Saturday’s stage was one that could have potentially gone to the break, but in the end it was as showdown between sprinters, puncheurs and even GC riders alike; with Nils Eekhoff taking a strong fifth place for Team dsm-firmenich at the line.
Rolling out from Libourne, the opening 120 kilometres of the stage were mostly flat but the following 80 kilometres would feature hardly any flat road, and there was a sense early in the stage that a break might make it. One of the most fierce fights to form the move followed but eventually only three riders would break free and it was clear that a peloton, of some size, would fight it out at the finish. Rallying around Nils Eekhoff as the team’s finisher for the stage, the men in navy blue rode well as a group all day.
Taking the fight up early at around 25 kilometres to go, they held their position well as the peloton fought its way over the tougher climbs. Coming over the last categorised ascent inside ten kilometres remaining, Romain Bardet brought Eekhoff to the front. Making the same move inside the flamme rouge, Bardet was able to keep eighth place on GC secure, while Eekhoff went all-in for the stage result. Digging deep on the dragging and stinging kick to the line, Eekhoff managed to power past several riders and held on to the line; taking a brilliant fifth place – his first WorldTour level top five finish.