This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 2nd full tour
Riblon proves breakaways do succeed !
The 14th Stage of the TdF was from Revel to Ax 3 Domaines, a distance of 184.5km. The first day in the Pyrenees and the battle between the two best riders on show Contador & Schleck was out in the open for all to see. With the biggest challenge of the day being the climb of the Hors Categorized Port de Pailhères, which was around 30km before the final climb to the finish line, it was battle royale in the peleton and a tattered peleton it was in the end. As predicted by me in yesterday’s post Astana burned up a few riders who did try put Contador in a leader’s situation. But it was Andy Schleck who actually won the mental battle, as Contador in spite of putting in savage bursts of acceleration couple of times was unable to shake off the younger Schleck. Frenchman Christophe Riblon of Ag2r was the one who seized the initiative for the day and having stuck into the breakaway of the day stayed ahead of all others and finished the stage off in style with his first ever stage win in TdF.
For the start town of today, Revel, with a population of around 8,000, it’s the 9th visit for TdF. Considered as one of the most eco friendly towns in the Mid Pyrenees area, Revel has a tradition of Sports and Sports Clubs.
The finishing stage town of Ax 3 Domaines is on the TdF route for the 4th time. Carlos Sastre, a GC contender at the start of the TDF 2010, now placed 15th overall, has fond memories of this town as he won here in 2003. Ax 3 Domaines, which includes the Bonascre, Saquet and Campels skiing areas, has become the most popular resort town in the Pyrenees. Also the town is not far from the border with Andorra, making the valleys around Ax a tourist centre with lots of physical beauty.
The stage began at Revel with 175 riders in the peleton (less Rein Taaramae of Cofidis who had packed his bags during yesterday’s race). The race route for this stage was one with 2 intermediate sprints in it for the sprinters to bag Green jersey points and the first day of the Pyrenees had the Hors Categorized Port de Pailhères and the final climb into Ax 3 Domaines as its highlight.
Right at the very beginning a bunch of 12 rides tried to escape, but by the 9km mark only 5 were left in the front. This group had Caisse D’Epargne’s Ivan Gutierrez and so Team RadioShack chased down this break as Caisse D’Epargne team is their closest rival in the best team classification. By the 24th km Benoit Vaugrenard of Francaise des Jeu, Christophe Riblon of Ag2r, Van de Walle of Quick Step, Pierre Rolland of Bbox Telecom and Stephane Auge of Cofidis were in a move to break away & that they did.
After their escape they kept a good pace but by the time the climb of Port de Pailhères started the riders started dropping off. With the climb coming upon the riders, it was the pace of Christophe Riblon that made the mark & soon he dropped all others and was soloing it & having scaled the climb in the first spot, could fly down the descent taking all the risks that he could take. Sastre also tried to jump from the peleton and reach the leader, but that was not to be. Couple of other rides also tried the same stunt, but none could match Riblon as he kept expanding his time gap amongst the chasers.
In the GC riders group, Armstrong as soon as the climb began, was seen at the back of the peleton and finally came into the finish line with a group almost 10min behind the leaders. But it was Dennis Menchov of Rabobank & Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel Euskadi who fought hard and bettered their positions on the GC list.
So Riblon won the stage, which saw at one stage, between Ax 3 Domaines and the final climb for the riders, Contador & Schleck doing standstill riding on the climbs!! It was like a poker match with someone wanting to end this all. But today neither won & the results were the same too. Schleck was able to place himself right on the wheel of Contador and every time Contador accelerated, so did Schleck. This cat & mouse game saw the 3rd placed Sanchez & 4th place Menchov escapee and cut down on the overall GC standings. Over all the GC positions remain the same except for Levi Leipheimer of RadioShack who moves down one position.
After finishing the race & winning the prize for the most attacking also, Christophe Riblon said, “I was really disappointed with my start of the Tour, because I wanted to do something overall, and it did not work. Especially the last two days were very difficult, and I was almost depressed. But last night I would still not bet a euro on me. In the final I did not want to say ,‘I won’. I constantly repeated to myself, ‘I’m going to win’, but I did not want to be sure, not until the last kilometer. When you’re alone in front, with a few kilometers to the finish, the support of the public helps to carry you and it encourage you, it transforms you and gives you strength. I gave everything and I felt I could not lose.”
Andy Schleck talking about the tactics for the stage today’s said, “I have a plan and I wanted to follow it. If Alberto have been really bad, then I would have attacked but he wasn’t bad today – he was actually pretty good, but I was good also. When he did attack, like I said on the climb today, I cannot pass him so I had to stay on his wheel. It was a little bit of mind games between him and me but made enough mistakes for him to drop me – I passed him and pulled because I wanted to make it good… but I learned out of my mistakes. Tomorrow will be totally different but now it was clear that I could not have passed him because he would have attacked and gained seconds on me Today was a hard day and Alberto can handle it but the situation he’s in right now is not super. It’s not bad either but again today he could not drop me and that gives me a lot of confidence. I was never on the point of being dropped. I felt really good today. I think maybe I was a little better than him today.”
At the end of Stage 14 the over all race results are as follows. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank continues in the Yellow. Ale Jet of Lampre keeps the Green jersey. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank leads in the White jersey category (though on the road tomorrow Robert Gesink of Rabobank will wear that jersey as Andy wears his Yellow jersey) & Anthony Charteau of Bbox Telecom continues the King of the Mountain jersey. Caisse D’Epargne seizes the position as the best team in the race.
The Tour de France Stage 15, is from Pamiers to Bagnères-de-Luchon, a distance of 187.5km, with lots of climbs along the route, it will be a stage for the best descender as there is a long & very dangerous descent towards the finale finish line. Me thinks that Contador having tried some tricks today will try and open another set tomorrow. But with Andy showing strong form, it will be another team tactic that could open up the race. But Watch out for Samuel Sanchez, one of the best & fearless descenders in the race, he is bound to pick up some time on all riders tomorrow.
So till tomorrow…:)
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