Kasper Asgreen upset the sprint specialists to win the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday at the end of a long breakaway, giving his Soudal Quick-Step team their first victory in this year’s race.
Denmark’s Asgreen, the 2021 Tour of Flanders winner, perfectly timed his final effort, with the peloton breathing down the neck of the four breakaway riders on the 185-km ride from Moutiers.
He beat Dutchman Pascal Eenkhoorn and Norway’s Jonas Abrahamsen, who were second and third, respectively.
Shortly after Asgreen crossed the line, Belgian Jasper Philipsen won the bunch sprint, having just been denied a fifth victory in this year’s Tour.
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
Asgreen was part of a four-man breakaway that took shape early in the stage, but they were never allowed to open a gap of more than one minute and a half by Philipsen’s Alpecin-Deceuninck team.
As the bunch drew closer, Asgreen’s team mates took turns at the front to slow the pace and offer more hope to the breakaway.
In the four-man group, Belgian Victor Campenaerts rode himself into the ground hoping to set up Lotto-Dstny team mate Eenkhoorn for a last-gasp sprint.
Yet Asgreen was stronger, launching his effort some 200 metres from the line to claim his maiden grand tour stage win, making the most of the peloton’s fatigue after a gruelling stage in the Alps on Wednesday.
“Obviously the situation was not ideal. I would have liked to go with more riders but it’s the last week of the Tour,” said Asgreen.
“It’s not the first time that a small group manages to beat the sprinters’ team. I believed in my chances.”
Overall, Vingegaard still leads Slovenian Tadej Pogacar by seven minutes and 35 seconds with Briton Adam Yates in third place, 10:45 off the pace.
Friday’s 19th stage is a 173-km hilly stage from Moirans en Montagne to Poligny.
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