There were only three attacks on Tuesday in stage 10 of the Tour de France, and Stefan Küng initiated two of them. On a completely flat course in the aftermath of the rest day, the European time trial champion first tested his legs at the start of the stage, without enjoying a real gap, then in the final kilometers, before the sprinters’ trains brought it all together for an anticipated massive sprint. Sam Bennett then won for the first time on the Tour while Stefan Küng was rewarded with the most combative rider prize.
“Initially, I didn’t really plan to go on the attack,” Stefan Küng
After a well-deserved rest day on Monday, the Tour de France got back on track today with a very special stage between two islands: Oléron and Ré. Today’s program consisted of 170 kilometers without a single hill but with an obviously threatening wind. The start was barely given at 13.30pm that Stefan Küng went up the road on the Oléron viaduct. “There were no specific instructions this morning, but Stefan wanted to jump into the fight straight away and see how the peloton would react. He didn’t attack with just anyone… ”, said Thierry Bricaud afterwards. “Initially, I didn’t really plan to go on the attack today”, confessed the Swiss rider, “but Michael Schär wrote me a text message and asked me: “what do you think? Should we try”? A day like today was supposed to be very nervous. We did not have a rider for the GC, nor a sprinter, so I was like ’why not, it’s going to be a less stressful day if you’re in front than if you’re in the peloton’”.
No one followed the Swiss duo but the peloton immediately controlled them. “They didn’t really want to give us a lot of room, and as soon as it got really nervous, they came back immediately,” Stefan said. “We saw straight away that the sprinters were in control and that there was nothing to hope for,” Thierry continued. “You can’t risk letting these two riders get a real gap or you can get in a lot of trouble. The sprinters don’t have a lot of chances either and when there is a real one like today, they don’t want to let it go.” Up front, Stefan Küng and Michael Schär never got a two-minute gap, and the bunch even brought them back after seventy kilometers as the race was entering a real exposed portion where the tension clearly rose.
“There was no real stake for us”, Thierry Bricaud
For the team, however, the day was not that stressful. “We obviously approached this stage more calmly than usual, because there was no real stake for us”, explained Thierry. “However, when there is no stake, you can subconsciously be less focused, less attentive, and be stupidly caught up in the crashes. There were indeed a lot of them today. Matthieu [Ladagnous] himself fell down, but without consequences fortunately. The others got through it, and that’s the most important. As will be the case tomorrow, the purpose was to not take any risk since we had nothing to gain. We just had to stay careful”. From this perspective, most of the Groupama-FDJ riders did not push hard in the final kilometers and let the sprinters battling against each other. This time, Sam Bennett took the better of Caleb Ewan.
Moving to Poitiers on Wednesday, a scenario quite similar is expected. “We will kind of have the same briefing as today,” confirmed Thierry Bricaud. “These are not days where we have to take risks. Rather, these are days that should allow us to get going again for the future. There will be a much more suitable terrain for us at the end of the week ”.