Tour de France: Asgreen Sprints to Victory in Stage 18
Stage 18 of Tour de France 2023 invited the cyclists in the Tour peloton to a battle in the flattest terrain of this year’s Tour de France – except for stage 21 that concludes on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Stage 18 took the riders on a 184.9-kilometer ride from Moutiers to Bourg-en-Bresse.
Moutiers is a small village located in the Savoie department in south-eastern France. The village is known as the main entry point to the Trois Vallees ski region in the French Alps. Bourg-en-Bresse is known for the Royal Monastery of Brou, which is famous for being a masterpiece of flamboyant gothic art. The historical center of Bourg-en-Bresse introduces visitors to the town’s rich past. The town is also known for the Glorieuses de Bresse – a festival of fine poultry. Bourg-en-Bresse is claiming to serve the world’s most delicious chicken dishes.
Many had anticipated a fast start of today’s stage 18, but most of the riders in the Tour de France peloton were obviously tired and needed a rest following the excruciating mountain stages of the past days. On paper today’s stage profile appealed to breakaway experts, but the sprinter teams were looking for an additional mass sprint and only three riders managed to escape from the main peloton.
Kasper Asgreen (Soudal-QuickStep), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), and Jonas Abrahamsen managed to form a viable breakaway group.
Sprinter teams – including Jayco-Alula, Team DSM and Alpecin-Deceuninck - kept the escapee trio on a tight leash, and they were only allowed an advantage of less than two minutes.
With approximately eighty kilometers left of the stage a few small attacks were launched from the main peloton, because the breakaway trio was less than a minute ahead. Jasper Philipsen decided to play policeman in the peloton to stop the attempts. He was getting greedy and wanted a fifth stage victory in this Tour for himself.
Team Cofidis’ Simon Geschke abandoned the race mid-way. He has been suffering for days now.
Campenaerts’ teammate Pascaal Eenkhoorn attacked from the main peloton group and successfully bridged the gap to the front. The front trio morphed into a quartet and the added human resources resulted in the advantage increasing to more than a minute.
With between fifty and thirty kilometers left of today’s stage 18 sprinter teams such as Jayco-Alula and Team DSM at the front of the main peloton were still working hard to reduce the gap. They found it to be a very difficult task that took longer than expected. The effects of the hard days in the mountains were clearly showing.
With thirty kilometers left, the lead was starting to drop, and it was now down to forty-five seconds. With twenty-five kilometers left the lead was still forty-five seconds, so Team Lidl-Trek sent Frenchman Tony Gallopin to the front to try to reduce the gap. 35-year-old Gallopin will end his professional cycling career at the end of this season.
The chasing main peloton was working hard to reel in the breakaway quintet and with fifteen kilometers left the advantage had been reduced to thirty seconds.
Lidl-Trek’s Mads Skjelmose joined the front to support his teammates in the chase work.
With just three kilometers left the advantage of the front quartet had been reduced to eight seconds. Would they prevail?
The front group managed to keep the chasing pack at bay. Campenaerts led the quartet into the final kilometer to keep the pace fast. Asgreen launched his sprint and was tailed by Eenkhoorn. To the left of them Abrahamsen accelerated, but Asgreen won the sprint across the finish line and is the winner of stage 18. Eenkhoorn finished second, while Abrahamsen completed the stage podium.
“The situation was not ideal. I would have preferred for six to eight men to be in the breakaway, stage winner Asgreen told Roadcycling.com shortly after securing the first stage victory for his Soudal-QuickStep team in this year’s Tour de France.
“It is week three of the Tour, however, and we’ve seen before that a small group can cheat the sprinters in the field. We all deserved the win with the work we put into making the breakaway a success, but I am obviously very happy I won.”
Today’s stage 18 did not cause any changes in the top of the general classification. Jonas Vingegaard still leads ahead of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos-Grenadiers).
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