Towards Poligny on Friday, the Tour de France riders completed the fifth fastest stage in the event’s history. At the end of a restless stage, Matej Mohoric took the win at an average speed of 49.1 km/h. Very aggressive in the first fifty kilometres, Groupama-FDJ ultimately only managed to put Lars van den Berg in the day’s breakaway, but the Dutchman fought hard against a world-class competition before entering the top-20 (18th). Before reaching the Champs Elysées on Sunday, the climbers will get a last chance tomorrow in the Vosges massif.

Everyone was ready to suffer on Friday from Moirans-en-Montagne. Leaving the “toy capital”, the riders expected anything but to have fun. The hilly terrain of the Jura was indeed on the menu for this nineteenth stage, and the breakaway was almost certain to make it to the finish. Therefore, almost everyone wanted to be part of it, and the battle started early on and extended for several tens of kilometres. For Groupama-FDJ, Quentin Pacher, Kevin Geniets, Lars van den Berg, Stefan Küng and the French champion Valentin Madouas tried to follow the various moves one after the other. Three of them even entered a strong group after fifty terminals, but it all came back together once again, and nine riders eventually managed to open a gap shortly after. This time, Groupama-FDJ wasn’t there, but the peloton did not give ease off either while some forty riders were already dropped behind. “It was the last chance for many riders, including me”, explained Lars. “So there were many candidates for the breakaway, and it was a very long battle”. “It was like a Classic”, said Sébastien Joly. “It was the last opportunity for many teams, and we noticed that even more when some came to pull while there was already a minute gap. We could expect a tough finale”.

“Lars gave everything”, Sébastien Joly

The breakaway therefore never went away clearly, and it all restarted after the mid-race. “Just before the intermediate sprint, on a technical and tortuous part, a big move went and we had Lars in this group,” added Sébastien. The Dutchman riding his first Tour de France then found himself in a group of about thirty riders, including some of the biggest names in the peloton, who joined the initial breakaway shortly after. Very quickly, however, two men took the lead again, but the chasing group never lost more than a minute. In the climb of Ivory, the last one of the day, many counterattacks then occurred. Kasper Asgreen, Matej Mohoric and Ben O’Connor made a gap on the rest of the breakaway and were able to tackle the last thirty kilometres with a slight lead. “When you face teams who have more riders, you tell yourself that it’s still a bike race and that everything is possible”, said Sébastien. “However, the day’s competition was too high. Lars rode well and was attentive on the final climb. He followed the attacks; he gave his all and he made sure to have no regret”. The young man was able to follow some accelerations but eventually had to take place in a second chasing group for the final.

“We have nothing to lose”, Sébastien Joly

After an extremely fast stage and his first breakaway in the Tour, Lars van den Berg finally took 18th place, 1’43 behind Matej Mohoric. “I did my best to fight for the win, but it wasn’t easy alone, and my opponents were stronger than me”, he said. “I’m happy with my race, I enjoyed it even if it hurt. Above all, I want to come back stronger to the Tour de France”. “It would have been nice for sure to have more riders in front, but our guys also made a lot of efforts beforehand”, added Sébastien. “There is still a great opportunity tomorrow, in the mountains. It will be a new chance with David, Thibaut, Valentin but with the whole team in general. We have nothing to lose. We have everything to gain tomorrow. We will make sure to conclude this Tour de France in a nice way”.

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