Simon Clarke and Max Walscheid played key roles in stage 19 of the Tour de France that saw Matej Mohoric (Bahrain) solo to an impressive victory in Libourne for their third stage victory of the race.
Team Qhubeka NextHash’s attacking mindset was clear from the outset as Australia’s Simon Clarke immediately made the early move with five other riders in the day’s early breakaway.
Together with his breakaway colleagues, Clarke set a furious pace but were kept on a relatively short leash by the peloton with the gap never getting to over four minutes.
With various teams still in the hunt for the green jersey, the race once again reignited after the intermediate sprint point was safely negotiated and a group of 14 riders broke away and then eventually bridged across to the front group of six.
This group rode together until the short climb at approximately 37km to go, where a series of attacks followed with Mohoric eventually proving strongest and riding solo from 25km to go.
Walscheid finished a very credible 12th place on the 207km stage with Clarke, managing both the heat and the effects of a back injury sustained in the first week of the race further back, while the rest of our squad safely negotiated themselves to the finish in the maillot jaune group.
I managed to get across in the group after the sprint, and was really happy with that, but with the short climb at 37km to go it was really a shame that I got dropped there and that in the end was my story of the day.
The break went today pretty fast, it wasn’t as hard a start as the other days but it was definitely a tricky final and it was a very high class front group in front. We knew that we had to go full flat out because the bunch was chasing and it’s always a crucial moment when the gap stays around 1 minute but finally they gave up and we could ride for the victory.
As for Mohoric I’m quite impressed because he was already in the early break and he already used some energy there so chapeau to him to win in that way.
After I found out that I had the injury I decided that I would stay in the race, I said to myself that at least one day that I wanted to make an impact and with the hard mountain stages it was difficult for me to get amongst it, so today was my last day to have some kind of impact on the race.
Once the attacks started to fly my back won’t let me go after those attacks but it was good to be amongst it and it was good to make, at least, one TDF breakaway this year.
It was a strange race, I don’t know exactly what went on behind but one thing I was sure of was that a flat day in the third week of the Tour de France very rarely ends in a sprint stage. So I thought that if I could get up the road there might be a chance and it was the right move, I just wasn’t able to put the power out. No regrets.
I would have liked to be able to help Max more, I said to him that I would help cover as many attacks as I could before the little climb with 37km to go but that is all that I was able to do.