Quick-Step Floors split the race on Tour de France nervous day
Our squad has three riders in the top 10 overall and the lead in the team classification.
Quick-Step Floors turned the race upside down on Thursday, throwing it into the gutter with a beautifully orchestrated attack in the crosswinds, which splintered the peloton into three groups on an exposed plateau with 100 kilometers to go. Many were left scrambling to come back, as our team kept the speed up for more than 20 kilometers and continued to pile on the pressure, a regrouping eventually taking place only after the riders left behind the open roads behind for the thick forests of Bretagne.
Our team's forcing resulted in the gap of the five escapees being halved to 3:30 in the space of just 40 kilometers as they continued their journey to the Côte de Menez-Hiez – which was set to be tackled twice on stage 6 – a hill that featured for the first time in the race seven decades ago, when René Vietto conceded the yellow jersey after a brutal 139km-long individual time trial.
Thanks to the likes of Tim Declercq, Fernando Gaviria and Niki Terpstra, Quick-Step Floors kept everything together and made sure of bringing its contenders in a good position at the bottom of the climb, with 20 kilometers left. After catching the last survivor of the breakaway, the bunch were content to take it easy at the first ascent, an attack coming only on the descent, when Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott) gapped the chasers by 25 seconds, only to be brought back ahead of the final ascent (2 kilometers, 6.9%).
The status quo continued until 1200 meters to go, when Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) powered away on the 9% gradients to take the win ahead of Pierre Latour (AG2R) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Julian Alaphilippe finished just outside the podium, a result that helped the 26-year-old Frenchman move up a place in the overall standings, to fourth, just a few seconds from the yellow jersey.
"I am really proud of the team, the way we controlled the escapees, split the race and fought to be up there. I'm not disappointed, but I'm also not happy with today's result. The climb suited me and I wanted more from this stage, but it was really hard, not only because of the furious pace we had in the last hour of racing, but also due to the strong headwind on the climb. But that's cycling and all we can do is move forward", said Julian, one of the three Quick-Step Floors rider in the GC top 10, alongside Philippe Gilbert and Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images