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.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tour De France Report: Stage 18

A Countries Hero: Christophe Riblon Wins Queen Stage

Frenchman Christophe Riblon (AG2R) won the Queen stage of this year’s Tour De France, surviving out of a breakaway that completely shattered during the two ascents of L’Alpe d’Huez. American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) finished a disappointing second, after he had been leading for most of the final ascent, but was caught by Riblon with two km to go.

After the stage Riblon shed tears of joy saying, “It’s unbelievable.” Clearly it was a victory for his team as he added, “Right from the start of the Tour, we set our hearts on a stage victory.”

Meanwhile, Chris Froome (Sky) narrowly avoided a horrendous meltdown as he conceded more than one minute to Nairo Quintana (MoviStar). Luckily for him the other contenders suffered and he actually came out of the day extending his lead. After the stage Froome said “[Today was] not a huge setback. Richie was definitely feeling a lot better than I was today.”

A Race for the Break

The 18th stage of the 2013 Tour De France was a leg killer. The stage was 177.5 km starting in the town of Gap and ending on the famed L’Alpe d’Huez. The challenge was in the 6 categorized climbs on the day, twice up Alpe d’Huez. The stage all included the harrowing descent down the Col du Serenne, with its narrow road and bumpy roads; it was the ultimate test of a rider’s bike handling ability.

The stage started incredibly fast with the Col de Manse (2) right off the bat. The riders hit the climb very hard and immediately the peloton shattered with riders attacking off the front and getting dropped off the back. Saxo-Tinkoff was at the center of it all driving the pace and sending riders off the front. Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) was doing most of the animation, forcing Froome to come out and play early. Sky looked very shaky early, leaving Froome with only Richie Porte (Sky) by his side. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) crested the climb first, but it would all come back together on the descent.

As the peloton transitioned to the second climb of the day, the Ramp du Motty (3), a breakaway finally formed. It was composed of nine riders and included Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Jens Voigt (RadioShack), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Andrey Amador (MoviStar), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma), Lars Boom (Belkin), and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp). Back in the peloton riders were engrossed in conversation and Michael Rogers was at the center of it. He was seen talking with Froome and then Porte. Porte was very animated talking with him, probably not believing they had just gone up that challenging climb.
Saxo Sets the Groundwork

Saxo-Tinkoff, the team of Alberto Contador, was clearly on a mission: to attack Chris Froome and gain time. At the base of the of the Ramp du Motty, Nicolas Roche and Sergio Paulinho jumped out of the field. It would be a long chase as the break was over 5’00’’ up the rode. Possibly Saxo was setting up a scenario for Contador to bridge to his teammates on the final climb because there is always power in numbers.

Tom Danielson crested the top of the climb first with the Saxo-Tinkoff duo coming over the top 5’15’’ behind the lead nine riders and the peloton a further two minutes behind them with 100 km still to race.

Over the next climb, the Col d’Ornon (2), the leaders gap to the two chasers stayed constant at around the five-minute mark with Roche doing most of the work and the peloton now more than eight minutes in the rear.

On the descent everyone started to get a little bit nervous as they made their way to the next climb of the day. L’Alpe d’Huez. The breakaway split into two groups of four and five, respectively, as they came upon the intermediate sprint, won by Lars Boom, right before the base of the climb.

L’Alpe d’Huez: The First Time

As the breakaway hit the base of the famed mountain they were all together and the fans that had been waiting days for them were going ballistic. As the Saxo-Tinkoff duo hit the base of the climb, Paulinho gave Roche a pat on the back as a thank you for the pace making he did and lifted his pace, quickly dropping Roche. The Sky led peloton hit the climb rather gently, everybody cautious and perhaps waiting for the next time up to attack.

Up front Tejay Van Garderen was attacking his breakaway companions with Christophe Riblon in pursuit. The breakaway was now all over the mountain in shambles, as was the peloton. Many of the sprinters were seen going backwards as was Dan Martin who was 10th overall to at the start of the day. He would finish the day in the gruppetto, losing any hope of a high placing in Paris. Team Sky continued to ride steady up the mountain perhaps just hard enough so that no one could attack, eventually bringing back both Saxo riders.

As Tejay Van Garderen reached the top of the climb Riblon and Moreno Moser caught up with him. Moser crested the climb first. Meanwhile, down the rode riders began attacking out of the peloton. Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland (EuropCar) formed a chase group with Laurent Didier (RadioShack) and Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil). Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) soon joined them along with Andy Schleck (RadioShack). These attacks garnered no reaction from the boys in black and blue of team Sky. Andrew Talansky (Garmin) tried to bridge up to the chase group, but to no avail.

As the chase group crested the summit of L’Alpe the first time they had shed Voeckler and Didier and were 7’20’’ behind the lead trio, with many riders from the breakaway still surviving between them and the front group. The peloton crested the summit 8’20’’ behind the leaders.

