Climate activists on the street, corona alarm from dominator Tadej Pogacar and an aggressive Lennard Kämna with bad luck: The tenth stage of the Tour de France has it all.
When the dream of the yellow jersey was shattered at an altitude of 1460 meters, a completely exhausted Lennard Kämna sped away on his racing machine with a towel around his neck.
A “sh…” escaped his lips. Everything was given, everything dared – but in the end the North German with the big heart of a fighter was missing the tiny eleven seconds on a chaotic stage in the Alps to the coveted maillot jaune, which the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar still wears.
“I didn’t realize that in the mountain that I had such a great chance of getting the yellow jersey. I only realized that in the last three kilometers. Then I went full throttle. I could certainly have got eleven seconds somewhere,” said Kämna, but didn’t want to argue too much: “I’m back eleven seconds after ten days and second in the overall classification. That’s not too bad either. Still, it’s not a bad day. It wasn’t the big disappointment because I wasn’t dreaming big.”
On the tenth stage over 148.1 kilometers from Morzine Les Portes du Soleil to Megève, which was temporarily interrupted due to climate activists on the road and was accompanied by major corona concerns in the team led by Dominator Pogacar, Kämna finished tenth in a breakaway group . Pogacar reached the Alpine resort 8:32 minutes later. That was enough to secure yellow.
One-second thriller on the final climb
«The pain is already there. We have to pull out the positive. The fact that Lenni is second after ten days is not so bad from the German cycling glasses,” said team boss Ralph Denk. On the final climb it was a thriller in seconds. Kämna didn’t get any help in the breakaway group. “I had the feeling that everyone was going against me. It wasn’t fun in the top group.” The Dane Magnus Cort Nielsen got the day’s victory.
Nevertheless, the Germans were among the protagonists on this stage in the Alps: Kämna’s compatriot Georg Zimmermann was also in the leading group and finished sixth. And Simon Geschke successfully defended his dotted mountain jersey.
Almost exactly 25 years after Jan Ullrich’s triumph, Kämna was very close to becoming the 15th German to win the yellow jersey. The last German leader was Tony Martin in 2015. In contrast to the four-time time trial world champion, Kämna is also a man for the mountains, he had already won the Tour mountain stage to Villard-de-Lans in 2020, and that only triumphed in May Lightweight from the Bora-hansgrohe team at the Giro on Mount Etna.
As on the seventh stage, when Pogacar snatched the victory from Kämna 100 meters from the finish, the former junior world champion from Germany presented himself again in attack mode. Kämna attacked in a breakaway group and drove out minute by minute. On the final climb it got tighter and in the end the lead wasn’t enough.
Climate activists cause disruption
Climate activists had previously caused the race to be interrupted. A good 36 kilometers from the finish, there was a standstill after up to 20 demonstrators blocked the race and ignited pyrotechnics on the street.
The day was less stressful for Geschke. Due to the large escape group, the mountain jersey was not in danger for the Berlin veteran with the full beard.
The man in yellow, on the other hand, has a corona alarm. Two other teammates from Pogacar tested positive, noble helper Rafal Majka was allowed to continue the journey for the time being because the Pole is considered to be hardly infectious. “It’s a very difficult situation. We drove together every day, but at the hotel we try to avoid each other as much as possible. I just hope nobody else got infected,” said Pogacar.
The first difficult high mountain stage on Wednesday will show how competitive the Slovenian’s team still is. New Zealander George Bennett also had to drop out on Tuesday after a positive test, previously Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen from Pogacar’s team had been hit. Since the Australian Luke Durbridge from the BikeExchange-Jayco team also tested positive, the tour recorded corona cases number four and five.
The first major exchange of blows is likely to take place on Wednesday, when the 2642 meter high mountain giant Col du Galibier is first climbed. At the end there is a climb to the Col du Granon, another mountain of the highest category.