This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 4th tour
Over the last 5-6 stages, everyday, Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank, has been trying to make it into the breakaway or trying to create an escape in the final stages, somehow trying to reach the finishing stage alone and claim a stage for his team. Till Stage 13, he was unlucky, but today, he rode a very planned race and played his cards to perfection thus outwitting the breakaway and riding in to Foix, to claim his fourth stage win in the Tour.
“Since the start of the tour I have never given up on the idea of being in breakaways in the hope of winning stage. I was injured during the first week, but I persisted. Not everything worked out in our favour at first, but I knew that this stage was made for me; I really wanted to do something today. Of course, when I saw that Sagan and Gilbert were also in the break, I thought it would be almost impossible to beat them, and my only option was to attack from a long way out. This is why we accelerated with Kruiswijk at the top of the Mur de Péguère, and then I attacked solo near the finish.”, said Sanchez.
“I intend to keep trying to go in the breakaways and, why not, pick up another stage win. I also think about the Olympics, because I’m doing better and better right now and my wrist does not hurt anymore. I’d like to go to do something.
I always have had trouble with very high mountains, and that is why it complicates things to aim for overall victory in a Grand Tour. I know that since Indurain, the Spanish mentality is to be interested mainly in 3 week races. But I do not have the legs for this kind of feat, even though I already finished in the top 10. After all, I’ve won four stages on the Tour de France, and I intend to keep adding more” warned Sanchez, indicating that he was not going to stop with this laurel, but that he was looking for more stages in the tour.
The first day in the Pyrenees,saw the 14th road Stage of the 99thTour de France go from Limoux to Foix,a distance of 191kms. For the record, all the 163 riders who finished yesterday, turned up at the start today.
The race started in Limoux and soon action was seen upfront with several riders trying to make the break of the day. But the lucky ones to get away were very few and it was only around the 55km mark that the break of the day actually materialised. The Green jersey Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale, Gorka Izaguirre of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing, Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank, Sandy Casar of FDJ-BigMat, Cyril Gautier of Europcar, Sébastien Minard of AG2R La Mondiale, Eduard Vorganov of Katusha, Steven Kruiswijk of Rabobank, Sergio Paulinho of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank and Martin Velits of Omega Pharma-Quick Step were the 9 riders who escaped.
With remarkable and cohesive riding, the group was able to build a lead of almost 15 minutes on the Team Sky lead peloton. With none of the escapees challenging for the Yellow jersey, the peloton left them alone. This was the gap when the peloton reached the climb of Port de Lers. On the climb up, again the escapees kept themselves together, with Sagan taking the intermediatery sprint of the stage. On the descent, Gautier had a mechanical and lost touch with them, but rejoined the group before the climb of Mur de Péguère began.
With narrowing roads, it was here that the Rabobank duo played their card, as they kicked up the pace and this soon saw Sanchez head away from the group. Trying to keep up with him, Gilbert & Casar also joined him. Sagan & the rest were distanced for sometime. But Sagan showing his true form, slowly but steadily rode himself back into the race, by creeping in behind the three riders along with Minard. But as the climb started to become more steeper, it was Casar, who finally took a look back and found Sagan almost catching them, who upped his pedal speed and made for broke.His jump saw him race away to the summit of Mur de Péguère, but behind him, Sagan turned the tables on others by catching and overtaking both Sanchez & Gilbert!
On the descent, Sagan soon caught up with Casar and Izaguirre, and overtook them, and continued the ride down. Over the final 25km, Sanchez & Gilbert, both worked together to bridge with the leading three and did finally manage to join up with them with 15km still to go. But as they were nearing Foix, with almost 11km still to go, it was Sanchez who made the jump. His clear motive was to distance himself from the Green jersey of Sagan, for with him in the group, he knew that none of them stood a chance for a stage win, and in this he succeeded. None of the other riders could make the jump with him and soon Sanchez, the TT champion of Spain for the last 2 years, showed his strong form and rode away to the finish line to complete another victory at the tour. For the record, Sagan came in second & Casar came in third.
But, while all this action was going on in the front, more was happening at the back in the peloton. As the peloton reached the climb of Mur de Péguère, the race leaders all grouped up in the front, as has been the norm, there was a jostle for space. Cavendish of Team Sky who was seen in the front for a long time in the descent from Port du Lers kept the tempo up as the climb to Mur de Péguère began. Halfway on the climb, Evans attacked, but with no success. As the lead group summited, all hell broke loose, as a spate of flat tires resulted in Evans, Scarponi, and many others getting stranded. In the confusion, Evans was the first major race leader to be effected, and soon found himself behind the Yellow group by almost 27secs, which after 2 more flats went up to 2mins.
