The Slovenian champion avoided a couple of early crashes to join a breakaway of six riders which later became 20 before his powerful move off the front couldn’t be reeled in by an uncooperative chase group as the trailing peloton decided to take a leisurely ride instead of contesting the win.
Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) took second on the day, beating Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) in a short sprint to the finish as the fastest chasers from the break.
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“I can’t believe it,” Mohorič said after the finish.
“I was just trying to do my best. When I saw those guys going I put in a super effort to get back to them and I told them a good strategy would be to go as fast and hard as possible at the start of the stage to bring the breakaway through to the finish.
“Halfway through another big group joined us and I had no teammates there, so I was a bit disappointed but I never gave up and tried to save some energy to follow in the final attacks. When Nils (Politt) went on the final climb I was so on my limit, but I said if this is the hardest moment of the race I need to do one more sprint.
I went and looked back and there was nobody there, so I just went as hard as I possibly could and completely finished my legs, but fortunately, I managed to keep my legs to the line.”
The Slovenian also addressed the doping accusations against his team after they were raided by police, appearing to copy the ‘Omerta’ gesture made infamous by Lance Armstrong as part of his celebration across the finish line.
“I felt like a criminal with all the police coming to the hotel,” he said.
“It’s not a nice thing when a policeman walks into your room and goes through all your belongings when you have nothing to hide. It’s never happened to me before.
“At the end of the day I have nothing to hide, I don’t care too much about other people checking through my stuff.”
Mohoric took the most combative prize on the day as Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished safely inside the peloton in the yellow jersey along with Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in green.
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A crash shattered the peloton early on amidst what was expected to be a big fight to establish the early breakaway, with Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Nippo), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash), Franck Bonnamour (B&B-KTM), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) managing to avoid the pile-up and form the lead group.
The early break stretched their advantage to as much as four minutes and 20 seconds on the trailing peloton, where Alpecin-Fenix moved to the front and began pacing with hopes of a bunch sprint win for Jasper Philipsen on the agenda.
Another crash occurred in the middle of the peloton shortly after, with GC contenders Enric Mas (Movistar) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) involved as well as green jersey holder Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alpecin-Fenix continuing to pace despite calls from other riders to slow down and allow those in the crash to re-join.
Riders eventually returned to the pack as the intermediate sprint approached with a maximum 9 points up for grabs amongst the maillot vert contenders due to the breakaway passing through 4 minutes before.
Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) lead out the group to take those 9 points and go 3 points closer to Cavendish, who took 6 as Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) came through in the Australian’s slipstream to take 8.
Plenty of action began in the peloton after the intermediate sprint, a flurry of attacks reeled in by UAE Team Emirates and Alpecin-Fenix before Nils Politt (BORA-Hansgrohe) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) went clear to kick-start a big chase group to the six-strong break.
Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Jorge Arcas, Ivan Garcia Cortina and Alejandro Valverde (All Movistar), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix), Michael Valgren (EF Education-Nippo), Greg van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroen), Elie Gesbert (Arkea-Samsic), Casper Pedersen (Team DSM), Brent van Moer (Lotto Soudal), Omar Fraile, Dimitri Gruzdev and Ion Izaguirre (All Astana), Max Walschield (Qhubeka-NextHash) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) all bridged across to Politt and Theuns to close the gap to two minutes and 15 seconds on the break 80 kilometres into the stage.
The group caught the leaders with 100 kilometres to go as behind them Israel Start-Up Nation and Team BikeExchange were pulling on the front in an attempt to keep the dream of a stage win alive for Matthews and Andre Greipel on the latter’s 39th birthday.
But with 85 kilometres to the finish the bunch decided it was too much to keep chasing and dropped the pace to allow the break to contest the victory for themselves, meaning the stage winner would come from the 20-strong lead group of Teunissen, Bernard, Clarke, Theuns, Walschield, Mohoric, Laporte, Stuyven, Valgren, Rutsch, Bonnamour, Izaguirre, Gesbert, Turgis, Zimmerman, van Moer, Ballerini, Pedersen, Dillier, and Politt who continued to extend their advantage out to 10 minutes with 50 kilometres left.
Gesbert went off the front at the 42 kilometre mark in a short-lived attack before Walschield launched his own move as the group came back together shortly after, multiple riders again quickly bridging.
Bonnamour and Rutsch went with 36 kilometres left, opening the largest gap between them and the rest of the break so far as only Gesbert was able to follow with Stuyven heading up the chase behind as more splits began to form with Clarke dropped as he continues to battle a broken back.
The trio came back to the group of 20 shortly after as they stopped to take a drink amidst the furious pace at the front of the race, now 13 minutes ahead of the peloton as Mohoric, Theuns, Bonnamour and Laporte all took their turns to attack.
The pack was halved with 27 kilometres to go as Tuenissen, Theuns, Politt, Valgren, Pedersen, Mohoric, Turgis, Zimmerman, Bonnamour, Stuyven and Rutsch formed the new front group.
Mohoric launched a strong solo attack within 25 kilometres on the flat to carve out a lead of 25 seconds with Laporte the solo pursuant behind him and the rest of the group a few seconds back.
The Slovenian champion further extended his lead to 45 seconds at the 18 kilometre mark as the race moved closer to the finish in Libourne, the 10-strong chase group failing to work together behind.
The finale was all too easy for Mohoric at the front, the Slovenian soloing to his second stage victory at the Tour and the third for team Bahrain Victorious as Laporte beat Pedersen on the line in the race for second, a full minute and eight seconds after the winner.
The Tour de France continues with tomorrow's Stage 20, an individual time trial over 30.8 kilometres from Libourne to Saint-Emilion which will see GC riders attempt to battle for second and third on the podium. Watch the action from 8:30pm (AEST) on SBS and SBS On Demand with coverage starting on the SKODA Tour Tracker from 8:55pm (AEST).