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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A First: Alexander Kristoff Wins His First Career Tour Stage

            Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won stage 12 of the 101st Tour de France out of a reduced bunch sprint. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) rounded out the top 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained his yellow jersey for another day as the only change in the general classification was Tony Gallopin dropping out of the top five after he was dropped on the run-in to the finish.

            Kristoff was ecstatic at the finish. He was on top after the world after gaining his first career Tour de France stage win. When asked how he would celebrate, Kristoff said there definitely would be champagne, but he was also cautious knowing a hard stage in the Alps awaited him tomorrow.           

Casual Day at the Office

            The 12th stage of this year’s Tour de France traveled 185.5km from Bourg-En-Bresse to Saint-Etienne. The parcours today again included four climbs, but they were much steadier and longer than yesterday’s short punchy climbs. Many riders though were focusing on the horizon with two hard days in the Alps coming up. Furthermore, for the first time in the Tour the summer heat had arrived. Everyone wondered how the change in weather would affect the riders.

            After many attacks to begin the day, the right group of riders finally formed and the breakaway was allowed to gain time on the peloton. The breakaway included \Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp) Gregory Rast (Trek Factory Racing), Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge), David De La Cruz (Netapp-Endura), and Florian Vachon (Bretagne Seche-Environnement). The intermediate sprint point occurred very early, 39.5km in, and Vachon rolled over the line first to take the 20 sprints point and the 1500-euro prize. When the peloton came to the sprint point the big name sprinters, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Marcel Kittle (Giant-Shimano), sprinted hard while Peter Sagan (Cannondale) did not take part, choosing to save his energy.

            The breakaway continued to tap out a steady tempo over the first climb of the day, Cote de Brouily(1.7km, 5.1%), and the second climb of the day, Cote du Saule-d'Oingt (3.8km, 4.5%). David De La Cruz crossed the top of the each climb first, uncontested by his breakaway companions. Over the top of the second climb the break held 4’38” over the peloton, but “The Breakaway Killer” Ji Cheng (Giant-Shimano) was now on the front of the peloton. Going through town after the descent of the second climb, De La Cruz crashed in a corner, also taking out Langeveld. Langeveld immediately got up and began chasing his companions while De La Cruz lay on the pavement clutching his shoulder. De La Cruz would abandon the Tour on the spot. As Langeveld rejoined the breakaway with 90km to go the time gap to the peloton was approaching 5’.

Breaking Up

            On the third climb of the day with 60km remaining till the finish the wheels began to fall of for the breakaway. The Col du Brosses (15.3km, 3.3%) was a long climb, but not that steep meaning it was very fast. Vachon was the first to drop off the breakaway and he was soon followed by Rast. That left just two out front with the peloton chasing hard, being lead by Team EuropCar. Over the top of the climb the duo had 2’13” on the peloton with Gregory Rast still in-between them stuck in no mans land.

            The fourth climb of the day was going to be where it all went down. Would the pure sprinters be able to get over the top with the peloton? With a fast descent into town could a breakaway survive? The truth is both nearly happened. The Cote de Grammond (9.8km, 2.9%) was shorter and even less steep than the time before, meaning the pace on the climb was even faster. Langeveld and Clarke entered the last climb of the day with 30km to go and just under a 2’ advantage. The peloton was charging fast and soon an attack came. The EuropCar duo of Cyril Gautier and Perrig Quemeneur jumped out of the peloton in pursuit of the two leaders. Soon thereafter there was a touch of wheels in the peloton causing a few riders to go down including American Mathew Busche (Trek Factory Racing). At the 25km to go banner Clarke was now alone. Clarke had attacked Langeveld after he was unable to pull through. The EuropCar duo was now just 34” behind, with the peloton at  1’22”. The peloton was being thinned out greatly by the work of Giant-Shimano. Some top name sprinters were seen going backwards including Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma) and Marcel Kittle (Giant-Shimano). Also going backwards was current 5th overall Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol).

High Speeds

            At the top of the climb Simon Clarke held just 12” on the chasing duo and the peloton was just 50” behind them. Clarke chose to wait for the EuropCar riders knowing 3 pairs of legs were better than one. The descent off of the climb was fast and furious. Giant-Shimano was chasing hard, desperately wanting to deliver John Degenkolb to a stage win. The riders were hitting speeds of over 75kph on the open parts of the descent.

            As the road flattened out under the 10km to go banner the lead trio held just 20” over the peloton. The favorite for the win now seemed Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) as he was the fastest pure sprinter left in the bunch. At 7km to go, it was down to two as Quemeneur was dropped from the lead. Gautier kept flicking his elbow wanting Clarke to pull through and set pace for a little bit, but Clarke was unable to do so. His legs were clearly exhausted from over 170km out front. The riders raced under the 5km to go banner and it was now gruppo compacto.

            Right before the 3km banner there was a crash in the peloton involving Andre Greipel and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM). As the riders picked themselves up and got back on their bikes Greipel was seen yelling at Chavanel clearly blaming him for the crash. Up front though the peloton continued to charge towards a sprint finish. Inside of the last 1,000 meters no team had control and the peloton looked very disorganized. Out of the disorganization jumped Alexander Kristoff for his 1st career stage win. Peter Sagan got second place for the 4th time at this year’s Tour. Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma) was relegated from his 6th place finish for irregular sprinting. He almost put Degenkolb into the barriers. Degenkolb ended up finishing 14th clearly affected by Trentin and not the result he was hoping for.

            Tomorrow the Tour de France goes into the Alps. The 13th stage from Saint-Etienne to Chambrousse covers 197.5km and three categorized climbs. The cat. 3 Col de la Croix Montvieux comes early in the stage, as the riders will then tackle the cat. 1 Col de Palaquit, before finishing at the ski resort atop of the Hors Category Chambrousse.

Stage 12 Results:

Stage Winner: Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
White Jersey: Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)

Polka Dot Jersey: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

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