5460 days, 15 years and 294 stages later one of the longest streaks in professional cycling has been broken as Cofidis won their Tour de France stage since 2008 overnight courtesy of Frenchman Victor Lafay.
It was a case of by name and by nature as Lafay rode into San Sebastian the victor in front of a group of riders containing some of the biggest names in the sport. It marks the 27-year-olds second grand tour stage victory after winning stage 8 of the 2021 edition of the Giro d'Italia.
Underneath the baking Basque sun, the peloton set off for a 208.9km jaunt from the capital of the Basque region Vitoria-Gasteiz to the seaside city of San Sebastian. With similar parcours to the day prior, the riders who featured prominently in Bilbao were expected to do so once again. American Neilson Powless (EF Education - Easypost), Frenchman Remi Cavanga (Soudal - Quickstep) and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagan (TotalEnergies) formed the breakaway of the day after escaping from the peloton shortly after the start of the stage.
The trio would get a maximum time advantage of 4:55 with Boasson Hagen and Cavanga and Boasson Hagen being brought back to the main group with 57 km and 37 km to go, respectively.
Through gaining maximum points on the categorized Col d'Udana, Cote d'Aztira, Cote de Alkiza and the Cote de Gurutze climbs, Powless secured another day in the King of the Mountains jersey. He lasted until 2.5km to the summit of the last climb of the day, the Jaizkibel (8.1km @ 5.3km).
With 300 meters to go on the climb race favorite Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingeegard (Jumbo-Visma) attacked the peloton and crested the climb alone with Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) in hot pursuit. Similar scenes to yesterday occurred as Vingeegard refused to work with Pogacar resulting in the duo being brought back by the main group which now only contained 24 riders.
Attacks were launched by numerous riders on the descent to San Sebastian including by local rider Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), but all were chased down by Jumbo Visma who were looking to get star rider Wout Van Aert his 10th tour stage victory. With a final attack by INEOS Grenadiers Tom Pidcock failing, it looked as though a bunch sprint finish was all but guaranteed, Victor Lafay had other ideas though.
Sensing a lull in the group's pace Lafay launched a hail mary attack with a kilometer to go. Fatigue by constantly chasing after attackers, Jumbo Visma was unable to chase the Frenchman and so it was Victor Lafay who defied the odds, pulled off the impossible and ensured regardless of what happened in the rest of his career he would go down as a stage winner in the world’s most prestigious bike race.
A frustrated Van Aert finished runner up, but it was cold comfort to the Belgian who displayed his displeasure with the result by slamming a bottle on the ground shortly after the finish. On the other side, the ever-joyful Pogacar seemed satisfied with the day's work which saw him finish 3rd and crucially gain 12 seconds over his rivals.
The result sent shockwaves through France with L'Equipe toasting the nation's latest hero the day after with a front-page headline titled "Victoire Lafay".
Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) maintains his lead in the general classification and will fancy the odds of keeping the jersey until at stage 5 where the peloton will come face to face with the daunting Pyrenees mountain range,
The master of the flat lands will get their first chance in the race tomorrow with an expected sprint finish in Bayonne courtesy of a 193.5km stage from Amorebieta-Etxano to the Pyrenean city in France's south west.