One step closer to a Tour de France breakaway breakthrough

Fred Wright has the second most breakaway kilometres this Tour and edges ever closer to victory.

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“Can we make it quick, please? I need to sit down.”

After 149 km in the breakaway, Fred Wright needs to be horizontal, or at least as horizontal as he can be.

At 404 km, he now has six more breakaway kilometres than Wout van Aert and is the rider with the second most time spent out ahead of the peloton, behind the Danish maverick Magnus Cort who has a leg-busting 637. Not a bad place to be.

The morning after his first stint up the road at the Tour on stage 8, caught at the bottom of the final climb, a rare moment of seriousness descended over the ebullient Brit and said that his debut professional win was coming.

Stage 10 he was out in the break again, this time not swallowed up by the break but without the legs to contest the uphill finish at the Mègeve altiport.

The 23-year-old was spotted smiling up Alpe d’Huez as he took it easy, his peer Tom Pidcock sailing away to a momentous victory for the young crop of Brits coming up in the WorldTour.

Maybe that was all the re-invigoration he needed as on the proceeding stage 13 from Bourg-d’Oisans he was up the road once more, making the cut each time there was a selection.

Finally, it was down to three. Wright, Israel-Premier Tech’s Canadian Hugo Houle and former world champion Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo. The Dane romped home to the win, meaning the last three of four stage winners this Tour have hailed from the Scandinavian nation.

“I’m a bit gutted to be honest, but I mean, I tried,” Wright said, not having enough to come past Pedersen in the sprint finish after the breakaway beat the peloton. “Second is still pretty good but I wanted that win. Fair play to Mads he was super strong.”

Arriving back at his team bus, this time there was a hint of frustration from Wright, a quick progression from being happy to have made the break to being disappointed he couldn’t convert the effort into a victory.

“I needed to attack on the last climb but that tempo was as hard as I could go,” he said, having told his sports directors that he knew what he had to do but couldn’t make it happen. “And as soon as we got over it that was me, like ‘damn, it’s going to be a sprint and I’m not going to be able to beat him’. I just didn’t think he was going to attack at the start of that climb and obviously you’ve got to follow and I did. I couldn’t go any harder after that.”

“Definitely, learning every time,” he said of the knowledge gained from each pedal stroke out front. “I did it better this time than last time and yeah I’ll do it better next time again. Hopefully there will be a next time, maybe not at this Tour but at some point there will be a next time.

“It’s funny. It’s only small percentages. You’re two per cent better and all of a sudden you’re not breathing so hard so you can focus on what tactics to play. Just that little bit more strength is helping me.”

After Wright has excused himself and gone for a well-deserved sit down, his former sports director Rod Ellingworth walks past, on his way to the Ineos Grenadiers bus parked next to that of his former employers at Bahrain-Victorious.

“I think you could see he was a good u23 wasn’t he, and I think he’s done really well, he’s really progressed,” Ellingworth told CyclingTips. “He’s a crafty bike rider, he always was as a kid, not saying I knew him well as a kid but I knew him. He was always pretty good.

“He’s a good kid. He lives with the other two, they all have a good time together. He came from the track background with Ethan, they’re all good mates and support each other pretty well.”

Wright lives with fellow WorldTour pros Ethan Hayter of Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Matthew Walls, in what we can safely assume is the closest thing in the peloton to university accommodation, but with fewer Pot Noodles and pints of lager.

“He’s a good lad isn’t he?” Ellingworth continued of Wright. You get the sense that with Ellingworth back at Ineos, the British team may has been sniffing around the homegrown talent before he renewed with Bahrain-Victorious for another two years. “I think he quite likes it there, he’s settled. It’s where he got his first opportunities in a pro team and I think he’s doing good. I think he’ll come really good in the Classics one year.”

It’s a patient game, being a professional cyclist. Whether it’s the years leading up to a professional career or 149 km off the front trying to win a stage of the Tour de France.

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