banned from sport for life.
Stage winner Matej Mohoric
On paper, it was a day for the sprint, but I wanted to make sure I was ready to go in any move. When I heard another group was coming over, I knew that they would also be making a big effort to close us, so I remained calm.
In the end, it was about following the right move, and when Pollit attacked, I countered and was able to make a gap. I was suffering in the last ten kilometres, but I just kept fighting till the finish.
I am so happy, not just for me but the team. We had a hard couple of days, but it just brought us closer together and to keep fighting. I’m super proud of this win, this team and what we’ve achieved at this race.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.