Despite expectations for a return of the sprinters in the Tour de France’s stage 18 at Bourg-en-Bresse, Kasper Asgreen of the Soudal Quick-Step team emerged victorious. Simultaneously, Jonas Vingegaard successfully defended his overall lead.
Asgreen’s Unexpected Victory in Stage 18
Emerging from a challenging four-rider breakaway, Kasper Asgreen defied odds to win stage 18 of the race. Asgreen, along with Jonas Abrahamsen from Uno-X, Victor Campenaerts, and Pascal Eenkhoorn of Lotto Dstny, managed to maintain a slim lead as the race left the Alps, hurtling into the Rhone valley.
Racing at a staggering pace of over 60 km/h, the quartet narrowly survived a six-second disadvantage against their pursuers in the final kilometre. It was Asgreen’s last-second acceleration to the finish line that secured victory, fending off sprinter Jasper Philipsen from the Alpecin-Deceuninck team, who had already claimed four stage victories.
“It was a team time trial to the finish. I really couldn’t have done it without Pascal, Victor and Jonas. They all did amazing out there. We all deserved to win with the work we put out there,” Asgreen noted. The win was particularly poignant for Asgreen, marking his triumphant return to form following a tough year that saw him withdrawing from the Tour de France due to a crash in the Tour of Switzerland.
Vingegaard Maintains Lead Despite Teammate’s Departure
Meanwhile, Jonas Vingegaard enjoyed an uneventful day as he retained his overall lead. However, his Jumbo-Visma team took a hit as one of his key teammates, Wout van Aert, exited the race to be with his expecting wife.
As Vingegaard continued to lead, Olivier Banuls, the head of the cycling unit at the International Testing Agency (ITA), disclosed that the Dane’s performance had been a criterion for performance testing. As a result, Vingegaard had been tested a total of 26 times in June and during the Tour.
The Struggle of Other Contenders
Meanwhile, Tadej Pogacar, trailing Vingegaard by seven minutes and 35 seconds, had his own set of struggles. His partner Urska Zigart revealed that he had nearly quit the Tour after learning that she had crashed while racing in the Giro Donne in Italy. Despite the incident, Pogacar continued in the race, expressing gratitude to his fellow riders for their support after his performance fell dramatically in Wednesday’s stage.
Looking Forward to the Remaining Stages
As the Tour heads towards its last stages, sprinters and breakaway teams alike will be eyeing opportunities to seize the spotlight. Stage 19 to Poligny offers yet another chance for these teams, while the final in Paris is expected to favor the fast men left in the Tour.
In the midst of a thrilling race and unexpected victories, stage 18 of the Tour de France has proven that in this endurance test, the spotlight can shift quickly, and every kilometer counts.