Maciej Bodnar (Bora-hansgrohe) was caught by the sprinters on stage 11 of the Tour de France with just 200 metre remaining after riding the entire day in the break.
Escaping at kilometre zero, the Polish time trial specialist rode the whole 203.5-kilometre stage off the front, before going solo with 23 kilometres remaining. While Bodnar was cruelly denied the stage win, he took the day’s combativity prize for his effort.
After a gentle 178-kilometre route on yesterday’s stage to gently ease riders back into the race after their first rest day, the distance was ramped up to 203.5 kilometres, making for a long day in the saddle.
The route itself wasn’t going to cause any trouble, with only the one fourth category climb coming after 145 kilometres, and with the race returning to the mountains tomorrow, the sprinters would be looking for the win, and the breakaway would be looking to deny them that.
The 2016 Polish national time trial champion went clear with Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates) and it was a constant back and forth between the break and the peloton – the gap rising to almost five minutes, before the peloton brought it back down to 1:30, only for it to go back out to 2:30.
With 50 kilometres remaining, the break’s lead was a little over a minute, and with just 28km remaining and as the gap hit thirty seconds, the Polish rider left his fellow escapees behind, pushing his advantage back out to a little under fifty seconds.
Coming into the final 10 kilometres, Bodnar had forty seconds in hand, riding out of his skin to hold the peloton at bay. Past the Flamme Rouge and with just over 200m of the race left, he was finally caught, bringing to an end his valiant breakaway effort.
Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) took his fifth victory of the race with Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) in second and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) in third.
From the finish, Bodnar reflected on a hard day. “I felt I had really good legs today and jumped in the breakaway from the start. The three of us collaborated and thanks to them we all worked together well. When the gap was down to about forty seconds, I decided to go alone and try my chances for a stage win. I was slowing down a little in the last 10km and the wind was a problem, but I still had a bit of a lead on the peloton.
“In the end it was so close – just a few hundred metres – but what can I do, I tried my best. With 2km to go, the bunch still hadn’t caught me, they were about 200m behind me, and I was starting to think I could do it, but the last 400m were really hard for me. The bunch was going really fast, so that was that – just ten seconds more and I’d have taken it. It was a hard day! In the last 3km we were going at a furious pace – it was like sprinting from every corner.”