Kasper Asgreen, the Danish cyclist and Tour of Flanders 2021 champion, disrupted expectations in a thrilling turn of events to win the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday, securing the first victory for his Soudal Quick-Step team in this year’s race. This triumph came at the end of a protracted breakaway in the 185-km stage starting from Moutiers.
Asgreen was part of an early four-man breakaway group, along with Pascal Eenkhoorn from the Netherlands, Jonas Abrahamsen from Norway, and Victor Campenaerts from Belgium. However, this group was closely monitored by the peloton, spearheaded by Jasper Philipsen’s Alpecin-Deceuninck team, never permitting the breakaway to create a gap of more than ninety seconds.
When the main group started to close in, Asgreen’s team endeavoured to slow the pace, buying the breakaway more time. In the final moments, Campenaerts made a spirited effort to position Eenkhoorn for a final sprint, but Asgreen’s strength prevailed. He launched his final push just 200 metres from the finish line, capitalising on the weariness of the peloton following a strenuous Alpine stage the previous day.
Asgreen noted after his victory, “Obviously the situation was not ideal. I would have liked to go with more riders but it’s the last week of the Tour. It’s not the first time that a small group manages to beat the sprinters’ team. I believed in my chances.”
Shortly after Asgreen’s win, Belgian Jasper Philipsen secured victory in the bunch sprint, narrowly missing his fifth win of this year’s Tour after winning his 4th stage earlier in the Tour de France. Meanwhile, Jonas Vingegaard, the Danish defending champion, maintained his hold on the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
At present, Vingegaard leads the overall race by seven minutes and 35 seconds from Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, with Britain’s Adam Yates in third place, trailing by 10 minutes and 45 seconds.
This victory, especially significant after Asgreen’s crash at the Tour de Suisse earlier this year, marked his first grand tour stage win. Overwhelmed by the achievement, he commented, “I’ve come a long way, and to cap it off with a victory like this is amazing.”
Friday’s 19th stage is a challenging 173-km hilly course from Moirans en Montagne to Poligny.
2023 Tour de France Stage 18 result
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