A Nasty Little Bugger

The Col de Serenne (2) was a nasty little climb. Riblon and Van Garderen shed Moser before reaching the top, with Van Garderen reaching the crest first. Moser was clearly suffering, his face an image of pain. Back at the peloton there had been a changing of the guard as MoviStar took control at the front. Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin) who started the day 6th overall was dropped on the climb. He would rejoin on the descent, but then get dropped again falling all the way to 10th overall by day’s end. The chase group, including Andy Schleck, crested the top 6’04’’ back with the peloton 7’45’’ back.

Harrowing Descent

The descent off the Col de Serenne was nerve racking; with narrow roads and tight corners it was not for the light of heart. Riblon and Van Garderen flew down the descent, but suddenly Van Garderen could not pedal his bike, his gears had jammed. As he waited by the rode side for a new bike, Moser flew by him and caught back up with Riblon. In the chase group Pierre Rolland was having trouble. Not able to take the corners as fast as the others, he was getting dropped.

In the peloton Roman Krueziger and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) attacked. Suddenly up front Riblon overshot a corner and rode into a muddy ditch. He did not crash, but he had to dismount and climb through the mud to get back on the rode. Riblon chased hard and rejoined Moser as they passed under the 25 km to go banner. Meanwhile, Van Garderen was still 30 seconds behind trying to get back with the leaders. The chase group had lost Rolland, but picked up Sylvain Chavanel who had been left out in no man’s land with break absolutely falling to pieces on the first ascent of L’Alpe d’Huez. With 17 km to the finish line Van Garderen made contact with the lead duo, while the peloton, led by team MoviStar reeled, Contador and Krueziger back in. Four km from the base of the final ascent of L’Alpe d’Huez, Van Garderen made contact with the two leaders. The chase group containing Andy Schleck was still more than six minutes behind, and the peloton more than eight minutes back.

A World of Pain

The lead trio hit the bottom of the L’Alpe and rode into a tunnel of noise. The crowds seemed bigger and louder than on the first climb of the mountain. Riblon launched off the front as Jens Voight, who had been riding alone, was about to make contact with the leaders. Only Van Garderen was able to follow Riblon, leaving Moser to ride his own pace to the top. As Voight passed Moser, Van Garderen dropped Riblon, determined to ride to the win solo.

MoviStar drove the peloton towards the base of climb, picking up ruminants of the breakaway, and 7’00’’ behind the leaders, riders began flying off the front. One of those riders was the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (MoviStar). Meanwhile, Porte steadily led Froome past all of the riders that had attacked. The peloton had been whittled down to a very select group with most of the contenders there.  Up front Van Garderen continued to push through the crowds. As he came upon the 10 km-to-go banner he held a 4’20’’ gap on the yellow jersey group containing all of the GC men and 15’’ on Riblon, including Roman Krueziger who started the day third overall was getting unhitched at the back.

Suddenly Froome put in a hard acceleration and the young Nairo Quintana (MoviStar) bridged up easily. With the help of a teammate, Joaquin Rodriguez made contact with Froome, while Porte made contact with the group as well. That acceleration shed Contador and many others alike.

Van Garderen continued to push on, trying to win a stage to salvage the disappointing Tour BMC was having. With 7 km to go, the yellow jersey group was 3’58 behind him and Riblon was losing more ground, now 25’’ back. At the 5 km-to-go banner Van Garderen’s lead on Riblon was now 37’’ and still 3’30 back to the quartet of Rodriquez, Quintana, Porte, and Froome. Contador was a further minute behind them and now alongside Krueziger. His thoughts of a last ditch effort to win the Tour, vanishing. Then Froome was calling for the team car, did he have a flat? No. He wanted a gel, but feeding had closed with 6 km left to go in the race. Froome sent Porte back to the team car to take a feed so he wouldn’t be penalized. Porte and Froome would each get docked 20 seconds at the end of the day and fined 200 dollars for taking an illegal feed. As Froome suffered and ate the gel, Rodriguez put in an attack and only Quintana could follow this time; Froome simply was suffering badly.

As the leaders came within the last 3 km it was Van Garderen also was suffering badly and pedaling squares. Riblon, who was motivated by his home country’s fans, had found a second wind and was closing in fast on the American only 20’’ behind. At the 2 km-to-go banner the catch was made and Riblon immediately attacked past. The American could only look on as the stage win went up the rode.

Christophe Riblon powered across the line throwing his arms in the air, tears in his eyes. He not only won this stage for himself, but for the country of France. Van Garderen crossed the line a minute later, clearly distraught about what had happened so close to the finish. Next came Quintana and Rodriguez. They had gained valuable time on Froome and both would move up on the general classification with Quintana into 3rd place overall. Chris Froome rolled across the line alongside his lieutenant Richie Porte. He conceded a minute to Quintana, but gained time on everyone else. The Belkin boys, Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam were the big losers on the day. Both lost massive time and slipped places in the overall.

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