Matteo Trentin has taken Mitchelton-SCOTT’s fourth stage win of this year’s Tour de France. The Italian soloed to the win ahead of Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Greg Van Avermaet of CCC Team.
A day for the breakaway artists, stage 17 from Pont du Gard to Gap was a 200km day of frustration for the purest sprinters who would surely suffer on the long and steady uphill slog that comprised most of the first half of racing, and the late category 3 climb. It would also surely be a day of frustration for those wanting to put time into the maillot jaune or test their legs on the climbs because the roads weren’t quite hard enough in that regard either.
A huge breakaway quickly established itself as Team Total Direct Energie and Arkea-Samsic worked together in an effort to bring it back. Their efforts failed, however, leaving the break of 33 riders that made the breakaway to very slowly build their lead. In the move it was Xandro Meurisse of Wanty-Gobert who was the highest placed overall in 19th position at 28.25mins. Also present, however, were the likes of Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo, Greg Van Avermaet of CCC Team, Nicolas Roche of Team Sunweb, Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal, Matteo Trentin of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Rui Costa of UAE Team Emirates, Jasper Stuyven of Trek-Segafredo, Dylan Teuns of Bahrain Merida, Edvald Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data and New Zealand’s Tom Scully of EF Education First.
Scully’s personal opportunities at this year’s Tour de France were few and far between, but he was free to take his chance in the break this time. After initial resistance from the peloton the break were finally able to build their advantage. With 50km covered the break’s lead was sitting at 2.48mins but the pace was still relatively intense from the bunch. Finally Deceuninck-Quick Step and Team Ineos made their way forward and calmed the chase; allowing the break’s lead to quickly build up through the 7 minute marker with 130km remaining.
It was clear that the peloton had decided, in the end, to have a day off and give the break their freedom. Deceuninck-Quick Step led the peloton with the likes of Team Ineos and Groupama-FDJ paying attention to the goings on at the head of the race. In the break Tom Scully was quite proactive on the front of the group, with teammate Simon Clarke also in the move. It would be interesting to see, as the stage unfolded, whether Scully would simply continue to play domestique or whether he’d be free to let fly.
The advantage for the escapees continued to ascend as the riders navigated their way through a couple of sudden showers; a welcome distraction from the oppressive heat. With 40km to go the lead for the break was out to 14.45mins and the attacks were almost ready to commence. Several riders from the breakaway were eager for the stage not to end in a sprint and Nils Politt of Katusha-Alpecin was the first to test the water in that regard.
A big move from Ben King and Alexis Gougeard saw the decisive split occur in the breakaway. A group containing Daniel Oss, Greg Van Avermaet, Matteo Trentin, Toms Skujins, Kasper Asgreen, Gorka Izagirre, Vegard Stake Laengen, Pierre Luc Perichon and Tom Scully broke clear of the rest of the break and immediately the cooperation between the riders was good as they proceed to put time into their pursuers; 35 seconds with 18km to go.
Scully was on the wheel of Greg Van Avermaet as the leaders continued to work well together, but allegiances were expected to end on the final climb of the Col de la Sentinelle that began with a little under 15km to go. It was at 15km to go that Scully’s day on the front finally came to an end, with the intensity being piled on at the front from Daniel Oss, Trentin, Asgreen, Skujins, Perichon and Izagirre; but Trentin was not satisfied. The Italian attacked just prior to the foot of the Col de la Sentinelle and surprisingly was given the freedom to attack. Perichon was the only one taking the initiative to try and go across, but the European champion was off.
Approaching 12km to go Trentin’s lead over Perichon was at 21 seconds with the nearest chasers 30 seconds back. It was beginning to look promising for the Italian and he showed no signs of relenting; cresting the climb with just an 8.6km descent to go. Kasper Asgreen was showing his hand, though, keeping matters interesting as he attacked the rest of the chasers, caught and then passed Perichon.
Trentin arrived at 2.5km to go well ahead of the solo chaser Asgreen, but meanwhile an unusual collision between Luke Rowe and Tony Martin occurred at the foot of the climb. Leading the peloton at the bottom of the Sentinelle, Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma were contesting for control of the bunch, with George Bennett among the front runners. Luke Rowe of Team Ineos was sitting behind Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin and was passing the German, but Martin closed the door on that manoeuvre in dangerous fashion; almost forcing the Brit off the road. Rowe responded to Martin and following a judicial review post-stage the race commissaires then made the decision to eject both riders from the race.
While all this was transpiring back down the road, however, Matteo Trentin was closing in on a stage win for himself. Having indicated his intentions to take an opportunity today, Trentin had been fantastic in the closing kilometres; doing everything right. He wasn’t satisfied to sit up until the final 100m where he finally celebrated his first and the team’s fourth stage win of the race.
Kasper Asgreen marginally held on for second place with Greg Van Avermaet third and from there the break continued to trickle through as the peloton would finally cross the line 20.10mins behind Trentin.
Tom Scully, following his exploits, would be the final breakaway rider to cross the line before the peloton. Scully finished 33rd at 9.23mins back from the bunch with a 10.47min advantage over the peloton; a strong day out in the breakaway for the Kiwi.