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Tour de France

Jan Bakelants & Boy van Poppel actors in a mythical stage

The 249 kilometers between Vierzon and Le Crezon made this seventh stage, contested this Friday, the longest of this 108th Tour de France. The riders met a hilly course, with five categorized climbs (3rd and 4th coategories) in the last 100 kilometers.

Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert quickly stepped out the window in an attempt to create the breakaway, through Germans Jonas Koch and Georg Zimmermann. The decisive attack, however, came after 40 kilometers of racing, when a group of 29 riders broke away.

The Belgian Jan Bakelants and the Dutch Boy van Poppel, the most experienced elements of the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert selection, were part of this leading group alongside the yellow jersey Van der Poel, but also other famous names, causing a long  pursuit from the peloton, in vain.

Thus, this substantial breakaway was clear, accumulating nearly 7 minutes with 100 kilometers from the finish. A little before, Boy van Poppel had taken second place in the intermediate sprint of Saint-Benin-d’Azy, behind the green jersey Cavendish, also in the front group.

The race changed in the first of the five climbs, the Côte de Château-Chinon (3.2 km at 5.2%), after Mohoric (Bahrain) and Van Moer (Lotto) fought for the KOM points. Both continued their effort and quickly created a one-minute gap on the remainder of the break.

Other riders made the choice of anticipation, as two men attacked 50 kilometers from the finish, later bringing the number of riders in the lead to 4. In pursuit, Boy van Poppel sacrificed himself to defend the interests de Bakelants, stage winner in Ajaccio in 2013.

However the decision was made on the climbs, in the Côte de la Croix de la Liberation (2.5 km at 7.3%), the Signal d’Uchon (5.7 km at 5.6%) and the Côte de la Gourloye ( 2.5 km at 5.1%), the top of the latter located 9 kilometers from the finish. After five and a half hours of racing, the Slovenian Mohoric won.

Jan Bakelants completes the longest Tour stage of the 21st century in seventeenth position. Louis Meintjes, the team leader for the overall classification, rallied Le Creuzot in the group of favorites which came five minutes after the winner.

I'm happy today because, even if you always want more, you have to be realistic and acknowledge the quality of the riders in the front group. We were there to represent the team on the victorious breakaway, which is important. In the end, anticipation paid off for Mohoric, and I wish I had reacted faster to Stuyven's attack. But it's always easier to say it after the fact, as everyone was on the limit. This is only a postponement because there are some great stages coming up, in which I intend to distinguish myself again.

In case a large group managed to break away, the instruction was to be there with more than one rider. So it was mission accomplished, Jan Bakelants and Boy van Poppel did very well in the front group. We knew that the final was very hard for them, however I must be delighted with their effort, and the fact that Louis Meintjes is in the rhythm of the best climbers. Louis is in very good spirits and he is in the right shape as we approach the first mountains.


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