The right way to win a stage

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JOHN LEICESTER

SALON-DE-PROVENCE, FRANCE — Ed­vald Boas­son Ha­gen showed that brawn and speed don’t guar­an­tee vic­tory at the Tour de France. Win­ners do their home­work, too.

Go­ing right around a round­about while oth­ers took the left and longer route proved to be the key that en­abled the Nor­we­gian to fi­nally win a stage at this Tour on Fri­day af­ter two sec­ond-place fin­ishes.

Only Boas­son Ha­gen and Nikias Arndt took the shorter route. The Nor­we­gian then elim­i­nated the Ger­man rider with a burst of ac­cel­er­a­tion and sped to the line in Salon-de Provence.

Arndt placed sec­ond, five sec­onds back.

Third-placed Jens Keukeleire was among those who went left around the round­about in the last three kilo­me­tres and im­me­di­ately re­al­ized their mis­take, as Boas­son Ha­gen mo­tored away.

“That’s when it struck me: We should have taken right,” Keukeleire said. “He’s one of those rid­ers, give him 10 me­tres and he’s gone.”

Boas­son Ha­gen said he’d stud­ied the fin­ish and iden­ti­fied the short cut. “I was hunt­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties, and then the round­about ar­rived,” he said. “I un­der­stood that go­ing right would be quicker.”

Rid­ing at a leisurely pace far be­hind them, race leader Chris Froome and other top con­tenders for the yel­low jer­sey were happy to let oth­ers con­test the vic­tory on the Tour’s long­est stage.

Boas­son Ha­gen was part of a 20man group that Froome and Team Sky gave free­dom to es­cape from the pelo­ton be­cause none of them pre­sented a threat to his over­all lead. Af­ter two en­ergy-sap­ping days of climbs in the high Alps, Froome and his ri­vals had their sights set in­stead on the time trial on Satur­day in Mar­seille.

The pelo­ton even­tu­ally rolled in more than 12 min­utes af­ter Boas­son Ha­gen claimed the first stage win for the Di­men­sion Data team at this tour.

The over­all stand­ings re­mained un­changed at the top, with Froome lead­ing French rider Ro­main Bardet by 23 sec­onds and Rigob­erto Uran of Colom­bia by 29 sec­onds.

With no ma­jor dif­fi­cul­ties, the 222.5-kilo­me­tre stage from Em­brun in the Alps of­fered no real op­por­tu­nity for Froome’s ri­vals to claw back time.

“We could just sit on the wheels and re­cover a lit­tle bit,” Froome said. “Ev­ery­one was quite happy to sit back.”

The break­away group split again with 20 kilo­me­tres left. Boas­son Ha­gen was among nine rid­ers who ditched the oth­ers with a fu­ri­ous burst, leav­ing him in the right group to con­test the stage vic­tory. But among that lead­ing nine, ev­ery­one but Arndt and Boas­son Ha­gen then went left around the round­about, es­sen­tially elim­i­nat­ing them­selves from the run­ning.

On Stage 7, Boas­son Ha­gen lost to Mar­cel Kit­tel by mere mil­lime­tres in a photo fin­ish at Nu­its-Saint-Ge­orges. He was also sec­ond on Stage 16 and third on Stages 11 and 14. “I didn’t have to do a photo fin­ish this time,” he said. “I fi­nally got my vic­tory.”

The 22.5 kilo­me­tre time-trial course is the last sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cle be­tween Froome and his fourth Tour vic­tory. He needs to hold only Bardet and Uran at bay. They could be tempted into tak­ing greater risks to make up time on the course with more than two dozen bends and a short but very sharp up­hill to the Notre-Dame de la Garde cathe­dral, Mar­seille’s most fa­mous land­mark. The start and fin­ish are both at the Stade Velo­drome.

CHRISTOPHE ENA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bri­tain’s Chris Froome, wear­ing the over­all leader’s yel­low jer­sey, rides in the pack dur­ing Stage 19 of the Tour de France Fri­day.

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