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2013 TDF Stage 16

16 Jul

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Every stage is competitive in this year’s Tour. Not for the yellow jersey, but for all the other places in the top 10. Lucky for us, those spots are tight. Only seconds separate the 2nd – 5th placed riders and each one is looking to make up time or keep time.

Today’s stage had the expected large break get away and stay away. It took a while for a break to form, but once there were no riders that could threaten the top 10 the group was allowed to go. There were 26 riders in the break including several Frenchmen hoping to pick up France’s first stage win in the 100th Tour de France. It is their event after all, but alas, “pas aujourd’hui, désolé”. Oui.

The animators for Stage 16 were all expected to come from the break. Tomorrow’s stage is a hilly individual time-trial so it appeared the favorites/hopefuls would take it easy. Non.

Sky certainly had no desire to bring the break back or do anything other than stay at the front and protect their stronghold on the yellow jersey. And that’s pretty much the way things went until the last climb, the Category 2 Col de Manse. The riders in the break started attacking each other. First a couple of the French riders attacked and got away, Kadri (Ag2r) and Marino (Sojasun). Hansen (Lotto), Navarro (Cofidis) Costa (Movistar) and Roche (Saxo) quickly joined them, while others gave chase. Costa managed to get away, riding alone to the summit of Manse and then descending into Gap to take the stage win. The chase group finished :42 behind him.

Costa had been in 9th place in the GC prior to Stage 13 (crosswinds), but had to drop back from the main group to help Movistar team leader Valverde causing him to slip to 18th. Valverde fell from 2nd to 16th, only teammate Quintana has maintained his high spot overall. Point being that Movistar really wanted and needed this win and that was evident when Costa crossed the finish line. (photo from dailymail.uk.com)

Meanwhile back in the favorites group, Katusha attacked, upping the pace resulting in a split in the group; obviously for the benefit of their leader, Rodriguez. The move caused several favorites to drop off, including 5th placed Ten Dam (Belkin) and 7th placed Fuglsang (Astana).

Now the yellow jersey group was down to 8: Froome and Porte (Sky), Contador and Kreuziger (Saxo),  Valverde and Quintana (Movistar), Mollema (Belkin) and Rodriguez.

Contador launched 3 attacks on the ascent, momentarily dropping Porte, but Porte was able to get back. Contador attacked on the descent, once resulting in him overshooting a corner and going down, and Froome having to unclip along the road’s edge to avoid him. Both were able to remount and ride on, although Froome looked a bit peeved. I’m sure Contador couldn’t have cared less. The rest of us, at least those non-Brit fans, were happy to see Contador ride aggressively and Froome bothered.

There were changes in the GC top 10 after Stage 16: Quintana and Ten Dam swapped places – 5th and 6th respectively, as did Rodrigues and Fuglsang – 7th and 8th, and Daniel Martin moved up one spot to 10th. No changes in the top 4 spots or time gaps.

Not a bad day on the road.


Stage 17:

Stage profile

 

Could this time-trial shakeup the top of the GC? Possibly. Unlike the first individual time-trial this one is hilly, with technical descents and rain predicted. Time-trials are boring, but this one… maybe not.

Last Week of 2013 Tour de France

13 Jul

The last week in the Tour looks exciting. Although Froome is most likely strong, his team has been weakened. It’s hard to know if they’ve been sitting back and plan to attack tomorrow on Mont Ventoux like they did on Stage 8 or if they’ll ride more defensively and try to preserve their grip on yellow – my hunch is they will do the latter.

Froome still has a strong grip on the yellow jersey; 2:28 to Belkin’s Mollema, and just 2:45 to the cunning Contador. However, given the apparent vulnerability of Sky it is a lead that seems at least penetrable.

One thing that has been a surprise to me at least is the vulnerability of the team charged with protecting the yellow jersey. Froome doesn’t have near the team that Bradley Wiggins had last year when he wore yellow. Wiggins isn’t here to help Froome either, neither are strongmen Rigoberto Uran or  Sergio Henao who were both left off the Tour squad after competing in the Giro. Two of the riders expected to support Froome in the Alps were Edvald Boasson Hagen and  Vasil Kiryienka, both of whom are out of the Tour. There’s no doubt Froome is more exposed to attacks with the loss of those two; particularly by Saxo-Tinkoff and Contador.

