Danish Soudal-QuickStep rider Kasper Asgreen outsprinted the remainder of a small 4-man breakaway to win a breathtaking Stage 18 as an unorganized peloton came within seconds of catching them at the finish line.
The breakaway, which originally included Victor Campanearts, Jonas Abrahamsen, and stage winner Kasper Asgreen, began with over 170 km to go, and was later joined by Pascal Eenkhoorn during the intermediate sprint.
Such an early breakaway initially appeared to carry little threat, but somehow sustained a lead right to the finish line, with the rest of the peloton mere meters from catching them as Kasper Asgreen outsprinted Eenkhoorn and Abrahamsen.
The break was limited to 1 minute and 30 seconds by the peloton and was continuously eaten away from around 150 km of the stage to go, but disorganization in the peloton and pure strength by the breakaway riders sustained them.
Arguably the pre-stage favorite – Jasper Philipsen – managed to win the sprint of the rest of the peloton and finished 4th in the stage, retaining the green jersey.
However, his lead-out was somewhat compromised by the panic and competing tactics of the chasing peloton. Aplecin-Deceunick were forced to ride on the front for a long time and burned through all of their riders except Mathieu van der Poel.
Many of the sprint-focussed teams were forced to do the same in pursuit of these four riders and essentially used up their lead-outs with a huge distance left to go in the stage.
But the credit lies with the riders in the breakaway, with 3/4 of them sustaining a blistering speed to out-ride a charging peloton for over 170 km in what essentially became an impressive team time trial amongst competitors.
As expected, it was a quiet day for the General Classification and no time gaps arose between the podium during the stage.
A Disorganized Peloton Fails To Reel In the Breakaway
With the threat of the four-man breakaway being sustained to the finish line rising and rising as the race progressed, the peloton descended into disorder as they attempted to chase.
Many teams had a set of tactics for the stage that was forced to be overwritten due to the efforts required to chase. Jayco-AlUla, BORA-hansgrohe, Bahrain Victorious, and Alpecin-Deceunick in particular were confused as to what they should be doing.
All of these teams were forced to use part or all of their lead-out prematurely in order to chase down the breakaway.
Many of the other teams were not interested in riding on the front or catching the breakaway, with Soudal-QuickStep and Lotto Dstny even attempting to sabotage the chase in support of their teammates barely a few seconds up the road.
Julian Alaphilippe was a perpetrator of such antics, blocking riders from getting to the front and generally disrupting the order in the chase. It worked, too, as his Soudal-QuickStep teammate took the stage in the team’s first stage win in this year’s Tour.
“I really couldn’t have done it without Pascal, Victor, and Jonas”
“I really couldn’t have done it without Pascal, Victor, and Jonas”, Kasper Asgreen told ITV4, recognizing the efforts of the rest of the small breakaway – none of whom were his teammates.
“They all did amazing out there. We all deserved to win with the work we put out there. I’m really happy to come away with the win.”
On the situation they found themself in, he remarked that “obviously the situation was not ideal. I would have preferred to have gone with six, seven or eight [riders], but it’s also the last week of the Tour and we’re coming off some really hard weeks.”
He and the other breakaway riders retained a modicum of optimism, Asgreen explained, despite the long odds of success. “We’ve seen it before that even a small group can manage to cheat the sprinters’ teams. I didn’t rule it out. It was a team time trial to the finish.”
Tour De France 2023 Stage 18 Results
1. Kasper Asgreen (Soudal-QuickStep/DEN): 4:06:48
2. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny/NED): + 0 seconds
3. Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X/NOR): + 0 seconds
4. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceunick/BEL): + 0 seconds
5. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek/DEN): + 0 seconds
6. Cees Bol (Astana/NED): + 0 seconds
7. Jordi Meeus (BORA-hansgrohe/BEL): + 0 seconds
8. Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates/ITA): + 0 seconds
9. Christoph Laporte (Jumbo-Visma/FRA): + 0 seconds
10. Luca Mozzato (Arkéa–Samsic/ITA): + 0 seconds
Tour De France 2023 General Classification Standings After Stage 18
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma/DEN): 72:04:39
2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates/SLO): + 7 minutes, 35 seconds
3. Adam Yates (UAE-Team Emirates/GBR): + 10 minutes, 45 seconds
4. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers/SPA): + 12 minutes, 01 seconds
5. Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla/GBR): + 12 minutes, 19 seconds
6. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious/SPA): + 12 minutes, 50 seconds
7. Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe/AUS): + 13 minutes, 50 seconds
8. Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen/AUT): + 16 minutes, 11 seconds
9. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma/USA): + 16 minutes, 49 seconds
10. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ/FRA): + 17 minutes, 57 seconds