How it happened
Lidl-Trek’s plan at the start of the day was two-fold: get Giulio Ciccone, with support, in the breakaway to allow him to fight for KOM points and the eventual stage; and support Mattias Skjelmose in the General Classification battle.
The stage got off to a rocky start – Mattias hit the deck early on. Fortunately, his crash was light and road captain Tony Gallopin and big brother Mads Pedersen were on hand to shepherd the 22-year-old back to the peloton. Quinn Simmons also had a crash, and wasn’t quite so lucky. The American champion took some time to compose himself, but eventually came back to the peloton, albeit covered in road race and donning a tattered race suit.
Then came the good news: a large breakaway had established itself, thanks to a strong impetus by Mads Pedersen. Tucked into the slipstream: Giulio Ciccone and climbing lieutenant Juanpe Lopez. Pedersen picked up 17 points at the intermediate sprint, moving him up three places in the chase for the green jersey. Cicco was third across the line on the hors-categorie Col de Soudet, picking up 13 points, and a further six atop Col de Marie Blanque, as the GC race exploded behind. Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard attacked across to Giulio’s group and set the pace on the descent and approach to the finish in Laruns. With Skjelmose chasing behind, the call was made for Ciccone to not contribute to the chase given that it would aid rival Vingegaard. Cicco led the sprint from his quartet, taking second in the stage, whilst behind Skjelmose paced himself back to the group of two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar.
Reaction from Giulio Ciccone:
“We knew it would be a good day for the breakaway, an explosive day, but I didn’t expect so much quality in the attacking group. When you finish second in a Tour de France stage, I think it’s normal to have a bit of regret. Hence the gesture of irritation on the finish line, but nothing more. On the last climb there was a misunderstanding with the my team car, I had misunderstood the gap to Hindley and I wanted to keep pulling. Therefore, my directors were right in telling not to pull as they knew the real gap.
In the end, it was a good day, a good first test on the climb. I feel that I am still not at 100% of my potential. The legs are good but it can be better. With a cool mind I realized that this result was the best I could have achieved today.
Actions like today’s are very energy-consuming. And in race situations like these, GC scrambles also happen. Now I’m third in the GC, but my ambitions on the eve of the race don’t change, mine and the team’s plans don’t change. Mattias [Skjelmose] is still our GC man and he will have full support in his mission. I’m here chasing stages, as I tried to do today, and aiming for the polka-dot jersey. I want to make it clear. For the first goal, I will obviously try new attacks; for the second, the competition is strong, as Gall showed today. Let’s stay focused on the next stages.”
The day in photos
Courtesy of Dan King