If I were Froome and Sky I’d be more worried about Contador and his teammate Kreuziger then the Belkin duo.

Froome is solid physically, I don’t doubt that, but his team is not. I’m not so sure Froome is solid mentally. He can’t be as confident as he was when he strutted up the final climb of Stage 8 to take the win. Since losing his 2 teammates, being isolated in Stage 9 and losing 1:09 to his GC rivals in Stage 13, he certainly has to doubt the strength of his team.

The first sentence in my Understanding the Tour de France Guide is:  “Remember this simple fact – bike racing is a TEAM sport – not an individual sport”. We may all get another lesson in the importance of a strong team as we head to the Alps.



Stage 15:

PROFIL_thumb3

Tomorrow’s stage on Mont Ventoux, a long stage at 242 kilometers – the longest of this year’s Tour, should give us a glimpse of any weakness in Sky’s armor or that of any of the other GC contenders. 

Or, it may not be that subtle. We could see the race blow apart like we did yesterday.

We should be so lucky!

2013 TDF Stage 14-Break

13 Jul

trentin-wins-660x440Don’t know about you, but I was okay with a normal day in the Tour. Yesterday’s blog post was lengthy and took more time to write than I wanted to do today. While the Tour was running live, we were recording and out riding.

Rain is predicted here for the next few days so we wanted to get a ride in while we can. Two things we never get in July are rain and mild temperatures. If by some off chance the weather-tellers are right, we’ll have both for a few days. Nice.

Stage 14 was lumpy, with several Category 4 climbs. A break of 4 riders got away early and then a group of 14 broke from the peloton to join them. Several notables were in the break; Van Garderen, Voigt, Bakelants, Talansky, Millar, Rojas – a break of 18 riders. The highest placed rider in the break was Talansky who was 13+ minutes down from the yellow jersey.

Initially, the teams that didn’t get a guy in the break – Euskaltel and Lampre – went to the front and chased. Eventually they gave up and Sky had to go to the front. Sky wasn’t interested in catching the break, and sent that message to the rest of the peloton by spreading across the road to slow the pace. Most of the other teams had riders in the break and weren’t interested in chasing either. Two more riders went off the front, Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and Cunego (Lampre), but they were never able to catch the break.

Tour leader Chris Froome looked a little tired or tense or maybe tense and tired. After yesterday you can’t blame him. Froome had his team around him doing the work in a relatively easy pace conserving energy for the showdown on Ventoux tomorrow. No doubt Contador and team were doing the same as were the Belkin boys.

As the break got near the finishing city of Lyon, the cat and mouse games began. A flurry of attacks came by Burghardt, Van Garderen, Bakelants, Frenchmen Simon (who looked like he just might hang on for the win, he soloed out in front for several k) and Kadri, Albasini and Bak. Everyone but Millar and Voigt gave it a go, and they would have too but they were dropped when the attacks started.

It looked like the French would get their first win of the 100th Tour de France on the eve of Bastille Day, but they fell short. Even worse for the French, an Italian won – Omega QuickStep’s Matteo Trentin. Trentin came from nowhere going full gas and pipped Albasini, Talansky and Rojas at the line to narrowly take the win.


The last week in the Tour looks exciting. Although Froome is most likely strong, his team has been weakened. It’s hard to know if they’ve been sitting back and plan to attack tomorrow on Mont Ventoux like they did on Stage 8 or if they’ll ride more defensively and try to preserve their grip on yellow – my hunch is they will do the latter.

Froome still has a strong grip on the yellow jersey; 2:28 to Belkin’s Mollema, and just 2:45 to the cunning Contador. However, given the apparent vulnerability of Sky it is a lead that seems at least penetrable.

One thing that has been a surprise to me at least is the vulnerability of the team charged with protecting the yellow jersey. Froome doesn’t have near the team that Bradley Wiggins had last year when he wore yellow. Wiggins isn’t here to help Froome either, neither are strongmen Rigoberto Uran or  Sergio Henao who were both left off the Tour squad after competing in the Giro. Two of the riders expected to support Froome in the Alps were Edvald Boasson Hagen and  Vasil Kiryienka, both of whom are out of the Tour. There’s no doubt Froome is more exposed to attacks with the loss of those two; particularly by Saxo-Tinkoff and Contador.