This scenario of riders and motorbikes flatting, soon made way for reports of tacks being found spread liberally on the course. In total, more than 30 flats were reported, something unheard of in a major world class event for over a century. At the time of posting this blog, the organisers were considering Police action. A casualty of this incident was Robert Kiserlovski of Team Astana, who crashed and had to be sent to hospital in an ambulance. A shameful incident indeed!
With three flats, Evans team of BMC Racing soon organized themselves and bridged the gap with lots of help from the Yellow jersey group, who on realizing what had happened, sat up and allowed the suffering riders to join back. As Evans rejoined the main group, he waved a hand of thanks, across to the two directeur sportif’s of Team Sky & Liqigas-Cannondale, who played a major role in containing their teams from racing away to take advantage of this mishap.
A small sub story in the affair was that of Pierre Rolland of Europcar, who with out waiting for the flatted riders, made a bid to get sometime on them and raced away. Wiggins was seen reacting with disgust to his action, and soon the peloton led by Lotto-Belisol & Liqigas- Cannondale decided to rein him in, as he could turn out dangerous to the their team leaders in the overall championship. But fortunately, the team car of Europcar, made the call and Rolland sat up in the descent and was swallowed back as all the riders started out together again. In the end, the whole group finished on the same time some 18’15” behind Sanchez.
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.
Two points, that me thinks, must be mentioned is that out of 9 Rabobank riders, only 4 are riding currently in the race. So Sanchez’s victory is indeed a huge salvation for the team. Also, Sanchez himself, was one of the very badly injured riders, having fallen on the second day of the race after a spill with Tony Martin, and carrying a badly sprained wrist, even now. Inspite of all this, he continued riding every single day, looking for the win and staying in the hunt till he succeeded. Salutes to this champion!!
Lots of time & efforts are being spent by fans and critics to interpret their take on the interview given by Froome, which was published by L’Equipe the French newspaper, today. Me thinks, he is stating the very obvious. He is a better rider than Wiggins, having seen him in the Giro last year, where he was asked to support a fading Wiggins, till Wiggins could not take it any more, and then was released to freely chase the title, which he missed, as he had given away too much time to the eventual lucky winner – Juan Jose Cobo, Froome has shown for quite some time that he is a better climber than Wiggins. Why, just the other day, Bernard Hinault, a 5 time Tour winner, commented that Team Sky was backing the wrong rider, and that Froome was a better rider than Wiggins any given day. So him stating that he is sacrificing himself in the line of duty is nothing but plain truth.
Yellow Jersey of Bradley Wigginscommenting on the happenings as the race crossed the summit ofMur de Péguère said,“I didn’t see a lot out on the road really. I just heard that there were so many flats in a couple of seconds. I wasn’t aware of it until it happened. No one wants to benefit from someone else’s misfortune so I think we should decide this thing on the climbs, through racing and not through other people’s misfortune. “
Wiggins stated, “I heard rumours that there were thumb tacks on the road. It’s unfortunate that something external to the racing is affecting the racing. It’s quite sad really. Everybody sees those situations differently but personally I wouldn’t want to benefit from something like that. I thought the best thing to do is to wait. If you can’t gain times on the climbs, then you don’t do it when someone’s punctured – not even when it’s an ordinary puncture… so when it was something like what happened today, something external affecting the race, then it’s even more so.
“There were so many punctures at once that it was obvious that something had happened. We went up the climb hard. Nothing happened. And obviously it seems logical to wait; we were 17 minutes behind the breakaway… when everyone punctured at once it made sense to ride easy for a couple of kms, so everybody could get their wheels changed. The climb was so narrow that the team cars were a long way back and waiting seemed the honourable thing to do.”
The 15thstage of TdF will be from Samatan to Pau, a distance of 158.5kms, in the Pyrenees. Me thinks,with two Cat 4 & one Cat 3 climbs on the course tomorrow, it will be a sprinters finish to watch out for. Will it be another Greipel vs Sagan duel, or will the Sky train roar into station with Cavendish? I will place my money on Cavendish, for he has so much to prove, while the others have already won 3 stages each.Watch this space tomorrow for another tour update…:)
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