Kämna with Vingegaard and Pogačar right behind.

90 metres from glory: Lennard Kämna falls agonisingly short of Tour stage win

It took the race's two best climbers to reel him in, and even then, it was close.

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It was the sort of stage Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) has made a habit of winning. Getting in the break in the mountains, attacking late from that break, then riding to an impressive solo victory.

He did it at the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné, and he did it at the Tour de France a month later. He did something similar at the Giro d’Italia this year, too, before helping Jai Hindley to overall victory.

And on Friday’s stage 7 of the 2022 Tour, on the increasingly iconic climb of La Super Planche des Belles Filles, it looked like Kämna was going to do it again.

In what was the first mountain stage of the Tour, Kämna got up the road with teammate and fellow German Max Schachmann for company. The latter worked for Kämna as the break started to disintegrate on approach to the final climb, before another German, Simon Geschke (Cofidis) was the first to hit out, with 6.8 km remaining.

When Kämna decided to bridge across, he did so with ease. And then, just inside 5 km to go, the 25-year-old left Geschke behind and set sail alone. At that stage he had 1:11 over the chasing peloton.

With 3 km to go the gap was still 49 seconds. Another kilometre up the road, the peloton had clawed back just two seconds. With just one kilometre to the line, Kämna had 35 seconds to play with. It seemed as if he’d be able to hold on.

Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Kämna, the last kilometre of stage 7 might just be the hardest of this year’s Tour – a super steep stretch, much of it gravel, with pitches well above 20%. Worse still, what remained of the peloton behind was being driven by UAE Team Emirates for overall leader Tadej Pogačar, and then by Pogačar himself.

As soon as the Slovenian hit the front with around 800 metres to go, the difference in speed between he and Kämna was obvious. Paying for his exertions in the break, Kämna was starting to fade while Pogačar was just winding up.

It was with just 90 metres to go that Kämna was finally caught, a surging Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) blasting past with Pogačar in hot pursuit.

Pogačar, resplendent in yellow as he has been for so much of the past three Tours, eventually reeled in Vingegaard mere metres from the line to take his second stage win in as many days.

Behind, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) pushed past for third, as Kämna limped in fourth. Completely spent, the German came to an almost complete stop as he crossed the line. He needed every bit of the push he received from race staff to get moving and out of the finishing chute.

Later, Kämna reflected on his near-miss.

“Well, this is a real pity, but there is nothing I could have done better,” he said. “I gave it my all until the end and couldn’t have gone faster a single second.

“The bunch didn’t allow us a big gap and therefore we attacked already early from that breakaway to try everything we can to gain time. But it wasn’t enough in the end in that last 150 meters.

“Shit happens, eh? What can you do?”

What can you do? Get up the road and try again. Which is exactly what Kämna is planning to do.

“In the Alps I’ll have a few more chances to try for something,” Kämna said. “At least I very much hope so.”

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