If I were Froome and Sky I’d be more worried about Contador and his teammate Kreuziger then the Belkin duo.

Froome is solid physically, I don’t doubt that, but his team is not. I also get the sense Froome is worried and not nearly as confident as he was when he strutted up the final climb of Stage 8 to take the win.

The first sentence in my Understanding the Tour de France Guide is:  “Remember this simple fact – bike racing is a TEAM sport – not an individual sport”. We may all get another lesson in the importance of a strong team as we head to the Alps.



Stage 15:

PROFIL

Tomorrow’s stage on Mont Ventoux, a long stage at 242 kilometers – the longest of this year’s Tour, should give us a glimpse of any weakness in Sky’s armor or that of any of the other GC contenders. 

Or, it may not be that subtle. We could see the race blow apart like we did yesterday.

We should be so lucky!

 

2012 Tour de France-Stage 11

12 Jul

stage 11 rolland gettyAnother win for the French team, Europcar. The small team (continental team) that could and did.

Stage 11 was a tough stage albeit short, at least by Tour standards – 92 miles long, but 40 of those miles were uphill – 15,000 feet of climbing on the 2 HC (beyond category- most difficult) climbs, a category 2 and a category 1. Just another day at the office for most of these guys.

There were attacks and counter-attacks from the start. A break of 26 riders had formed at 30 kilometers out on the first climb, the Col de la Madeleine . Several of the teams had more than 1 rider in the break, there were big names there like yesterday – Gesink, Valverde, Horner, Leipheimer and BMC riders, Burghart and Gilbert. It was good to see Garmin-Sharp’s climber, Martin also there.

Team Europcar had 3 riders in the break and immediately went to the front to set the pace, presumably for the guy most likely to win the stage – Rolland. Once they went to the front and turned up the pace, riders started dropping off the back – among them Gesink, Rabobank’s leader and Gilbert, BMC’s disappointment.

Meanwhile back in the peloton, Boasson Hagen was at the front driving the Sky train. By the looks of the size of the main group the pace wasn’t too high. Sprinter extraordinaire, Sagan was also there to soldier on for his Liquigas leader, Nibali. If a sprinter can hang on a HC climb, even Sagan, the pace isn’t blistering fast.

It was too fast however, for the polka-dot jersey wearer, Voeckler, who was struggling to maintain contact with the main field.

At the summit of the Madeleine, Astana’s Kessiakoff, previous mountain jersey holder, raced Peter Velits to the top for the points – Velits crossed 1st (25pts), Kessiakoff 2nd (20), and Kern 3rd (16). On the descent Kessiakoff and Velits opened a small gap but a small chasing break including Rolland, Valverde, and Scarponi quickly caught them and then they were all caught by the remainder of the break (minus a few riders).

Then it was on to the next climb, the Col de la Croix de Fer, another HC category. The race was taking its toll, three riders abandoned – Westra (Vacansoleil), Mollema (Rabobank) and sprinter, Renshaw. As predicted, Cancellara did abandon prior to the start.

At the front of the leading group Europcar was driving a hard pace. If you didn’t know it before it was certainly clear now – they were setting Rolland up to win the stage. I mentioned Rolland in my predictions for Stage 11 yesterday.

The main group descended the Madeleine with Tour leader Bradley Wiggins and teammates in front, there was no attack by Evans or Nibali. As they started the 2nd climb, Wiggins had 4 teammates protecting him. Cadel Evans (BMC) 2nd overall, must have been happy with 3 teammates along side of him.

With 64k to go, Evans and teammate Van Garderen attacked Wiggins. Van Garderen went first and Evans followed. Neither Nibali nor Sky pursued but Sky turned up the pace causing riders to drop off the back – and the peloton got smaller.

It was a great plan and execution, but Evans didn’t have the legs to follow through. He had difficulty staying on Van Garderen’s wheel and it became obvious, they were going nowhere except back under control of the Wiggins group.

Evans rejoined Wiggins, et al, with perhaps the thought that  he would save any remaining matches he had for an attack on the last climb of the day. Van Garderen appeared to be in no difficulty on the attack, but he stayed alongside Evans (as he should) as they continued up the Col de la Croix with the Wiggins group.

