RACE: Tour de France stage 10, Vulcania › Issoire
DATE: Tuesday 11 July
With 25 kilometres remaining during the Tour de France’s ninth stage, Eurosport GCN commentator Rob Hatch delivered a line that few could argue with to describe who was illuminating the racing. “It’s the Israel-Premier Tech team, who are proving to be one of the top Grand Tour teams of the season.”
Two days earlier, Michael Woods had soloed to win at Puy de Dôme. Now, as Krists Neilands descended the Côte de La Chapelle-Marcousse en route to Issoire, back-to-back stage wins for IPT looked possible.
The Latvian was clearly having a great day. He was in every unsuccessful move early on, before getting in the day’s breakaway with teammate Nick Schultz. Neilands attacked on La Chapelle-Marcousse, having capitalised on a selfless turn from Schultz that split the breakaway up.
Sadly, cycling remains a numbers game. Despite his courageous effort to solo the 25 kilometres to the finish, the five chasers behind him worked cohesively and closed him down late in the stage. Neilands still managed to find one last effort, which was enough for him to take fourth.
“I really wanted this one,” he said, having come close to becoming the first Latvian to win a stage of the Tour in 29 years. “I felt great this morning and I wanted to get up the road. When I went solo, I was never sure if I could make it all the way but I just wanted to give it my best.”
Some consolation came in the form of the day’s combativity award: having won the hearts of the public (and Hatch), the jury also saw what everybody watching on TV had.
This performance encapsulated Neilands’ development with IPT since he turned professional with the team in 2017. Fittingly, a much-deserved three-year contract extension was announced the day after his impressive ride in the Auvergne.