The Dane delivered Soudal Quick-Step’s 50th stage victory at the biggest race in the world after a whole day in the breakaway.
Kasper Asgreen showed that even in the most difficult of times the Wolfpack never gives up, but continues to fight, to believe and to display the same winning mentality deeply ingrained in the team’s DNA that has netted over 900 wins in the last 21 years. All these, combined with a powerful sprint, brought the 2021 Ronde van Vlaanderen champion his first ever Grand Tour victory at the end of a stage which should have seen a bunch sprint.
It’s incredible! It means so much for me to take a stage here at the Tour, especially after all the problems I had since last summer.
“I came a long way and this result wouldn’t have been possible without all the people who helped me. I want to dedicate this win to those who trusted me and stayed by my side, but also to Dries. He is racing his final Tour de France in his last season as a pro, he was very emotional at the finish, and we will miss him”, an elated Kasper said after his huge day.
As the peloton left the Alps behind and embarked on a rolling 185km journey to Bourg-en-Bresse – where Tom Boonen won for the squad back in 2007 – Kasper was quick to jump from the peloton and book a place in what looked to be a doomed breakaway right from the start. The move consisting of him, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Dstny) and Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X) was kept on a tight leash by the many teams wanting a mass gallop at the end of the day, the maximum gap they had at any point during the stage reaching only 1:40.
Not even after Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny) bridged across with 55 kilometers to go their chances didn’t look to be improving, but the quartet didn’t play any games and exchanged turns at the front, entering the last 30 kilometers with a 40-second gap. While Asgreen and his companions buried themselves up the road, Julian Alaphilippe and Tim Declercq expertly disrupted the chase behind, helping the breakaway gain some valuable seconds.
The four went under the flamme rouge with the field breathing down their necks, the five seconds separating them being, on paper, just a formality for the bunch. For a moment there it looked like it would be heartbreak for the four escapees, but they all remained incredibly committed and this hard work and fantastic determination brought them the opportunity to fight for the victory.
Asgreen opened his sprint from the distance, with around 220 meters to go, and kept the speed all the way to the line, even as the road went up, in a fantastic display of sheer power reminiscent of the one he had showed two years ago in Oudenaarde, roaring over the line with his arms in the air after a wild and heart-pounding finish.
“The situation wasn’t ideal for us. I would have preferred to have gone with seven or eight riders, but being the last week of the race and coming off some really hard stages in the mountains I didn’t completely rule out the possibility of going all the way. I wouldn’t have done it without Pascal, Victor and Jonas, they all did amazing out there. We rode the whole stage like a team time trial and put everything into it”, Kasper explained after Soudal Quick-Step’s 50th victory at Le Tour. “Our team worked really hard these weeks, and despite all the setbacks we’ve had here, we kept the morale high and now we are incredibly happy with this win and with showing that the Wolfpack spirit remains the same.”
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images