July 16, 2021

By Julien Pretot

LIBOURNE, France (Reuters) -Slovenian Matej Mohoric gave Bahrain Victorious something to cheer with his second stage win in this year’s Tour de France two days after French police searched his team’s accommodation and vehicles amid an investigation into potential doping.

Mohoric, who had already prevailed in the seventh stage in Le Creusot, attacked from the breakaway to wrap up a solo victory on the 19th stage, a 207-km ride from Mourenx, virtually zipping his mouth shut as he crossed the line.

France’s Christophe Laporte of Cofidis was second and Dane Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) came home third, both 58 seconds off the pace.

The French prosecutor’s office in Marseille on Thursday said it had opened a preliminary investigation into the Bahrain Victorious team after police searched the outfit’s hotel.

It said the investigation was into “acquisition, transport, possession, import of a prohibited substance or prohibited method for use by an athlete without medical justification.”

Bahrain Victorious said they were complying with the investigation.

Mohoric’s compatriot Tadej Pogacar retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey for UAE Team Emirates after staying safe in the peloton, crossing the line more than 20 minutes 50 seconds off the pace.

Friday’s ride was expected to end in a mass sprint but some 20 riders managed to break away from the main bunch and their advantage increased quickly, meaning Mark Cavendish has one last chance to win his 35th Tour stage on Sunday on the Champs-Elysees.

The Briton is tied with Belgian great Eddy Merckx, who bagged 34 stage wins in his glittering career as he won a record five Tour titles.

Merckx was at the start of the stage in Mourenx, where he has a velodrome named after him after he pulled one of his greatest featsm, beating his rivals by more than eight minutes in a mountain stage on his way to his first Tour title in 1969.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)