With 25 kilometers to the finish and a gap of only 90 seconds it appeared the break was doomed. Surely it would come down to a bunch sprint. On board a race moto, Jens Voigt declared he had his money on Astana’s Mark Cavendish.
“He looks like a grizzly bear just out of hibernation — hungry, lean and mean,” said Voigt. Well, that might have been true, but the grizzly bear from the Isle of Man and sprinters Mads Pedersen (Trek Segafredo), Pascal Ackermann (UAE) and Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) never got their opportunity to wind it up.
The three man break of Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla), Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) managed to keep a 45 second lead for the final 15k. “First of all it was a big fight to get in the breakaway then we wanted to push to the summit of the climb to see if we could break the peloton, but we didn’t get enough time to make the sprinters stop chasing, so we had no other choice but to keep pushing,” said Cort. I can’t remember ever pushing all day like this.”
The sprinters teams had burned through their now limited supply of domestiques. Sprinter Kaden Groves (Alpecin–Deceuninck) and Fernado Gaviria (Movistar) were eight minutes back in the grupetto so their squads had no reason to join the chase.
On top of that it was a miserable, wet, cold, slippery day that started out with conditions that almost forced race organized to shorten the stage to the last 70k. Nobody really wanted to ride unless the odds of victory were high. Which basically meant just the three guys upfront: De Marchi, Gee and Cort.
They rode as one until the final 3k when Gee attacked. The cagey and tactically astute Cort forced De Marchi to close it down before dropping him. The Italian managed to come back and, with the slowest sprint of the three, made a last, dying effort to win. Gee passed de Marchi, then Cort easily distanced Gee.
“I’m incredibly happy,” said Cort. “Today was such a hard day, one of hardest stages I’ve done on a bike, to end up with a win is unbelievable.”
And what of Mark Cavendish back in the peloton? He finished 8th — grizzly bears don’t take risks on slippery roads when there’s nothing to be gained.
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