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 14, 2014

Nibali Stamps His Authority, Contador Crashes Out

            Stage 10 of the 101st Tour de France from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles was sure to bring to out the fireworks with seven categorized climbs on tap. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) stamped his authority as the favorite for the race by jumping away from a select group with 2km to go and taking the stage and more importantly more time into his rivals. He took back the yellow jersey from Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) who fought all the way to the finish to remain in the top 5 going into the rest day. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) led a select group of GC favorites including Tejay van Garderen (BMC) across the line 17 seconds after Nibali

The day was marked with another abandon though, this time Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). Contador crashed heavily on one of the descents midway through the race. He was slow to get up and when he did he seemed to be in no mood to ride anywhere quickly. After about 10km of suffering, he patted teammate Michael Rogers on the back, said a few words to him, and climbed off of his bike and into the team car. A second heavy favorite to win the Tour had bit the dust. As riders were interviewed after the stage one after another were stunned that Contador had abandoned. They knew he had crashed, but had thought he was still in the race. You could see a flash of disappointment across their faces. Cycling is a huge family. Yes, they are competitors, but they all love one thing, riding their bikes. The riders never like to see one of their own crash out.

A Misty Day on Bastille Day

            The day started perfectly for France. It is Bastille Day and they have a Frenchmen in yellow, Tony Gallopin. Gallopin was never a true threat to the overall, but he vowed to try to hold onto the maillot jaune for as long as possible.

A breakaway established right from the gun with Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Amael Moinard (BMC), Thomas Voeckler (EuropCar), Markel Irizar (Trek) and Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne Seche-Environnement) going clear. Soon they were joined by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Jan Barta (NetApp-Endura), creating a 10 man lead group.  The peloton led by Lotto-Belisol was content with this group going clear and the breakaway stretched their advantage to four and a half minutes going up the first climb of the day. Atop the Col du Firstplan (2) it was an all out sprint for the KOM points between Rodriguez and Voeckler as the rain pummeled the riders. Voeckler barely edged out Rodriguez creating an exciting battle between the two in the Polka Dot jersey competition.

Going down the slick descent Peter Sagan showed off his bike handling skills leaving his breakaway companions behind. He was aiming to get maximum points at the intermediate sprint in the valley. He wanted to extend his already monstrous 111-point advantage. Sagan crossed the line first at the intermediate sprint point and the breakaway reformed after splitting up on the treacherous descent. Meanwhile, a group of 5 riders, Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS), Tony Martin (OPQS), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Reto Hollenstein (IAM), and Marcel Wyss (IAM) had broken away from the peloton in pursuit of the leaders.

With the leaders approaching the second climb of the day, the Petit Ballon, the camera’s showed Ted King (Cannondale) passing through the intermediate sprint point alone, way behind all of the other riders. A few km later he would climb into his team car, his Tour de France over. That is a little bit heartbreaking for King, after being controversially time cut last year he really wanted to make it to Paris. He had been riding as the lantern rouge on the general classification for most of the Tour.

The breakaway continued to slog through the rain and fog up over the climbs. The group split up again on the Petit Ballon (1). This time at the top Rodriguez got the best of Voeckler by a couple of bike length as the breakaway group was down to 6 riders. The chase group of Tony Martin was only 35” behind at the top and had swelled greatly picking up the riders dropped from the breakaway. Martin was doing all of the work in the group, impressive considering he was in a break all day yesterday and rode the final 50km solo. The peloton went over the top 4’22” behind the leaders lead by Team Astana, the team of Vincenzo Nibali.

Crashing Out

            On the descent off of the Petit Ballon the chase group joined the breakaway riders and now a lead group of 13 had formed. The group included Sagan, Kwiatkowski, Martin, Riblon, Irizar, Taaramae, Wyss, Barta, Rodriguez, Voeckler, Moinard, and Visconti. Kwiatkowski started the day only 4 minutes behind the leader Tony Gallopin and he had become the virtual yellow jersey leader on the road.

            The descent off of the Petit Ballon was very slick and Tiago Machado (Netapp-Endura) went down very heavily. He would get back up and continuing riding. There was confusion during the stage about whether he had abandoned, but he did not. He would go onto finish the stage outside of the time limit, but I guess the race jury was in a good mood because he has been allowed to continue on in the race.

            Further down the descent Alberto Contador hit the deck rather heavily. Blood was flowing out of a deep gash on his right knee and the back of his jersey was ripped and blackened from the pavement. It appeared he had slid a long way on the road. Contador appeared very fragile on the side of the road as the race doctor bandaged his knee. He appeared to be in no rush at all as the race continued to charge towards the next climb. Astana had begun to drive hard on the front of the peloton, which was now 4’55” behind the leaders. Michal Kwiatkowski was a good climber and Astana did not want him to gain a huge advantage. Finally, when Contador got back on his bike he was 4’ down on the peloton, which was not waiting for him. Contador looked awful on the bike, every pedal stroke looked painful, and he kept talking to his director in the team car. Eventually, Contador climbed into his team car, the second big favorite to abandon the race. After the race was finished team Tinkoff-Saxo revealed Contador had broken his tibia in the crash. Contador showed the strength and spirit of a bike rider as he had tried to continue on even with a broken leg.

