Laurens ten Dam put in a respectable performance to place 25th on the first category climb finish at La Planche des Belles Filles as Michael Matthews added to his points tally in pursuit of the green jersey.
An eight-man breakaway managed to jump clear of the peloton in the first ten kilometres of the stage, working well together, but were never allowed too much of a margin with the gap held around the three-minute mark by the main peloton over the course of a fast-paced stage. Back in the bunch, Team Sunweb demonstrated their well-practiced lead-out, setting up Michael to lead the charge for the remaining points at the intermediate sprint in Faucogney, adding seven to his total. The breakaway group began to fracture on the final climb, and were all inevitably caught as they reached the steep slopes early on the summit finish ascent.
The climb proved to be a battleground for the GC favourites, but Laurens held on well to finish 1’20” down on the leaders after riding strongly up the 8.5% gradient mountain.
Tomorrow presents a good opportunity for Michael to fight for the stage win in Troyes after today’s show of team strength at the intermediate sprint.
Team Sunweb Coach Aike Visbeek reflected on a tough day: “The first goal today was to try and put a guy in the break but we didn’t succeed with that as we were not in a good enough position when the break went. But, after that our focus shifted to the intermediate sprint for Michael. We did a good lead-out there and he took the maximum points available behind the 8 guys in front. I’m happy about that because the stage victory wasn’t possible today. We took it easy on the climb and we focus on tomorrow now.”
Meanwhile, Michael gave his thoughts: “I think we showed that we do have a really strong lead-out here. In the last two flat sprints we’ve lost each other in the chaos, so we did some analysis about it the last days and we showed today that we do have it, and that if we do nail the lead-out I’ve got the speed to take it away.
“To win a stage is still our main goal here. I’ve got the legs and we’ve got the team to support me too. It’s amazing here in the team, everything’s going so smooth and so organised which makes the job easier to do at the highest level.”
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