Omar Fraile (Astana) won stage 14 of the Tour de France by being the best up the final climb in Mende. Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep) was 2nd on the day with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) finishing in 3rd place.
Stage 14 of the Tour de France brought back good memories for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka as the finish in Mende was the same as in 2015, when Steve Cummings took that historic stage win for our African Team on Mandela Day. This year round, we were motivated to give the stage a good go once again and that’s exactly what Tom-Jelte Slagter and Julien Vermote did by making the big break of the day.
It was only after some early echelon action that the break of the day went clear, but when it did, 32 riders found themselves off the front of the main peloton. With no GC contenders in the front group, Team Sky were happy to let the break go and decide the stage.
There were a number world class riders in the break, among it, Fraile, Alaphilippe, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) to name just a few. With these names in the group, we were looking to anticipate with our duo up front rather than have to react in the final.
At 57km to go, just over the top of the cat 2 Berthal climb, Slagter countered an attack by Gorka Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida) and bridged over to the Spanish national champion along with Stuyven. Initially the trio worked well and opened up a 1’00” lead over the big chase group behind.
Just after going over an uncategorised climb with 33km to go, Stuyven attacked Izaguirre and Slagter on the flat and put his classics specialist prowess on display, riding away solo on the descent towards Mende. Stuyven was able to stay away all the way to Mende, starting the final 3km climb with a 1’30” lead over the chase group that had swallowed up Slagter and Izaguirre.
The steep 10% average gradient climb was just too much for the Belgian rider though, as it was for Slagter too after his earlier efforts. Fraile jumped from the breakaway to pass Stuyven just before the top of the climb and soloed to victory. Alaphilppe was also just able to better Stuyven on the line, while Slagter came home in 19th place after giving all he could for the stage win, Vermote was 3 places further back.
Tom-Jelte Slagter – Rider
It was a good stage for us so we gave everything to be in the break. It was a big group with us so we knew it wouldn’t work well towards the final with so many guys. So I tried to split the group and get in the front. The descent I choose wasn’t ideal, it was a straight forward road with a lot of wind from the front. I was only in front with 2 other guys. and it took out too much energy to be good in the final. Stuyven was the strongest, he dropped us and rode away alone. I went back to the chase group that went to the climb, but I spent so much in my breakaway attempt that I couldn’t do anything on the final climb. It was a good day but the result is disappointing.
Julien Vermote – Rider
It was good to have both of us in the breakaway for the team. We wanted to be there with Tom because it was a good final for him. It was a hard stage with a high pace in the group. Suddenly there was the attack from Izaguirre and it was good that Tom reacted. It was still hard with climbs to come but the wind was quite strong and some downhill sections were maybe not so good for Tom, if a few extra guys went across then it would have been perfect. So it was a good move by Tom and these things are just so hard to predict. In the end they brought him back and he used to much in the break to still then get a result. I was happy to make the break today, it was a hard stage and we learned a lot and we will keep on fighting to make a better result with the team.