He stuck his tongue out, turned around and drew on all his resources to hold on. Benjamin Thomas brightened up the afternoon of all those who watched the day's stage, in the shade of the blazing sun. On the road too, during one of the longest stages of this edition (202,5 km between Rodez and Carcassonne), the heat was overwhelming.
Benjamin Thomas had ticked off the stage
The scenario of the stage seemed to be already known: a breakaway taken back before the finish and an explanation between the sprinters. Except that Benjamin Thomas decided to play his own game, shaking up the established order and playing his luck to the hilt. It was on the côte des Cammazes, with about 50 km to go, that he decided to attack. Followed by Alexis Gougeard, he was first at the top of the climb.
Then, the rider from Tarn continued to attack and to get closer to the finish line with the hope to win. His abnegation and courage, in the heat and under the spotlights, were impressive. And even if the peloton started to move again, even if the sprinters' teams reduced the gap (never more than 30 seconds), Benjamin held on. The hope was still there when the red flame passed and it was only with 450 meters to go that the peloton finally came back on him.
Geschke keeps his polka dot jersey
With this exceptional solo raid, Benjamin - winner this year of the Étoile de Bessèges and the Boucles de la Mayenne - shows once again all his talent and determination. His resilience and willingness to give it his all are in keeping with the Cofidis team's spirit of being opportunistic and taking chances every day. At the same time, Simon Geschke kept his polka dot jersey of best climber, knowing that he would not be worried today.
The finish in Carcassonne closes the second week of competition. The riders will finally be able to enjoy another rest day on Monday. A bike ride, massages and sessions with the physiotherapists will be planned. A particularly valuable day before the final week of the Tour de France, with the Pyrenees on the menu and the prestigious finish on the Champs-Élysées in a week's time.
Benjamin Thomas: "I started from further back than I thought. At the beginning I wanted to score points for the mountain classification to protect Simon's jersey. When I saw that Alexis Gougeard was with me, I said to myself: "why not try my luck". I knew the final by heart. It was perfect to try it and I didn't miss much. The people at the side of the road encouraged me, I thank them and I believed in it! When the peloton came back, everything fell apart... Today, it wasn't far off but there will be other opportunities next week."
Christian Guiberteau, sport director: "As soon as we have an opportunity, we try to be there. That's how we always manage to win stages. Especially a stage like this one, a transitional stage, difficult and tiring. Benjamin had recognised the route, he knows the region well. He had pointed out this stage even before the Tour started. Due to the circumstances of the race, he left with 50km to go and it was a mano-a-mano with the peloton until the end. It's a shame to get caught so close to the finish but it's a great performance from Benjamin."