This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 4th tour
A resurgent Andre Greipel of Lotto-Belisol team, fought through the final climb of Mont Saint-Clair, 23 kms from the finish, and a few other very strong riders, to win his fourth stage in the Tour. On a stage route, which was perfectly flat in the last 20kms, it was the Lotto-Belisol team which did the major amount of work to chase down the attacks, till the Team Sky train trying to put Edvald Boasson Hagen in pole position started the final charge.
And what a charge it was!! It was a delightful sight of the Yellow Jersey of Bradley Wiggins, coming to the front with Hagen on his wheel, pounding away on the pedals at a rhythm, which brought him many a World Championships & Olympic gold medals in Track Cycling, that fans gathered at the finish line were treated to. As the peloton roared in to the final stretch, behind Wiggins, the final set of breakaways with Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank, just sat up in disgust as they realized that their chance of a stage win was becoming a bad dream. On the final curve, at one time, it even looked like a runaway train with no speed control, and one even thought that Wiggins himself was going for the win. Such was the speed with which the riders came in, and with 200m to go, Hagen kicked his sprint. Only to find, Greipel, who was on his wheel, and Sagan, who was on Greipel’s wheel, turn on their superior sprint skills and come around him. Greipel timed his run perfectly and threw his bike at the line, ensuring that the lunge gave him a half wheel advantage over a equally strong Sagan. With this win Greipel gets his 17th win of this year and his third in this year’s TdF after the successes at Rouen & Saint Quentin.
“I chose the wheel of Boasson Hagen and it was a really crazy sprint with that last corner but I’m happy that I could stay in front,” said Greipel.Dedicating his win to his team, he said, “There was a bit of a headwind, but I think Sagan is a really fast guy and that’s why he has the green jersey; but we deserve this because we worked really hard for this victory.”
Greipel explained, “It was close until the end. I was dropped on the climb but I was going full gas on the way up and I had to do a sprint at the top to get in a small group and Lars Bak brought me back and then the team chased Vinokourov and Albasini. Then, when Luis Léon Sanchez attacked I thought, ‘Okay, now it’s over…’ but I was happy that Sky was still there and I could work out how to win this stage because I think my team deserves it.”
The tour today was in a transitional mode, as they exited from the Alps over to the Pyrenees, via some beautiful coastline by the Mediterranean sea. The 13th road Stage of the 99thTour de France was from, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Le Cap d’Agde,a distance of 217kms. For the record, only 163 riders turned up at the start today. With the whole country of France celebrating Bastille Day, fireworks from some of the French riders were expected on the course.
Though the race was going out of the Alps, the race route did have a climb at Mont Saint-Clair, and though it was an innocuous looking climb, it was bound to break a few riders. The stage break started right at the start with Michael Mørkøv of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, Pablo Urtasun of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis, Matthieu Ladagnous of FDJ-BigMat, and Roy Curvers of Argos-Shimano attacking on the drop of the flag. They were soon joined by Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun, Maxime Bouet of AG2R La Mondiale and Jérôme Pineau of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and by the 35km mark they were ahead of the peloton by almost 9min.
With the riders in the front coordinating well, it was the Orica-Greenedge team, which woke up first to the possibility that if they did not pull the breakaway back, Goss, their sprinter looking for a stage win, might not have a chance at all. Their turn in the front helped to bring in the escapees by a big way.
Seeing the gap come down, Pineau attacked the group, but was brought back. Then Mørkøv attacked, and he was able to get away. Motivated by the fact that the day was the same five years back, when he lost his father, Mørkøv unleashed a scathing pace, which on his own, got him almost a minute on the peloton, which on a flat stage is something unheard of. But this high output of energy was to see him crack, as he started the climb of Mont Saint-Clair.
On the stretch into the flatland, the scene was reminiscent of the 2009 tour, where an inattentive Contador was split from the leaders, when Armstrong, seeing that the cross winds were very strong, made George Hincapie and team work hard for him. Today, Hincapie on the BMC Racing team, again saw the same possibility, with 35km to go, and the BMC Racing team was suddenly at the forefront of the peloton and drove the peloton hard, and just like before, split the peloton into pieces.
