Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tour De France Report: Stage 13

Cavendish Wins, Peloton Splinters in Crosswinds

Mark Cavendish captured his 25th career stage win at the Tour De France from a select group as the riders raced into the town of Saint-Amand-Montrond. Cavendish was delighted to win saying, “[The stage] was incredible. I am so proud of the guys.”

Early Breakaway Shot Down in Flames

The 13th stage of the 2013 Tour De France was a 173 km affair from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond. On paper it looked to be a day where everyone could just take a deep breath and relax. A fairly flat profile and one small climb, the category 4 Cote de Crotz, made it a perfect day for the sprinters. The day turned out to be anything but easy.

The day’s breakaway established after only 2 km and included Yohan Gene (EuropCar), Ruben Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Luis Mate (Cofidis), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre), and Kris Boekmans (Vacansoleil). The peloton kept them close allowing them to reach a maximum advantage of only 3’50’’.

Throughout the entire stage the peloton traveled in a Southeast direction across the heart of France. About 60 km into the stage, it started to get  exciting. The field began to get buffeted by a very strong crosswind. Omega-Pharma took their chances and hit the front of the peloton full gas working with a perfect echelon. The back of the field was a different story. Riders were single file and gaps quickly opened up.  Pretty soon the field was in tethers across the rode. There were now two pelotons with the field nearly split in half. All of the big names appeared to be up front but one. Marcel Kittle, the big German sprinter for Argos-Shimano, had missed the split along with most of Andre Greipel’s (Lotto) lead out men. There was still 110 km still to race, could Omega Pharma hold off the chasing group and eliminate Kittle of having a chance to contest the stage?

The breakaway was caught with 96 km to go as Omega Pharma continued to push the pace at the front with a little bit of help from Team Belkin. Pierre Rolland had made the split and gained a single point in the King of the Mountain classification by cresting the climb of the Cote de Crotz first. The chase group containing Kittle stayed locked in at 30’’ in the rear for a while then slowly got closer and closer to rejoining the front of the race. They came within 15 seconds of getting back on, when Omega-Pharma pushed the pace up another gear expanding the gap again.

Disaster Strikes

Alejandro Valverde (MoviStar) was sitting comfortably in the front group when disaster struck him in the feed zone with 88 km still to race. He got a puncture and his team car was stuck behind the second peloton. He quickly got a new wheel from a teammate, but he lost 30 seconds. He was now stuck right in the middle of the two pelotons, as the Kittle group was now 1’00’’ behind. Five of his MoviStar teammates came back to help him rejoin the front group. They chased furiously and for a moment it looked as though they would rejoin, but Team Belkin thought otherwise. Belkin began helping more in setting the pace up front because with Valverde out of the front group, Bauke Mollema was set to move up into second place overall. Valverde would not rejoin the front group and got picked up by the chasing peloton containing Marcel Kittle. The chasing group was now 1’15’’ behind the front group containing the yellow jersey. Kittle’s group would never catch back on and finished the stage almost 10 minutes behind winner Mark Cavendish. Alejandro Valverde’s bid for a yellow jersey in Paris had officially ended.

Saxo Catches Froome Napping

For the first time all race the big-time sprinters had a chance to score a full 20 points at the intermediate sprint point with no breakaway up the road. Like always Andre Greipel (Lotto) cleaned house followed by Cavendish and Peter Sagan.

Soon after the intermediate sprint disaster struck the polka dot jersey of Pierre Rolland. He had a puncture. He got a new wheel, but try as he might he would not rejoin the front group.

With 30 km to go, the pace seemed to settle down in the front, as Omega-Pharma and Belkin appeared to be getting tired. Team Saxo-Tinkoff took their chance and went to the front and drove the pace way up as the riders continued to battle the crosswinds. This split the front group, creating an even more select group of riders at the front of the race.

The lead group was now just fourteen riders, but six of them were from Saxo-Tinkoff, including Alberto Contador and Roman Krueziger. Jakob Fuglsang for Astana made the split. Also, present in the front group was Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan. Cavendish nearly missed the split created by Saxo-Tinkoff telling reporters after the race, “I nearly missed it. Kwiatkowski got me halfway across. He was a little gassed so I told him to move left and I sprinted the rest of the way across.” He added “It’s one of those things were you got 5 seconds…” to react. Laurens Ten Dam and Bauke Mollema also made the split for Team Belkin. The question was ‘Where was the yellow jersey rider Chris Froome?’ He was now stuck in the second group on the rode with the other contenders.

It became a furious battle to the line as the front group gained back time on the yellow jersey. Team Sky again showed they are vulnerable as one by one they began to drop off the yellow jersey group, exhausted from trying to pull Froome back up to Contador and the others. Soon Froome was isolated yet again and dependent on other teams to pull him back up to the front of the race.

Up front everyone was helping in the pace setting, including Cavendish, Sagan, and Contador. The gap between the lead group and the yellow jersey group stayed locked in at 10 seconds, but then the elastic snapped and the lead group pulled away.  At the 10 km-to-go banner the leaders had a 40’’ lead back to the yellow jersey group. Contador was seen up front yelling encouragement to his team and the other riders in the group. Every rider’s face was a picture of suffering as they rode on their limit up front. The group had so much to gain and they did not want to waste their chance.

As they came into the finishing straight Sylvain Chavanel led out the group with Sagan in second position and Cavendish on Sagan’s wheel. As Chavanel peeled off, Sagan hesitated, opening the door for Cavendish to win with ease. Cavendish crossed the line slapping his sides, the name of his team Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

When Froome crossed the line the damage had been done. He lost 1’09’’ to the lead group, which had contained everyone now inside the top 6 on the general classification except him.

After the stage Froome was realistic, saying, “I’ve still got a comfortable lead, but today was just another reminder that this race is wide open.” Alberto Contador remained cautionary as well saying, “The Tour is far from over. A thousand things can happen any day.”

Chris Froome now led Bauke Mollema by 2’28’’ with Contador in third place just 2’45’’ down. With 18 climbs still to come in this year’s race Contador is right, anything can happen.

Tomorrow the peloton travels 191 km from Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon. It’s a roller coaster stage with seven categorized climbs (2 cat. 3, 5 cat. 4). But look for a bunch sprint since the climbs are not very high in difficulty. Put your money on Peter Sagan as he will have to use the least amount of energy out of  the fast men to get over the climbs.

No comments :

Post a Comment