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The Australian BikeExchange-Jayco rider looked like he had the victory assured but was passed in the final metres by Danish rider Mangus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), who took the win with a lunge to the line.
Schultz, 27, has past stage wins in the Herald Sun Tour and Sazka Tour, but success at the Tour de France would have eclipsed anything he has done before.
Going close was encouraging, but missing out was hard.
“I am really happy with second, but to be honest I am also really upset; it is not like every day you get to try and win a stage of the Tour de France,” he said.
“I will keep trying and see where we get to.”
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Schultz was part of a 25 man breakaway group which opened a lead of over ten minutes on the peloton, and which stayed out front until the end.
He said that he had “really bad legs” after Monday’s rest day and initially suffered a lot. “Luckily I had the boys trying to help me get in the breakaway. I just had to bite the bullet and try to get in there.
“I was almost worried once I got in there, like ‘oh no I don’t feel very good,’ so I really had to gamble. Thankfully I had Jack Bauer with me. He did an amazing job keeping the breakaway together and pulling.”
Schultz did what he could to manage his energy and allow his legs to come around. That tactic worked as he was one of the strongest riders on the final climb.
Luis Leon Sánchez (Bahrain Victorious) made a big move with six kilometers left and after Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team) set off in pursuit, Schultz caught and dropped the American and bridged across to Sánchez.
The latter refused to work, though, allowing Jorgenson to rejoin. The trio started watching each other and this in turn gave Cort and others a chance to chase back on after earlier being distanced.
“It was just a matter of trying to do my best on the final climb,” Schultz explained. “I tried to play poker, but I’ve never really been in that position before to contest a Tour de France stage win.
“It was almost perfect, but we know Magnus Cort. He has won stages in Grand Tours before, and he was just the better man.”
The team’s head sports director Matt White noted that the stage had begun on a difficult note for the squad when one of its most important riders was forced to pull out of the Tour.
“It’s been a pretty turbulent day for the boys today, obviously losing a teammate with [Luke] Durbridge going positive with Covid,” he said.
“Nick rode a very calculated final and was just pipped on the line by Magnus Cort, so hats off to Magnus. But what an incredible ride from Schultz in his first ever Tour de France.”
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) July 13, 2022