LYON, France (AP) — In the fast-changing finish to the latest Tour de France stage, the lead was seized and lost in waves of attacks by French and Sunweb team riders on the up-and-down roads of Lyon.
Each move on short, sharp climbs was quickly marked by sprint specialist Peter Sagan eyeing the win, as the yellow jersey of Primoz Roglic stayed safe and alert in the main pack.
Then the wide-open Stage 14 was sealed by a decisive burst by Soren Kragh Andersen, breaking clear with three kilometers (two miles) to go as Sunweb’s tactics proved perfect on Saturday.
The rider from Denmark cruised to his biggest career win, smiling and sitting up in his saddle before crossing the finish line next to the River Rhône.
“I’m just amazed,” Andersen said. “It’s always hard to say I am good enough before I have done it.”
In a stellar Tour for Slovenia, Luka Mezgec crossed 15 seconds later to take the sprint for second, and Simon Consonni was third.
Sagan finished only fourth on a stage he targeted to close the gap in the points classification to green jersey wearer Sam Bennett.
Overall leader Roglic had a drama-free, 4 1/2-hour ride to keep the yellow jersey he claimed last Sunday. The former ski jumper stayed 44 seconds ahead of his fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, and 59 clear of Egan Bernal, the defending champion.
“We didn’t have to ride the whole day but our guys did the perfect job,” Roglic said of his Jumbo-Visma team. “Luckily we had everything under control.”
The yellow jersey battle is sure to reignite on Sunday. A 174.5-kilometer (108-mile) trek from Lyon ends with a gruelling ride up Grand Colombier in the Jura mountains suited to creating time gaps.
The Slovenia vs. Colombia contest atop the general classification will play out over two category 1 summits before approaching an even tougher final climb that stretches for more than 17 kilometers (10 miles).
Andersen’s win was another tactical victory for the Sunweb team which has made Marc Hirschi of Switzerland a breakout star of the race. Hirschi won Stage 12 in a solo ride.
“When you see this young guy (Hirschi) doing these amazing things, of course I am also getting inspired,” Andersen said of his teammate.
Hirschi and another Sunweb rider, Tiesj Benoot, also led with surging bursts in the dynamic closing stages that helped set up Andersen’s decisive move.
Sagan, chasing an eighth green jersey title in the past nine Tours, worked hard to close down each move, and did not have the speed to hold second place in the final meters.
The flamboyant Slovakian let Bennett build a big lead this year but it was cut back on Saturday. Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team exerted pressure on the early climbs, and Bennett was dropped from the pack before halfway.
The stage started in Clermont-Ferrand, the home of Romain Bardet, but without the local favorite who sustained a concussion in a crash on Friday.
Bardet had a scan on Saturday which confirmed “a small hemorrhage” in his brain, he wrote on his Instagram page, adding he would take an indefinite period of rest.
Bardet, arguably France’s main contender for a first Tour victory in 35 years, was pulled out of the race late Friday. He had completed the stage to Puy Mary though dropped from fourth overall to 11th.
Saturday’s stage took a direct route 194 kilometers (120 miles) eastward off the Massif Central region down toward France’s third largest city, Lyon.
The rolling terrain peaked one-third in with a category 2 climb to Col du Béal at 1,390 meters (4,560 feet) altitude.
A two-man breakaway by Stefan Küng and Edward Theuns approached the climb five minutes clear, and Küng crested it alone with the peloton three minutes back.
A good week for Swiss riders saw Küng go solo for another 45 kilometers (28 miles). He added a second daily combativity award to his prize from Tuesday. His compatriot Hirschi’s stage win two days ago came after a similar move barely failed last Sunday.
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