In the meantime Mørkøv’s lead of over 3’30” slowly disappeared on Mont Saint-Clair, and in the end he was caught by the lead group, which in turn was led by Cadel Evans of BMC Racing, who was trying to put some time into Wiggins.
On the Mont Saint-Clair, couple of other riders also attacked, but Wiggins kept his pace and never bothered about the breaks, and in the end, he reeled them all in, one after the other. Mørkøv’s quest ended very near the summit of the climb, and he was never able to make it back to the lead group. This climb also saw the end of Cavendish’s& Goss’s attempt to win the stage today, as they were also shelled away.
In the descent, a lead group of 15plus riders hit the flat road to finish first. They were soon joined by another group of 20plus. In the end, almost 45 riders were all that made it to the front end. As soon as the lead group was formed, Alexander Vinokourov of Team Astana & Michael Albasini of Orica Greenedge made a break for victory. They kept at it till the final kms, but the lead group, which soon got a driver in Lotto-Belisol team, organized at the front, kept them in catchable length and 2km before the finish line, reeled them in. It was then that Sanchez made his dash for the line. But by then Team Sky had decided that Hagen would be the one they will put in the final stretch up ahead of the rest and Wiggins made his mark by coming to the front and delivering Hagen perfectly.
In the end, the brute speed of the German Gorilla was just too much for Sagan & Hagen to beat and they came in second & third respectively. With this, Sagan has ensured that bare some untoward incident, he will take the Green Jersey home, in his very first TdF!
The leader board remains unchanged. With Bradley Wiggins in The Yellow Jersey, Chris Froome in the second spot followed by Nibali&Evans at third and fourth spots. Jurgen van den Broeck rounds off the top five overall.The Yellow Jersey of the race leader continues with Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky. The Green Jersey for the points leader stays with Peter Sagan of Liqigas Cannondale. The White Jersey, for the best young rider also continues with Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racingteam, while Fredrick Kessiakoff of Team Astana continues asthe King of the Mountain polka dotted Jersey. Team RadioShack-Nissan also continues as the best team in the race.
Yellow Jersey of Bradley Wiggins said after the race,“Most of the time you’re doing the same effort whether you’re on front or 20th or 30th wheel with a finish like that with the wind doing what it was. There was no extra exertion doing the lead-out and it was just nice to help Eddie, because he’s an absolute gentleman and I’d like to be able to pay him back in some way. But obviously Greipel proved once again that he’s the fastest man.”
“It’s always difficult and it’s better at times when you’ve got a climb like that at the finish because you’ve got less guys. And the wind at the end wasn’t actually too difficult; the most difficult part of the day was getting to the climb in a good position because obviously a lot of guys were still there. Yeah, so it’s another step closer to Paris. After the climb it was a lot easier because there weren’t as many riders in our group but it was a day when you really couldn’t take your eye off the ball and you had to keep concentrating.”,
On what happened to Cavendish, he said, “I had asked what the situation was with Cav and when Sean (directeur sportif – Team Sky) said he wasn’t coming back, all our attention turned to Edvald and trying to help him out. It was a good stage. Tomorrow, on paper, shouldn’t be a day when things get out of hand. But I think it’s a day for the breakaway again and we’ll just marshal everything on the last climb but it’s a long way to the finish after that.”
The 14thstage of TdF will be from Limoux to Foix, a distance of 192kms, in the Pyrenees. Me thinks, the two ferocious climbs of Port de Lers, with 11.4 km at 7% incline and the final climb up the Mur de Péguère with inclines of nearly 18% will give most riders a glimpse of hell. I have been batting for Chavanel the whole of the Alps, and he did not show up except for one brief effort, which fizzled out. Will he wake up now? Me also expects, Evans and Nibali to put in a strong ride and try to claw something back from Wiggins. Also, it’s showtime for Franck Schleck, for if he does not come to the party now, he cannot later in this year’s tour. Watch this space tomorrow for another tour update…:)
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