In Poligny the Slovenian rider wins at the end of an exciting stage, a continuous spurt, a breakaway full of riders with more determination and stubbornness than Tungsten. Tears and the difficulty of escaping life's misadventures
When at the end of Tour de France it's almost there and the energies left are even less than the days that are missing in Paris, there is only one thing to do: don't give a damn about what your legs suggest, which is always rest, and rely only on stubbornness.
Matej Mohoric and Kasper Asgren are men with a good leg and a hard head, people who are not afraid of sore legs, of the wind, of making mistakes due to too much enthusiasm. People who love cycling and are never wrong for too much love. They found themselves side by side on the final straight that carried under the finish banner. It hadn't happened to the first for a while, to the second it had happened yesterday. Kasper Asgren had chosen the right moment to start his sprint, Matej Mohoric had perhaps waited too long to accelerate. But he insisted, he couldn't be wrong, not today, not like this. It wasn't just victory that was at stake, there was more, there was feeling, that cut in the heart that had appeared on June 16 when he learned of Gino Mäder's death and that had also reopened all the other wounds. He dedicated his victory at the Tour of Slovenia to him on 18 June, but it wasn't enough. He loaded his kidney shot. Backlash is an art, this always, sometimes it's an act to escape despair, like today. It took a while to figure out who between Asgren and Mohoric had won. The two awaited the verdict, each surrounded by familiar faces, friendly people. Mohoric was standing, barely holding back tears, poised between what had just happened and the turmoil he felt inside. When the official news arrived, all of this overflowed into big, desperate tears, more bitter than sweet. He had won and this victory was bigger than him because everything that hadn't gone right this year was involved: missed opportunities, mistakes made, missed goals, sacrifices made, friends gone. You need to have a hard head so as not to get knocked down when everything seems to go wrong, when despite the work done, the legs don't turn as you would like them to turn.
There are runners who are more stubborn than others, who have more willpower than others. Usually you see them indomitable trying to walk away from the group in search of a day to remember for the rest of their careers. Either they are light souls in search of mountain ecstasy, when the roads flow under the peaks, or they are towed beasts, people of pack and of the plains, when the route stays away from the mountains. Is there ever to trust the latter, they are tough people, with determination and stubbornness more unshakeable than tungsten. AND when he is in front of certain people, the stages become a continuous chase, a long wow.
Today at the Tour de France, towards Poligny, the small group that was in the vanguard of the race was full of people like that. Starting with the two who have tried the impossible: Victor Campenaerts and Simon Clarke. They could ride among 34 others, they preferred to do it alone. This is how it goes when the awareness of being the slowest in a sprint requires you to take risks. Campenaerts and Clarke never lacked courage. They walked side by side about thirty kilometers, they gave some concern to all the fugitives, then Clarke had a cramp and Campenaerts understood that it was all over: you can't go anywhere alone. He didn't give up, he continued, he still tried to complete a feat that he knew very well was impossible. It was ahead and as long as you're ahead you never know how it's going to end, they still have to pick you up. Kasper Asgren, Matej Mohoric and Ben O'Connor joined him just before the final climb of the day.
Towards Poligny, however, even those who were aware of being fast, even in a sprint in a compact group, decided that there was no need to trust too much in the pursuits entrusted to their teammates - yesterday we saw that their legs are hard to turn even those who usually know how to turn them well - and they had to do it themselves, take risks themselves. Mads Pedersen and Jasper Philipsen tried to turn into fugitives from the first kilometers. The first went better than the second, the second caught up with the first after the intermediate sprint, taking advantage of the distance created for the sprint, which actually didn't take place. It's always weird to see sprinters running away from the pack. They describe them as wheel-suckers, as if they were parasites, only good at sticking their nose out of the wakes for a few hundred metres. It's not like that, I'm much more than this - and it wouldn't even be easy to do "just" this. They are fast runners, the fastest, and it takes guts to pedal at sixty per hour so close to dozens of other runners pedaling at sixty per hour. They would like to sprint, because this is the best they know how to do, when they understand that the sprint can be a chimera, they start their own business, trying to contest it anyway. Mads Pedersen and Jasper Philipsen battled for fourth place. It could have been better, it could have been much worse. They satisfied themselves, they allowed themselves a day to see the effect of being chased (although not too much).
The peloton conceded 13'43” to the fugitives. Thomas Pidcock benefited from 13'04”, he moved up three positions, which are little, nothing, but still something. At the start of the Tour de France he said he was in France to live hand to mouth, with no general classification ambitions. For a few days he believed it, then the crisis came. Today he has experienced life as a fugitive. The hope, for us enthusiasts, is that he found it pleasant. The great interpreters of the fugues are getting old, there is a need for replacements to match.