Before the very much-anticipated Grand Colombier stage, the stage 14 of the Tour de France leading to Lyon seemed to be a dream opportunity for the breakaway but the green jersey fight led to another scenario. Like a few days ago, Stefan Küng was able to take the lead in front of the race but never could believe in his chances. A small peloton eventually got to Lyon, and Valentin Madouas and David Gaudu tried their luck, but it was Soren Kragh Andersen who ultimately got the better of the remaining sprinters. Stefan Küng went to collect another combativity prize award.
“Once you’re in front, you might as well stay there”, Stefan Küng
When he took the start in Clermont-Ferrand on Saturday morning, Stefan Küng knew that it potentially was his last chance to go for the win on the Tour de France 2020. Therefore, the European time trial champion proved to be very active at the start of the race to make sure he would enter the right move. After ten kilometers, he managed to do so, but like what happened at the start of the week, the Swiss rider quickly understood that it would not make it until the end. “I expected more people to join the breakaway,” he said, “but there were only three of us at first and then the Sunweb guy (Cees Bol) dropped out. At the time, I wanted to do the same, because I told myself that it was useless to continue. With Bora pulling behind, we quickly understood what would be the race scenario: they wanted to drop the sprinters in the main climb and go on until the finish”. The green jersey battle between Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett quickly took its toll on Stefan Küng and Edward Theuns’s chances.
“His mate in front was not overly motivated,” added Yvon Madiot. “We hesitated for a long time about what to do, but there was this climb in the first third of the stage and we decided to continue until there and then see what it was like. It’s always difficult to make the decision to drop out, and one shouldn’t have any regrets. Anyway, Stefan did not go full gas”. “The team kept me motivated to carry on, and once you’re in front, you might as well stay there,” the 26-year-old rouleur said. “I gradually slowed down but I still wanted to get over the climb in front and take it easy in the downhill. It cost me energy but I still felt great in the end.” The bunch led by Bora-hansgrohe and CCC caught Stefan Küng with 80 kilometers to go. The Swiss rider then got back alongside Valentin Madouas and David Gaudu and the three of them then focused on the final in Lyon, with the short but decisive climbs of La Duchère and La Croix Rousse.
“We’re seeking every opportunity”, Yvon Madiot
Fourth yesterday at Puy Mary, Valentin went on the attack on the first hill. “I was feeling pretty well,” said the Frenchman. “I found myself in a good position so I thought I had to try something. I knew it was going to be a little complicated with the second climb coming up, but it allowed me to do the downhill in front. In the second climb, unfortunately, I got boxed in a bit and it was complicated to move back up with the crowd there”. His friend David Gaudu then followed the strong guys to the summit of the Croix Rousse hill, but the peloton came back to one piece with four kilometers to go while Stefan Küng was delayed following a twist of fate. “Unfortunately I had a puncture at the top of the first climb,” he said. “There was a huge hole on the outside of the turn. It’s a shame because I think it was my last chance on this Tour”. “Stefan wanted to attack in the final because he knew there wouldn’t be many teammates left for the sprint,” said Yvon. “He was probably thinking of doing the same as Kragh Andersen but he was not lucky. Either way, we’re seeking every opportunity! And if we don’t try, we won’t win.” So the plan will be the same for tomorrow’s big stage onto the Grand Colombier. “We told Sébastien and Thibaut, who were in the second bunch, to take it easy,” concluded Yvon. “Tomorrow we have several riders able to perform in the final, so we will keep trying”.