Road captain Simon Clarke earned the distinction of the first EF Education First Pro Cycling rider to spend the day on the escape at the 2019 Tour de France. The Australian was part of a four-man move that took nearly an hour to form on the 175-kilometer day stage between Saint-Dié-des-Vosages and Colmar.
“It was a two-pronged approach today,” explained Clarke. “I was asked to get in the breakaway, and we’d look to Bettiol for the sprint. We wanted to be covered for either race scenario.”
Although the breakaway cooperated well, several teams with versatile sprints were committed to bringing back the move. These teams combined forces to limit the advantage to the leaders, spelling an end to the escapees ambitions.
“They kept us on a short leash, so we didn’t push too hard,” Clarke noted. “We waited until late in the stage before we really tried to start pulling.
“When the chase began early and the breakaway was kept at 1’20, 1’40, we all knew that there was no way the breakaway was going to get to the finish,” said Bettiol. “Too many teams wanted to see the sprint. Still, it was nice to see Simon in the front and to show our jersey in the breakaway.”
The undulating stage five route, including four categorized climbs, proved a natural selector. A reduced bunch of 77 riders contested the finish won by Peter Sagan (bora-hansgrohe).
Bettiol was the best-placed rider for EF Education First, crossing the line in 13th place. Rigoberto Urán, Tejay van Garderen, Mike Woods all finished in the first group. The trio maintain top 15 positions on the overall ahead of Thursday’s anticipated general classification shake-up.
“My job today was to stay safe, stick with Rigo and, if there were attacks going off on the final climb, to make sure nothing super dangerous got away,” said Woods, who sits 11th overall with five stage done. “I feel like I managed to achieve all three objectives. We’re feeling well-positioned going into tomorrow’s stage.”
“We can definitely call today a success,” said Clarke. “It’s another day ticked off without any mishaps, without any lost time. Rigo is still there, still plugging away. It’s perfect really. We’re all looking forward to tomorrow’s hilltop finish.
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