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.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tour De France Stage 3 Report

The Aussie’s Rule the Day

Simon Gerrans (Orica – GreenEdge) just edged out Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the line to win Stage 3 of the 2013 Tour De France. It is the Aussie’s second career stage win at the Tour De France, but the first stage win for the Australian team Orica-GreenEdge, in only its second year of existence. Gerrans was ecstatic at the finish exclaiming, “It is fantastic. I’m thrilled for Orica-GreenEdge to the get the win.” With most of the sprinter getting dropped on the final category 2 climb that peaked out just 13.5 km from the finish, the stage looked set for Peter Sagan to open his 2013 Tour De France bank account. But it was not to be. A huge surge by Daryl Imprey (Orica-GreenEdge) in the last 500 meters brought Gerrans into second position, ensuring his win over Sagan.  

How it All Started

Attacks began from the get go with a relatively short stage by Tour standards at just 145.5 km. But it was a stage that included four categorized climbs with the final climb a nasty cat. 2, and an average gradient of 8.6% peaking out just 13.5 km from the finish. A breakaway looked as though it may have its first chance to succeed at this years Tour. Liuewe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) initiated the first attack right from the 0 km, followed by four riders bridged up to him immediately—Sebastien Minard (AG2R), Alexis Vuillermoz (Sojasun), Cyril Gautier (EuropeCar) and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge)—forming a strong group.

While the breakaway continued, the Tour saw its first casualty of the 100th edition with Andrey Keshechkin (Astana Pro Team) abandoning towards the base of the days first climb with 133 km still to race. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), usually a strong rider, was seen at the back of the peloton throughout the day, nursing a slight fracture of his pelvis he suffered during yesterday’s tumultuous first stage.

Clarke claimed the first climb of the day, the category 4 the Col du San Bastiano, sprinting from a long way out and barely beating out Vuillermoz at the summit, gaining a single point. On the descent, the leaders stretched out there lead to a maximum 4’ 20’’ with 128.5 km still to race. In the valley that followed the break seemed content to save energy and power on with Sebastien Minard leading the group across the line at the uncontested intermediate sprint with 117 km still to race.

The Stage Begins to Heat Up

As the mercury began to touch 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the pace in the field began to heat up as they quickly approached the intermediate sprint, with many sprint trains forming across the road, Cannondale and Argos-Shimano the most prominent. Marcel Kittle won the sprint for the best of the rest gaining 10 points to extend his lead over Peter Sagan to eights points at 57 to 49, respectively, as all of the big name sprinters scored points. The second climb of the day was the nasty Col du San Martino, a cat. 3 climb offering two points at the top, double the points that were offered at the top of the Col du San Bastiano earlier in the day. Again, Clarke won the hotly contested sprint beating out Vuillermoz.

As the breakaway descended the Col racing quickly towards the next climb, back in the field the GC teams began moving towards the front, with Saxo-Tinkoff and Team Sky showing their faces. Cresting the climb, the teams saw a harrowing descent that was narrow and unforgiving. Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) fell victim to the tight and narrow roads, crashing into one of the brick guardrails, Team Belkin took control at the front. The break meanwhile had begun the third climb of the day, the Cote de Porto. At just 2 km in length it was short, but mighty steep, evident with its category 3 ranking. Clarke again moved to the front at the top sprinting away to gain maximum points, again ahead of Vuillermoz. This put Clarke in a tie for first place in the King of Mountains competition with the category 2 Col du Marsolino still to come offering up 5 points to the first rider across. As the field crested the summit of the third climb of the day with the break;s lead a mere 30 seconds, there was trouble at the back as Mark Cavendish dropped off the field. He would rejoin on the descent with help from his teammates.

The Calm Before the Storm

The course continued along the coast with rolling hills and sweeping bends that seemed to never go in one direction for a particularly long time. With 64 km to go Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and about 5 other riders hit the deck just after the feed zone. Terpstra was seen grimacing in pain and holding his wrist as he waited for a new wheel. He would rejoin the bunch and call off the doctor’s car, eventually finishing the stage along side Mark Cavendish. With 50 km to go and the break’s lead pushed back out to 2 minutes, the work on the front of the peloton fell to RadioShack-Leopard-Trek. Just 10 km later, the break lead fell to 1 minute, with RadioShack’s Jens Voight setting a fast tempo on the front. At about the same time, the Champion of France Arthur Vichot (FDJ), hit the deck appearing to fall victim to a touch of wheels. It was clear the nerves began to show as the riders anticipated fireworks on the final climb, peaking just 13.5 km from the finish.

Boom Goes the Dynamite

With 21 km to go the infighting had begun as Simon Clarke attacked his breakaway companions with only Sebastein Minard able to follow. Clarke appeared to be a man on a mission to stand on the podium today wearing Polka Dots. The duo hit the climb hard, but the field was fast approaching, still being driven by Voight. At 17 km to go the field was imploding with the likes of Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittle moving backwards along with the rest of the sprinters.  At 16.6 km to go, just 3.1 km from the summit, Clarke chose to go alone with another acceleration that detached Minard. Just 15.8 km to go and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), a former leader of the Vuelta a Espana, attacked the bunch in pursuit of Clarke and a potential stage win. One km later and  just 1.3 km from the summit, EuropeCar launched the classic two pronged attack with Pierre Rolland sitting second wheel decked head-to-toe in Polka Dots and looking determined to hold onto the jersey he said he would not defend before the stage. Simon Clarke’s mission ended just half a kilometer later as the EuropeCar duo made contact with Clarke and then continued on. Clarke attempted to follow the EuropeCar riders, but to no avail, a day in the break clearly tapping him out. Igor Anton, who had been stuck in no-man’s land and had been passed by the EuropeCar duo, passed Clarke and made contact with EuropeCar riders at 14.3 km to go and 800 meters from the summit. The field absolutely decimated behind with all of the big teams at the front and the yellow jersey of Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard-Trek) sitting perfectly in third position. The three riders up the rode held a slim 10-second advantage. With the summit in sight a slew of riders attacked and Rolland conserved his lead by winning the climb. He hit the descent hard dropping his companions and continuing alone in search of a stage win.

A Mad Dash to the Line

With just 10 km to go Rolland held a slim 10-second gap, but Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was attacking the field. At 7.8 km to go a quartet formed at the front including Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Belkin), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Rolland, and a clearly determined Sylvain Chavanel. They came ever so close, just being swept up with 3 kilometers to go as Team Cannondale drove the pass at the front of the field. The crowd was screaming in anticipation at the finish. With no other big names there, only one question left – how would Sagan celebrate this one? As they came around the sweeping bend with 500 meters to go Orica stole the front from Cannondale with Gerrans sitting second wheel and Sagan moving in right behind. As they came to the line it was shoulder to shoulder and both men threw their bikes in an effort to outreach the other. They crossed the line and looked at each other—who had won. In the end it was Simon Gerrans who stole the show. Jose Rojas (Movistar Team) rounded out the podium in third. As a consolation prize Sagan took over the lead in the Sprinters Competition and pulled on the green jersey. The top of the General Classification remained unchanged with Jan Bakelants pulling on a second yellow jersey at the end of the day and still holding a one-second advantage over 93 riders.  The stage was a fitting end to an unpredictable three days of racing on the French island of Corsica. Tomorrow the teams will show their faces at the Team Time Trial around Nice are destined to shake up the General Classification. 

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