While all the excitement was occurring with the heads of state, there was a tightening of the screws by Europcar’s Kern as he was just relentless setting a high pace where only a few riders in the break could stay with them (among them Horner and Martin) – further selection occurring both in the break and the peloton. That is the nature of a day like today.

Rolland and Kessiakoff sprinted to the summit, Kessiakoff narrowly edged Rolland for the first points and the bonus of 5000 euros for the highest finish. Initially Rolland was awarded first because referees felt Kessiakoff interfered with Rolland but they reversed their decision and Kessiakoff received first.

On the descent Rolland went down in a turn, but quickly remounted and with moves that would have scared his mother to death, caught the two leaders (Kiserlovski and Kiryienka) near the start of the last climb.

Rolland and Kiserlovski were caught by Sorensen and Velits, the gap to the main field of Wiggins and company was coming down – under 3 minutes at that point.

Worried that they would be caught by the peloton Rolland made a hard attack quickly getting a gap on the remaining riders about 14k from the finish.

Back in the Wiggins group, Vanden Broeck, Brajkovic and Pinot attacked and got a gap. Nibali soon followed and put several seconds into Wiggins before they caught him and pulled him back.

Nibali attacked again, Froome and Wiggins pursued, Evans and Van Garderen stayed with them.  Momentarily it was too much for Froome, he dropped off which left Wiggins to take care of himself. Finally! Wiggins was isolated, or so it seemed.

Wiggins pursued Nibali on his own with Evans and Van Garderen in tow, but quickly Froome managed to get back to the front, relieving Wiggins of having to do his own work pursuing Nibali. With Froome at the front Evans couldn’t hold the pace. As he dropped off the back, Van Garderen fell back to pace his leader back. Evans was gone though, he just couldn’t pace back to the group.

About that time Wiggins told Froome (at least that’s how it looked, I haven’t heard any interviews) Evans was dropped and to pick it up. They quickly caught Nibali, et al, and then the regenerated Froome took off – without his leader – and quickly got a gap. stage 11 froome breakThere was however the minor problem that his teammate and yellow jersey wearer couldn’t follow and was caught out. Oops.

Next thing the cameras showed was Froome getting a call from the team car telling him to “cease and desist” which he did. It was funny, but it showed that the guy with the yellow just might not be the strongest rider on the team. Froome in that move exposed Wiggins’ vulnerability more than any one else has at any other point in the Tour. I would love to have been on the Sky bus after the stage.

Rolland pushed on to the finish in what was a brilliant effort and took another stage win for team Europcar -  back to back stage wins for this small but mighty team.

The yellow jersey group of Wiggins, Froome, Pinot, Vanden Broeck and Nibali finished next, Pinot narrowly edged Froome for 2nd place. When Wiggins finished he patted Nibali on the back, Nibali reciprocated. It appeared Wiggins said something to him – perhaps apologizing for being a jerk yesterday at the finish line. Evans finished 11th on the stage, currently in 4th place overall at 3:19. Hindsight is of course 20/20, if Evans hadn’t attacked you have to wonder would he still hold 2nd? Perhaps not, but he would probably be in 3rd. Nibali who now sits in 3rd is :56 ahead of Evans. There’s still time for Evans to recapture 3rd if he has the legs and mindset to do it. And what about Froome, will he stay the faithful lieutenant to Wiggins or make another move like he made today… now that would make for a really exciting Tour. Stay tuned, Stage 12 preview will be posted a bit later today.

Stage results

  • 1. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar in 4:43:54
  • 2. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat +55
  • 3. Christopher FROOME, Sky +55
  • 4. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol +57
  • 5. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale +57
  • 6. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky +57
  • 7. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +1:08
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana +1:58
  • 9. Vasil KIRYIENKA, Movistar +2:13
  • 10. Frank SCHLECK, RadioShack-Nissan +2:23
  • 11. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing +2:23

 

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky in 48:43:53
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, Sky +2:05
  • 3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale +2:23
  • 4. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing +3:19
  • 5. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol +4:48
  • 6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan +6:15
  • 7. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing +6:57
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana +7:30
  • 9. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar +8:31
  • 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat +8:51
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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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