A Slog Through the Mountains

            Joaquim Rodriguez again got maximum KOM points atop the third climb of the day the Col du Platzerwasel as the breakaway had thinned out. With 86 km to go the breakaway riders still had a 4’ advantage, but Astana was chasing hard. The descent off of the Col du Platzerwasel was long though, giving the riders a chance to rest their legs with four more climbs still to go.

            Tony Martin continued to do all of the work in the breakaway in support of his teammate Kwiatkowski. The two Omega Pharma riders were joined by Visconti, Rodriguez, Riblon, Taaramae, Wyss, Voeckler, and Moinard (BMC) in the breakaway. This core group of nine would stay together over the next two climbs of the day, the Col d’Oderen and Col des Croix. Rodriguez would continue to build on his lead in the KOM competition taking maximum points over both climbs. Over the Col des Croix the breakaway still had 2’41” over the peloton. A large lead considering that Astana was using all of their team to chase the breakaway and Tony Martin was the only pulling the breakaway. He was doing a TT again today.


            The final two climbs of the day were bound to bring out the favorites with both being category 1’s. The penultimate climb, the Col de Chevreres was 3.5km at 9.5%. It was short, but brutal with extended sections of the climb pitching upwards of 18%. Racing under the 25km to go banner the leaders were still hanging onto a lead of 2’17”, but that was about to change. Tony Martin finally appeared human as the breakaway hit the climb. Martin’s face turned to a grimace of pain for the first time and he swung off of the front after a 60+ km pull and nearly came to a standstill. Martin’s teammate Michal Kwiatkowski accelerated and the breakaway imploded all over the road. The peloton meanwhile was in a mad dash to the climb too. All of the GC favorites were fighting for position as the road on the Col du Chevreres was very narrow.

            The peloton hit the base of the climb and riders immediately started falling off of the back including the yellow jersey, Tony Gallopin. The Astana lead peloton had begun to pick up the remnants of the breakaway. Up front, Rodriguez and Kwiatkowski were leading, followed by a hard chasing Visconti. Soon Kwiatkowski found him self in trouble and was dropped by Rodriguez and then passed by Visconti.  Rodriguez found himself alone over the top of the climb, but soon Visconti joined him on the descent followed by a chasing Kwiatkowski. Only 3 riders from the breakaway remained out front. Back in the bunch American hopeful Andrew Talansky was getting dropped. He appeared to be in a world of pain from his crashes the previous days before.

            With 10 km to go Kwiatkowski had gotten back up to the two leaders on the descent towards the finishing climb La Planche des Belles Filles (1). Kwiatkowski soon dropped his two companions and soldiered on alone. That would be short lived as he would soon be joined by Rodriguez. As the riders started the finishing climb the lead duo had 17” on Visconti and 1’36” on the peloton. The peloton was again being lead by Astana, though Nibali was down to just two teammates. All of the GC favorites were in the now select group except for Talansky who was behind and losing minutes by the kilometer.

            At the 5km to go banner Joaquim Rodriguez attacked Michal Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski had no response, a bit of a disappointment considering all of the hard work his teammate Tony Martin had done. The group of favorites were closing in on the leaders having picked up Visconti. Only Kwiatkowski and Rodriguez remained out front. At the 3km to go banner Rodriguez had half a minute on Kwiatkowski and 1’15” on the favorites. That was all about to change though. Vincenzo Nibali jumped out of the group just as he last teammate swung off the front his job of pace making done for the day. No one was able to follow Nibali’s vicious acceleration. A select group of six had formed behind him including, Richie Porte (Sky), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Romain Bardet (ALM), and Jean-Christophe Peraud (ALM).

            Nibali was eating up the road up front. He had blown by Kwiatkowski and now was closing in on Rodriguez. The catch was made just 1.3km from the line. Rodriquez tried to lift his pace to stay with Nibali, but was unable to do so. His legs clearly fatigued from a long day out front. The chase group was disorganized behind with Porte doing all of the work. No one else wanted to help or no one else could help because they were all on the limit.

            Coming into the finishing straight were the road kicked up to 20% there was only one man in sight, Vincenzo Nibali. He powered across the line not only winning the stage, but also taking back the yellow jersey. He proved to everyone on this day that he is the best climber in this year’s Tour de France. Some may say that had Contador and Froome not crashed they would beat him, but crashing is part of bike racing. Parting of winning is being able to avoid disaster. Sometimes the winner is the one who has a little bit of luck on his side.

The chasing group came in 17” behind Nibali. American Chris Horner finished the day just 1’20” down considering he was still coming back from a nasty crash in the spring. The yellow jersey of Tony Gallopin gave a valiant fight, but ultimately lost nearly 5’ on the day. He did enough though to stay in the top 5 on GC. American Andrew Talansky finished the day over 10’ down. His GC ambitions for the Tour clearly done. Tomorrow is a much needed rest day for the riders. A crash heavy first week has many riders licking their wounds and with both Contador and Froome out of the Tour many riders will also now dreaming of the podium in Paris.

Stage 10 Results:

Stage Winner: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
White Jersey: Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondial)
Polka Dot Jersey: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

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