#Crosswinds #Fun #Hard
The toughest stage yet of the 2018 Tour really tested our guys. The second ascent of the Mûr-de-Bretagne being the hardest moment of the race so far. Top placed Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider was GC team leader Guillaume Martin (36th) followed by Pasqua (37th). Dion Smith did all he could to recover his polka-dot jersey but the crosswinds in the middle of the race threatened to tear the race apart as the fun and games truly began. Pasqua also highlighted the nice moment for Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) who was allowed to greet his family at Plouvien, just 11 km 11 into a hugely popular stage.
Today's break was established very neatly more or less from the dropping of the flag. It was kicked-off by five men, four of them French - Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) was quickly joined by Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Samsic), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis); and our very own Dion Smith from Wanty-Groupe Gobert. Dion was the highest ranked GC rider within the break, which bode well for his aspirations of regaining the spotty jumper.
With a total of 7 KOM points on offer, Dion was determined to get amongst the action and burst ahead to take the first Cat 3 climb of the day and add 2 points to his existing point, giving him a total of 3 and putting him an overall 4th place in the competition.
The next climb Dion led a procession across the summit and claimed the single point for the Cat 4 climb, boosting his total to 4 in the competition. This put him in 3rd overall, by virtue of the fact the other leaders took their points on higher rated climbs. He was at least however level with the other two riders already on 4 points - Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie).
Quick-Step Floors attack in tough crosswinds
With 100 km remaining Quick-Step Floors decided to animate the race and split the bunch in crosswinds, seemingly targetting a stage win and yellow jersey for Allaphillpe, Gilbert or even Jungles. The gap of 7 minutes to the break suddenly started to tumble. Movistar and Astana appeared to be caught out by the attack and were gapped. They chased back for 20 km before and eventually made the junction to reunite as one peloton chasing the break, now reduced to just over 2 minutes.
The gap to the break stabilised around 2 minutes until the two Direct Energie riders decided to attack, desimating the harmony of the break. Working together there was an opportunity to maintain the break until the first ascent of the Mûr, but the infighting led to the peloton quickly closing the gap. Dion held on until 1 km from the summit before he was swallowed up by the peloton and quickly dropped to the back.
A disappointing end to the stage for Dion, as Dan Martin of UAE-Team Emirates eventually triumphed.
"I had to take advantage of this day to take my chance. Firstly it was interesting for the team to have someone in the break. Secondly, I wanted to grab points for the mountain jersey. On the first two climbs I could gather some points, but also on Mur de Bretagne I had to come on top first to recapture the mountain jersey. Unfortunately I was caught 1 kilometer before the top and Tom took all the points. That is a disappointment.
The riders from Direct Energie broke the cooperation in the group by attacking at 30 kilometers from the finish. The rhythm broke and we had to put a lot of energy into the chase. Then our gap on the peloton came down quickly. I am still glad I tried it. I prefer to attack rather than to stay in the peloton. After all, I rode around in the polka dot jersey for three days, something I never expected before the Grand Départ. Now I want to recuperate as good as possible to assist Guillaume Martin. Do I still think of the jersey? It will be difficult on the longer climbs. But you never know what happens."
At 231 km tomorrows flat stage is the longest of this year's edition and will likely result in a bunch gallop amongst the sprinter teams. Who would bet gainst Peter Sagan of BORA-hansgrohe taking another victory?
Three years after finishing second to Alexis Vuillermoz at Mûr-de-Bretagne, Ireland’s Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) won the queen stage of Brittany ahead of another AG2R-La Mondiale, Pierre Latour, to score his second Tour de France stage win five years after the first one in the Pyrenees. Greg Van Avermaet retained the yellow jersey.
Check back tomorrow for more from inside the peloton at the 2018 Tour de France.