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The 21-year-old Tour rookie rode into the day’s doomed breakaway effort in stage 19 and attacked until the bunch reeled in the move to set up a botched bunch sprint.
“We were hoping with the wind that a group may come up to us, but it never happened,” Simmons said. “When you’re in front at the Tour, you have to keep going.”
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Simmons pulled clear with five riders, but the nervous peloton keen to set up the sprinters never gave the break much room. At one point, the gap was down to just a few second, and Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) actually sat up, but Simmons and others kept piling to extend the gap once again.
The bunch eventually reeled in the adventure on some late-stage climbs, but Simmons’ fighting spirit was recognized by the prize jury, and he earned a trip the day’s podium ceremony.
“There was a chance something could happen at the start and Jasper (Stuyven) was also trying. It was a good showing for us today,” Simmons said.
Simmons rode into five breakaways during his Tour debut
One of seven U.S. riders starting the 2022 Tour, Simmons will wear a special red number in Saturday’s stage 20 time trial.
Simmons was on the attack across this Tour, riding into five breakaway efforts and tried a few more efforts that didn’t stick. His Tour best was 11th into Megève when the break made it to the line.
Though Simmons fell short of his goal of winning a stage in his first Tour, he raced aggressively from the start. Simmons provided key support to help teammate Mads Pedersen win on stage 13 into St. Etienne.
Simmons’s attacking style could put him in the running for the Tour’s most combative prize awarded Sunday in Paris.
On Sunday, the team will race to try to set up the final sprint.
“For sure we go all-in for Mads in Paris,” he said. “He has already finished second there. If we can finish up with a win for the Team, nothing could better for us.”