In the longest stage of its 2020 edition, the Tour de France offered an ideal terrain for the breakaway riders on Thursday. However, the original break did not make it after 218 kilometers, but Marc Hirschi did, soloing to victory after the main climbs of the day. His Swiss compatriot Sébastien Reichenbach also took part in the stage win battle and finished 8th on the line, inside the chasing group.
Unlike the day before, a lot of riders wanted to join the breakaway on Thursday morning, despite the long day ahead. The profile did not favour sprinters or climbers, so there was a real opportunity that many teams wanted to seize. However, the fight for the breakaway proved to be quite short as four men took the lead after just eight kilometers, followed by a duo a little later. “We thought it would take longer, and that there would be more guys in front, but Bora quickly took control,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We understood that they wanted to take points with Sagan. It was certainly not a great success, but it certainly had an impact on the way the race unfolded. Everyone has their own strategy and that’s only fair. Also, it did not displease us either because we knew that we could play our cards in the final as well”.
“In terms of mentality, it is very good”, Thierry Bricaud
Although the bunch decided to let six guys go, it did not give them a big gap and the leaders were constantly kept within two minutes by Peter Sagan’s Bora-hansgrohe and Matteo Trentin’s CCC. As the stage’s decisive point was approaching, with the Côte de la Croix du Pey and the Suc au May about forty kilometers from the finish, the bunch came back real close from the breakaway, suggesting a completely different scenario for the end of the stage. Asgreen and Erviti were the last men standing from the original break and the attacks then started from all over the place. “The guys were instructed to join the moves,” explained Thierry. “We had to be there if there was some action. We rather thought it would unfold in the last climb, but Seb was opportunistic and joined a nice group. Unfortunately, we had to face a great Marc Hirschi today. Still, in terms of mentality, it is very good, although we are not surprised. We know that the guys want to do well and seek results”.
“It feels good moving forward”, Sébastien Reichenbach
After attacking with two of his teammates at the top of the Croix du Pey, Marc Hirschi took off in the highest percentages of the Suc au May and never got caught. In the chasing group with Julian Alaphilippe, Maximilian Schachmann, Marc Soler and Jesus Herrada among others, the Swiss champion Sébastien Reichenbach then fought for the remaining places, eventually taking eighth at the finish. “In the final, which was difficult, the peloton came very close and we had to be attentive to the moves that could go”, said the Swiss rider. “I followed a group that practically fought for victory, but Marc Hirschi was untouchable today. The feelings are good, it’s always nice to go up front and it feels good going forward”.
On Friday, the terrain should be even more suitable to the team, with a tough finish in Pas de Peyrol after the demanding Col de Neronne. “We missed an opportunity today, but we’ll go for it tomorrow again,” Thierry promises. “It will be simpler: if you have the legs, you will be in front. It’s a mid-mountain stage, it just goes up and down. There is no more room for sprinters or rouleurs, it will be for the climbers and punchers. We have quite a few riders with these characteristics so we obviously hope to be there. And if we manage to be put more than one guy in the front, it will be even better…”