He might not have won a stage yet and might have lost a spot in the overall classification, but after the 15th stage of the 2019 Tour de France, German rider Emanuel Buchmann's chances of a podium finish have improved.
Soaking wet, riders arrived at the finish line in Foix Prat d'Albis. Sweat and rain had covered the riders across the 185.5 kilometers and 4,700 climbing meters of stage 15. Water kept dripping off Emanuel Buchmann's helmet. The 26-year-old wasn't sad, because even though the German rider lost the day, he is winning plenty of ground.
After finishing fourth on the legendary Tourmalet, Buchmann finished fourth fastest again behind stage winner Simon Yates, the impressive Thibaut Pinot and Mikel Landa. In the process, he left defending champion Geraint Thomas in his dust and easily passed the man in the yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe. "It went well again. I'm really happy with this result," Buchmann told "ARD" afterwards.
Buchmann comfortably stays in touch
A closer look at the results and it's clear to understand Buchmann's good mood. At the start of the stage, the German sat fifth overall, just three minutes and 12 seconds behind Alaphilippe. By the end of the day, he is sixth overall but two minutes and 14 seconds behind. Things are suddenly looking much tighter in the top six.
Alaphilippe not only lost half a minute, but the Frenchman also had to recognize that his body struggled on stage 15. With a painful expression on his face, the fan favorite draped himself over a fence for minutes after crossing the line, gasping for air. Buchmann, on the other hand, was all smiles talking to the media afterwards. "I saved a bit of strength in the first few stages, never wasting anything, which is why I'm in top form now."
A rest and then into the alps
Six kilometers ahead of the finish, Pinot attacked and made life harder for the overall leaders. Defending champion Thomas and Dutchman Steven Kruisswijk couldn't keep up. Not Buchmann though, who didn't struggle with the change in pace. Two kilometers later, he had to let Pinot and Colombian Egan Bernal go. Buchmann couldn't catch Pinot, who jumped up to fourth from sixth in the overall classification, but he crossed the line with Bernal.
"Pinot was just too strong today," said Buchmann, who continues to humbly state that his goal is a top-ten finish. Is there anything that can unsettle the German? "A stage win maybe, or perhaps something bigger."
Both are not unrealistic for the German this year. "You can definitely win the Tour de France with him," Austrian teammate Gregor Mühlberger said. Team manager Ralph Denk labeled Buchmann "one of the best in the world".
After one rest day, the riders return to the bike on Tuesday and will be faced with the Alps. It's not only the riders who will be rising either, as temperatures are expected to soar, perhaps by even 10 degrees. At that point, physical condition will play an even greater role - which will be music to Buchmann's ears.