Despite new corona worries, Simon Geschke defended his mountain jersey with a big fighter’s heart, defending champion Tadej Pogacar made the man in yellow sweat with sharp attacks: The fight for the podium at the 109th Tour de France kicked off the Pyrenees trilogy on Tuesday pointed.
“It wasn’t a huge step to Paris, but it was still an important step to make a small statement and expand the lead,” said Geschke, who finished eighth and collected important mountain points. “I hope I don’t have to pay for it tomorrow. That was a big investment. I’m glad it was worth it.”
Almost as expected, Pogacar switched to attack mode – albeit without success. Jonas Vingegaard also showed no weakness on the 16th stage over 178.5 kilometers from Carcassonne to Foix, where breakaway Hugo Houle ensured the first Canadian victory in 34 years and remains on course for victory and in yellow. Houle dedicated the victory to his brother, who died in a traffic accident. It was his first win ever as a professional cyclist.
For two Germans, on the other hand, the tour is over: Lennard Kämna, who was so aggressive up to now, did not get on his bike anymore because of a cold, for Maximilian Walscheid, on the other hand, the race was over because of a positive corona test. This means that only seven of the originally nine German professional cyclists who started are still there.
The end of the tour by Cofidis teammate Walscheid should put Geschke in an alarm mood, after all, the native of Berlin has often shared a room with Walscheid in the past few days. Nevertheless, Geschke showed great courage again, secured the mountain jersey on the eighth day in a row and even extended his lead in the climbing section. The 36-year-old was the first to cross the 1517 meter high Port des Lers, secured two important points on the last climb and finished eighth.
The yellow jersey remains on the shoulders of Vingegaard, who was attacked a number of times by Pogacar on the penultimate climb but was always in control. Both reached the finish just under six minutes later. The showdown comes at the mountain finishes in Peyragudes and Hautacam on Wednesday and Thursday.
But in the duel for yellow, the stars of the scene are increasingly losing their most important trump cards. After Vingegaard lost the two noble helpers Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk on Sunday, Pogacar is now threatened with the loss of his third helper Marc Soler. The Spaniard had to vomit during the stage, visited the tour doctor several times and fought his way up the mountains just before the broom car.
The day’s win was decided on the final climb when Houle broke away. A breakaway group of 29 had formed early on, which fell apart more and more during the ride over two category 1 mountains in the last third of the stage. Captain Alexander Wlasow of the German Bora team couldn’t keep up either, but moved up to a top ten place in the overall standings by finishing sixth.
Heat, corona, illnesses – at the start of the third week of the tour, the peloton is increasingly feeling the strain. Kämna, who has been so aggressive up until now, was absent from the starting line on Tuesday. The 25-year-old from North Germany had been complaining of a small infection for days, and his condition had not improved even on the rest day. The corona test was negative for the 25-year-old and his teammates.
Due to his aggressive driving style, Kämna was one of the positive appearances from a German point of view at this year’s Tour of France, even if he was denied a happy ending. On the stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, he was only 100 meters short of winning the day, and a few days later he missed the yellow jersey in Megève by eleven seconds.
Walscheid was the eleventh driver to test positive for Corona, after the two Frenchmen Aurélien Paret-Peintre and Mikaël Chérel from the AG2R team had also been affected. “After all the work, this is a big disappointment. I had a serious accident in spring but the team gave me confidence. I got back in shape, ready and happy to compete in Denmark. Not reaching Paris is frustrating. But there was no other choice,” Walscheid wrote on Instagram.