Leaders can’t land knockout blow as Fraile steals win
SPANIARD Omar Fraile has taken flight on the Mende airstrip to win a rollercoaster Stage 14 of the Tour de France.
On a day of two races in the Massif Central, Fraile took his first Tour stage victory after pulling clear of a large breakaway group that was given licence to roam by the peloton on the roads from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux.
Fraile beat Julian Alaphilippe and Jasper Stuyven - holding off the former after surging past the latter - on the runway finish line, 18 minutes ahead of the peloton.
"It's an amazing day. I've been dreaming about this victory," Fraile said.
"In the end, we picked up this phenomenal win and it's absolutely amazing. It's easily the best day of my career so far.
"We had a headwind (on the final climb) and it was really tricky, but I just tried to climb it at the best rate I could, and in the end I did have the legs."
Behind them, the title contenders threw punches on the ultra-steep 3km finale up the Cote de la Croix Neuve, but none landed.
Primoz Roglic made the move that would earn him eight seconds on his GC rivals. Mikel Landa attacked, but couldn't maintain the rage, before Tom Dumoulin's acceleration could only be matched by Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and, for a while, Nairo Quintana.
In the end the top three - race leader Thomas, second-placed Froome and Dumoulin in third - were inseparable and crossed the line together.
Every other contender lost more time, including the luckless Dan Martin, who punctured at the bottom of the final climb.
"It was a tough finish, and the size of the group showed how tough that climb is, but I'm really happy with that," Froome said.
"It was a short climb, but we saw what damage it did with gaps opening up with a few seconds gained here and there.
"Tom (Dumoulin) looks really good. He put in a good attack there today and there's still going to be some tough racing. He's our biggest threat at the moment."
For Thomas it was another day safely navigated in the yellow jersey as days tick down to another string of mountain tests in the Pyrenees.
"Obviously we knew it would explode here. We knew the guys would try, so we're satisfied. Obviously Roglic got a bit of time back, but it wasn't too much of a stress for us," Thomas said.
"The main thing was staying with (Dumoulin) and just trying to not get too carried away."
Strong winds marked the start of the day's 188.5km stage, with echelons forming in the first 10km and a huge breakaway of 32 riders going clear.
One of those was Australian Michael Hepburn, riding for Mitchelton-Scott.
"It was a lot lumpier than the profile suggested, that's for sure," Hepburn said of Saturday's course.
"Four climbs. nothing too steep, but hard, windy and small roads for much of the day.
"We wanted to get a couple of guys in the breakaway today. The main goal from here until Paris is to get a stage win. Obviously we're out of the GC equation now and don't have a top sprinter so we've just got to take the opportunities when we can and chuck a few guys in the break like today and see what we can do."