Aussie Focus

Tour taking its toll, but Aussies thriving and surviving

After making it through a wild first 9 stages of the Tour de France, the Australians left in the race are gearing up to give the second week their everything as they resumed on stage 10 following the rest day.

Where else to start than with stage 9 winner Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen) who finished safely inside the peloton today, keeping his second overall spot in the GC race intact and no doubt now on his way to see his parents in Avignon after what's been a fairy-tale lead in to the second week of the Tour. 

"Yeah, they're [my parents] in Avignon, so I'll see them tomorrow, or tonight actually," O'Connor said prior to today's stage. 

"It'll be great to see them. It's really difficult for Australians to leave, so the fact that they're here is a blessing.

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"I'll just try and enjoy every moment I can spend time with them whilst I'm at the biggest bike race in the world."

While O'Connor will continue to lead his team in pursuit of a podium in Paris, fellow countrymen Harry Sweeney (Lotto Soudal) and Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) are experiencing unexpected opportunities in their Tour de France debuts after their team's stars became casualties of a wild first nine stages.

With Caleb Ewan crashing out of the race in stage 3 with a broken collarbone, Lotto Soudal have no main rider to rally around which has given Sweeney more freedom as he finished 36th today after being caught up in a crash which also involved Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers).

Porte got up and was ok after the crash, finishing 132nd as he forms part of the INEOS support crew for Richard Carapaz, currently 5th on GC.

"I'm not too sure what happened," Sweeney said of the crash after the stage. "There was a bit of a jam on at the front and a few of the INEOS guys came down, I was on the wheel and couldn't stop in time."

"I feel really good actually," he said on his condition going into week two. "Felt good yesterday, did a few efforts and had a coffee and enjoyed myself, which was nice.



"The legs feel good and it was a bit of a tester today in the crosswinds which was pretty good fun.

Ahead of tomorrow's mammoth two ascents of the Mont Ventoux, Sweeney gave no illusion of his game plan as he saw success in less gruelling routes down the track.

"Survive, and look for some days that suit me a bit better rather than two times up Mont Ventoux," he said.

Scotson revealed it's been a stressful start to the biggest race in the world for him as his team continues to adapt to losing sprinter Arnaud Demare, forced to withdraw after failing to make the time-cut in stage 9.

"It's been physically demanding, but mentally just as much too with the stress of the race," Scotson said before stage 10.

"We had the really hard last stages with the weather and the mountains, but I think I'm feeling OK and handling it well.



The 27-year-old came in 117th today as he looks to support teammate David Gaudu (10th on GC) in the coming days whilst actively trying to create his own chances for exposure and glory.

"Obviously I have to change the script now a little bit, I came here just focusing on lead-outs for Arnaud, and it was a massive disappointment the other day to lose him and Jacopo (Guarnieri).

"It's what I trained for, but now we have David up there on the GC so I'll try to help him, and then maybe I can try for breakaways. 

"I'll have opportunities for myself, and if I'm feeling good I think I have to make the most of them."

Elsewhere across the race, sprinter Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) is having a hard time competing with the clinical performances of Deceuninck-QuickStep as they continue to put Mark Cavendish in the best position to win stages and keep the green jersey, though Bling remains second in the hunt.



The Canberra native was in the mix for the win again today, but came in fifth as Cavendish was the beneficiary of another outstanding lead-out to claim his third victory at this year's Tour.

“Coming into the last 30km there were crosswinds over the top of the final climb and Deceuninck-Quickstep tried split the bunch a bit but it all sort of came back together again," Matthews said after the finish.

Luka (Mezgec) and the boys did a really good job to position me there in the final, but Cavendish is just too fast these days and I had to settle for fifth.”

The Tour de France heads to iconic climb of Mont Ventoux for Stage 11, the 'Giant of Provence' to be climbed twice as the best climbers in the race look to fight it out for the stage and the general classification. Watch the race from 2030 AEST on SBS and SBS OnDemand with the SKODA Tour Tracker starting at 1950 AEST. 


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5 min read
Published 7 July 2021 at 6:30am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS