Tour de France 2020
German youngster Lennard Kämna soloed to victory in Stage 16 of the Tour de France after attacking over the summit of the penultimate climb to distance fellow escapee Richard Carapaz of Ecuador.
Exactly one month after his first pro win on the Critérium du Dauphiné, and four days after he narrowly missed out in the Massif Central, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Kämna put in an emphatic display of power and finesse in the Vercors Massif to take a maiden Grand Tour stage win from a large group of 23 riders.
Carapaz cut a lonely figure as he crossed the line 1’27” down to take second place for Ineos Grenadiers, who also saw the Russian Pavel Sivakov take fourth place behind Switzerland’s Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ).
By placing three riders in the day’s break, Ineos displayed aggressive tactics as the British team looked to turn a page following the collapse of defending champion Egan Bernal on the Grand Colombier in Stage 15. For his part, the Colombian definitely checked out of the GC battle by coming home in a gruppetto over 10 minutes behind the yellow jersey group.
Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) was called on to put out a small fire after compatriot Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) lit up the final climb to Villard-de-Lans with an explosive attack. The group of main favourites were eventually led home by Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) almost 17 minutes down on Kämna as Roglic retained his 40-second lead over Pogacar ahead of Wednesday’s queen stage in the Alps.
The 164km ride from La Tour-du-Pin originally saw Bora-Hansgrohe work for Peter Sagan in his bid to slash his points deficit on green jersey Sam Bennett of Deceuninck-QuickStep. But after the Slovakian was unable to infiltrate the day’s break, the focus shifted to the stage spoils with Italy’s Daniel Oss working hard to pave the way for Kämna.
Ineos used their power in numbers going onto the decisive Cat.1 climb with Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador putting in a softener to whittle down the break before Carapaz made his move with Sivakov in tow.
But the 24-year-old Kämna had the measure of the current Giro d’Italia champion, dropping Carapaz near the summit of the Montée de Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte with 20km remaining before stretching out his lead on the descent and long drag to the foot of the final rise to the finish.
“I’m feeling great – it’s an absolutely awesome day for me,” Kämna said after the biggest win of his career. “It was from the beginning and I knew I’d have to make it to the finish alone, so when I saw that Carapaz was dropping the speed I thought ‘now is the moment to go’. It’s big for me and a relief for the team. The step I’ve made this year is so huge and I’m blessed to win today.”
The prospect of six climbs plus the presence of the intermediate sprint around 40 kilometres into the 164km stage made for an unsettled start to Stage 16 as riders fought tooth and nail for a chance to dine at the top table.
As expected, Sagan did his best to unsettle his green jersey rival Bennett but despite a series of digs, the Slovakian was unable to distance the Irishman as a move of 15 riders eventually went clear after numerous false starts and aborted efforts.
Two days after Bernal all but conceded his Tour crown, Ineos Grenadiers were clearly on the hunt for a win after placing four riders in an early move which was eventually snaffled out following the first of six categorised climbs.
It was Frenchman Nans Peters, the Stage 8 winner, who took the solitary point over the Cat.4 Cote de Virieu to protect his Ag2L-Mondiale teammate Benoit Cosnefroy’s slender lead in the king of the mountains competition.
Cosnefroy was particularly active after repetitively missing out on the early breaks – and the polka dot jersey eventually paid for his efforts, tailed off from the pack after a 15-man move finally stuck.
Ineos were once again present in the move with Amador and Carapaz, underlining their switch in tactics after Sunday’s setback. They were joined by Kämna and Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), Winner Anacona and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Imanol Erviti and Carlos Verona (Movistar), Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), Chris Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott), Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb) and Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept).
With the gap just above one minute, Frenchman Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) sniffed an opportunity, the most combative rider from the previous stage riding clear with Sunweb duo Tiesj Benoot and Casper Pedersen to join the leaders ahead of the next climb.
The veteran climber’s motives became quickly apparent when he picked up maximum points over the Cat.2 climbs of the Col du Porte and Cote de Revel to draw level with compatriot Cosnefroy at the top of the polka dot jersey standings.
On both occasions, Rolland sat up and slipped back into the break, which was by now 23-strong after a quintet of Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling), Simon Geschke (CCC Team), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott) and Romain Sicard (Total-Direct Energie) managed to bridge over after a long pursuit from the pack.
Jumbo-Visma, meanwhile, kept tabs on the main field. With the best placed rider in the break being Barguil, some 32 minutes behind Roglic in the general classification, the gap grew to a maximum of 12 minutes – setting up the likelihood of the stage being broken into two battles: for the day’s victory and for the yellow jersey.
While Ineos had three men in the break, their leader soon found himself off the back of the main pack as the road headed back uphill on the Cat.1 Montée de Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte – either confirmation of Bernal’s form or a bid by the Colombian to lose more time ahead of an assault on a maiden Grand Tour stage win on Wednesday’s finish on the Col de la Loze.
After his teammate’s cameos on the previous climbs, Frenchman Pacher put in the first attack from the break to open up a gap on the early part of the 11km climb. After some pacing by Amador split up the break, Pacher was joined by Carapaz, Reichenbech, Alaphilippe and Kämna. A chase group of Barguil, Geschke, Roche, Benoot and Sivakov showed intent but never got close enough to become a factor.
An acceleration from Carapaz near the summit saw Alaphilippe hit the wall and Reichenbach fall back, but Kämna held the Ecuadorian’s wheel before assuming control as the pair came over the top.
Kämna extended his lead on the descent before opening up an unbridgeable gap on the false flat ahead of the final 2km rise to the finish. His win saw him draw a line under his Massif disappointment in Stage 13 where Colombia’s Dani Martinez (EF Pro Cycling) passed him with 100m to spare to take the victory.
It was also a first victory of the Tour for Kämna’s Bora-Hansgrohe’s team after a series of stages dedicated to putting Sagan’s quest for an eighth green jersey back on track. In that particular battle, there was no change at the top, with the Slovakian still trailing Bennett by 45 points. Victory in the intermediate sprint, however, saw Italy’s Trentin move to within 12 points of Sagan in what now could be a thrilling three-way fight.
Save for an attack by Cofidis pair Guillaume Martin and Nicolas Edet, Jumbo-Visma had very little to do on the main climb of the day. But when the peloton eventually came to the final climb, some 10 minutes after Kämna’s victory, Pogacar’s UAE teammate David de la Cruz came to the front to put a cat among the pigeons.
But double stage winner Wout van Aert showed his class to keep a lid on the danger on his 26th birthday. Roglic was able to answer a late dig by Pogacar in the final 500m before Lopez looked to gain some extra seconds by breaking clear on the home straight. To no avail: the gap was not big enough and there was no change among the main favourites.
Roglic’s Dutch teammate Tom Dumoulin rose one place to ninth after Colombia’s Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) was tailed off near the finish, while Bernal’s soft-pedalling saw him drop three places to sixteenth, the 23-year-old coming home in a gruppetto alongside the likes of Caleb Ewan and Andre Greipel.
Bernal will hope that his deficit of 18 minutes may well grant him an opportunity to go on the attack in tomorrow’s Stage 17, which culminates with the Tour’s first ever summit finish on the Col de la Loze. The 21.5km climb rises to 2,304 metres on a new cyclepath above the ski station of Meribel.
While it would be the perfect setting for Bernal to take a maiden Tour stage win, his previous GC rivals will also look to the Loze to put in their respective bids for the yellow jersey or a high finish in Paris. Let the battle commence.