4:52pm: “We’re pulling now, but we shouldn’t huh?” asks Wout over the radio. “No,” replies Gabba, firmly. “It’s good for us if someone takes the bonus seconds.” Ideally for the team the break would stay away, thus scooping up all of the seconds up for grabs on the line (10 for the winner, six for second, and four for third). If not, then ideally the sprinters in the group would claim them all up. The worst case scenario is the punchier GC guys - Alaphilippe and Wellens - compete for the stage win after the sprinters slip back in a super fast finale.
4:56pm: The TV inside the race car shows that our guys have dropped back. Mitchelton-Scott take up the chase.
5:01pm: With 5km to go the gap is at 40 seconds. “I think the break’ll make it,” says Gabba.
5:05pm: Politt attacks out front from the break as Lopez rolls past the team car with his job done. Mitchelton-Scott continue to lead the bunch. Wout, Sergio and David de la Cruz are sat comfortably a few wheels back.
5:06pm: There’s a big crash in the peloton, as a Cofidis rider hits a tree. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) goes down hard in the ensuing melee. We see an AG2R rider down and for a moment fear it is one of our guys, but quickly see that it isn’t. We would later learn that Wout was inches away from it; he had to take to the footpath to avoid the maelstrom and the tree.
5:07pm: Direct Energie’s Jerome Cousin wins the stage from the break, ahead of Politt. Andre Greipel comes home third to take the last of the bonus seconds.
5:08pm: Wout radios to say he was caught behind the crash so lost time. Gabba tells him not to worry - he’s confident the 3km rule will be instated, due to the crash. (He’s right - confirmation comes through that everyone is given the same time).
5:10pm: Back at the bus everyone is in good spirits, although there is a lot of talk about just how hectic the finale was.
5:12pm: After going round to check that the guys are all happy, Gabba gives us his take on the day: “It’s a really good day for our guys. They rode really well together - they were super disciplined today.
“In general for us it was about staying safe and we needed to be in the top 10 wheels going into that last climb. They did it perfectly.
“During the first stage it was difficult to stay together and ride as a group because it was very hectic. It seems like they’re finding each other with more ease now. They’re staying more compact as a group.”