TOUR DE FRANCE 2023 | STAGE 18 | MOÛTIERS > BOURG-EN-BRESSE
Kasper Asgreen claimed a surprise win at Bourg-en-Bresse, his first at the Tour de France, as he held off the sprinting peloton along with his breakaway companions Pascal Eenkhorn and Jonas Abrahamsen who rounded out the podium of stage 18. Hot favourite Jasper Philipsen had to settle for fourth in the first position of the peloton. Asgreen delivered Soudal-Quick Step’s first stage victory this year and a third for Denmark after Mads Pedersen and Jonas Vingegaard. The latter retains the yellow jersey.
ASGREEN, CAMPENAERTS AND ABRAHAMSEN IN THE LEAD
152 riders took the start of stage 18 in Moûtiers at 13.40. Non-starters: Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis). Kasper Asgreen (Soudal-Quick Step) was the first attacker, quickly joined by Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny) and Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X). They got a maximum advantage of 1’48’’ at km 7. Teams Jayco-AlUla, DSM-Firmenich and Alpecin-Deceuninck paced the pack after that. For half of the race, the gap was stable around one minute. Abrahamsen took the two KOM points up for grabs at Chambéry-le-Haut (km 62) and atop côte de Boissieu (km 105) where attacks finally took place at the head of the peloton, involving Pascal Eenkhorn (Lotto-Dstny), local rider Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic), Quinten Hermans (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies).
EENKHORN REINFORCES THE LEAD GROUP
Eenkhorn rode away from the pack with 65km remaining. Campenaerts waited for him. The two Lotto-Dstny riders caught up with Asgreen and Abrahamsen to make it a leading quartet 58km before the end. Abrahamsen also won the intermediate against a very motivated Eenkhorn while Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) showed no interest to challenge Philipsen for the green jersey. In the last hour of racing, Bora-Hansgrohe and Lidl-Trek took over from DSM-Firmenich, Alpecin-Deceuninck and Jayco-AlUla at the head of the peloton as the leading quartet was less than one minute up front.
THE PELOTON MISSES OUT ON CATCHING UP
Campenaerts was designated for the combativity award. He kept pulling the leading quartet until the very end, even when the chances to hold off the peloton were very slim with 40’’ lead at the 20-km to go mark, 20’’ with 10km to go and less than 10’’ within the last 3km.
Campenaerts gave it all in the final straight with the idea to lead Eenkhorn out but it was Abrahamsen on his wheel and Asgreen who timed the sprint at perfection. The Dane came second in a stage to Gap in 2019 and second again in the St-Emilion ITT in 2021 before he took his maiden win today, keeping the momentum for Danish riders in a Tour dominated by his compatriot Jonas Vingegaard.
KASPER ASGREEN: “ALL FOUR OF US DESERVED TO WIN”
“Obviously the situation of our breakaway was not ideal. I would have preferred to break with 7 or 8 riders. It’s also one of the final stages of Tour after really hard weeks. Yet we have seen small breaks making it to the finish against the bunch… so I didn’t rule out the possibility of winning. It’s been a team time trial all day long. My breakaway companions were just excellent out there. We all deserved to win because of how much work we put into the break. I’m happy to get away with it. It means so much with the period I had this year since I crashed at Tour de Suisse. I’ve come a long way, and to cap it off with a victory like this is amazing. I dedicate it to all the people who helped me through this hard time, and also to my team-mate Dries Devenyns in his last Tour and his last season.”
JONAS VINGEGAARD: “MY STRATEGY IS TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE”
“It has not been a stressful day, yet it has been very fast in the end because there has been a big fight between the breakaway and the bunch. Still, I was happy to stay in the wheels of the sprinters’ teams the whole day. My strategy for the next few days is basically to keep myself focused and out of trouble. My teammates did an amazing work at that today. We will only relax once the Paris stage is finished.”
VICTOR CAMPENAERTS: “I TRIED TO LEAD OUT BUT I GOT CRAMPS”
“We had a plan of being in the break. No other option. If it was 10 guys, full guys. If it was small, go easy send someone across as we did. And yeah, we worked well, the cooperation was good. I tried to keep the break alive in the final kilometres because Pascal [Eenkhorn] has a good sprint. I tried to lead out, but I had cramps with 500m to go and then I slowed down in the sprint. Chapeau Kasper. It’s bittersweet. It is never easy to get onto the podium of the Tour de France, so it’s a good surprise to be here with the combativity award. It makes it a bit sweeter and a bit less bitter.
JASPER PHILIPSEN: “THEY MUST HAVE BEEN VERY STRONG AT THE FRONT”
“I also ask myself why the breakaway made it. We did everything we could. We kept the gap to one minute. Many teams also chased. They must have been very strong at the front. Everyone is a bit tired. We worked a lot, but the front four were amazing. I wanted to win today but it hasn’t been a bad Tour so far. I can still be happy with four stage wins. I also collected points for the green jersey. Tomorrow can be a good day, and also Sunday.”
GIULIO CICCONE: “SATURDAY WILL BE THE BIG DAY”
“The legs were a bit tired this morning. But, for the rest, I suppose it was a good day. Already tomorrow, it will be a bit more nervous than today. We need to pay attention, but the important day will be Saturday. There will be full fight then. Gall, Vingegaard are the men I might have to watch… but I don’t need to control them, I’d rather to go collect as many KOM points as possible.”
TADEJ POGACAR: “MAYBE MY SHAPE WASN’T PERFECT FOR THE TOUR”
“The start of today’s stage has been pretty hard for me. It’s been quite emotional in the first few kilometres, because many riders came and talked to me. I want to say a big thank you to them, because they cheered me up. As for the rest, I managed to recover a little bit during the stage.”
“Of course, I was extremely disappointed yesterday evening. Who wouldn’t be? I don’t have an explanation as for what happened yesterday. There is no real explanation. I can be happy overall because I came to the Tour from an injury, without much training. In the beginning I was optimistic, because I felt very good in the first two weeks. But maybe my shape wasn’t perfect for the Tour. I’m happy to be here and in 2nd place of the GC. When you look at the whole picture, our Tour de France has been very good. We have had the yellow jersey for a few days, we got two stage wins, and may put two guys in the podium in Paris. We have an amazing team and we will try to fight until the end in order to get another stage win and keep the 2nd and 3rd position in the GC.”