Saturday, July 19, 2014


Saturday July 19, 2014

177k from Grenoble to Risoul; High Alps; cat-1 summit finish.
Weather: High 80s f , cloudy; much cooler at elevation.

Rafal Valls (LAM) has abandoned.

172 riders on the road today.

A 17-man escape group has formed:
Rodriguez, Roche, Rogers, Majka, Sagan, De Marchi, Thomas, Nieve, Kruijswijk, Gautier, Moinard, Edet, Taaramae, Serpa, Yates, Herrada, Riblon, Timmer.

Most of the break are expected names, but noticeably absent is Thomas Voeckler.
I would have thought that the Europcar star would make the break to battle for mountain jersey points today, and perhaps the win...

The leaders build a three-minute lead.

Stage 14 race profile

-134k: Nieve punctures

No one bothers to contest the sprint with Sagan.
km40: INT:
1. Sagan  [no other green jersey contenders in the top 15]

Vincenzo Nibali's entire Astana team ride at the head of the peloton as they start the long climb up to the Col du Lautaret...

-125k: the peloton chases the big lead group by 3:30

-115k: Rain starts falling on the riders.
This climb features several tunnels the riders have to go through, on their way up the Lautaret.

-97k: The lead goes over 5:00.

The peloton snaking their way through the Alps on stage 14
*-95k: The 17 escapees cross over the first cat-1 KOM line at the summit of the Lautaret (34k at just under 4% Avg) with a 5:00 lead over the peloton.
Purito leads them over and takes the top points (10).

*km82; 1st KOM; cat-1 Col du Lautaret (34k at 3.9%):
1. Rodriguez  2. Majka  3. Roche  4. Serpa  5. De Marchi 6. Riblon

The rain has eased off, as the peloton begins the long descent.

[Bob Roll and Christian Vande Velde (the American half of the NBCSN on-air talent) continue to suggest that this break will succeed. I disagree. The peloton is keeping the break on a steady leash. If they had a 10-minute lead, or more, then I might agree, but it looks like they don't want to let the leaders approach any of the climbs with too big a lead. I believe they will be caught on the final climb. Many of them, especially JRod, the Rogers/Majka pair [I don't think Roche can do it today], NIeve (my dark-horse pick for today), and maybe Riblon will probably try to stay out as long as possible, in search of victory atop the Risoul finish climb. But the GC contenders will want to use this finish to try and gain time on their rivals, and especially on Nibali.  So, I think they will chase hard on the Izoard descent, and catch whichever escapees remain, on the final climb.]

-81.2k: Team NetApp send a couple riders to the front of the peloton to do some driving. One is Dempster.

-73.5k: Sagan punctures. Quick wheel change and he's back on the road.

Through the picturesque town of Briancon. It is the highest town in Europe.
The leaders begin the HC climb up the Col d'Izoard. Their lead has been cut down to about 2:35.

We should see a rearrangement on this tough climb to the high point of the Tour.

As the peloton reaches the foot of the climb, NetApp is making a point at the front of the peloton. They start with a high cadence, starting to thin out the peloton early. Konig must be planning to go for the win today. He was great yesterday, finishing third on the HC Chamrousse, just :11 behind  the winner, Nibali. He moved himself up from 19th on GC, to tenth with that performance. He is a great climber, but I question his ability to remain consistently explosive in the big mountains...

Sagan, and then Timmer lose contact with the lead group.
15 leaders on the road now.

2nd climb of stage 14: the HC Col d'Izoard, 2360m high
-51.5k: All the NetApp-Endura riders are gone from the front of the peloton. Machado, the last one driving the train, is yo-yoing off the back now.

-51k: Now Pimenta (TNE) accelerates off the front of the peloton.

5k to the summit: TNE bring a few riders back up to the front, alongside Team Astana

-49.5k: Sagan is back in the peloton. Many riders are being shed off the back of the bunch on these 9% slopes.

Riblon and Gautier lose contact with the lead group.
13 riders in the lead group now.
The peloton is about 2:59 back.

The lead group is disintegrating on the Col d'Izoard.

Roche drops back now, from the lead group.
Edet drops off, too.

-46k: AG2R riders move to the front of the chasing peloton.

Chris Horner and Mikal Kwiatkowski are dropping back from the pack.

*(-44.5k: 2nd KOM; HC Col d'Izoard (19k at 6%):
1. Rodriguez  2. Majka  3. Nieve  4. Herrada  5. Yates  6. Thomas  7. De Marchi  8. Serpa  9. Kruijswijk  10. Moinard

The peloton cross the 2nd summit of the day 3:00 behind the leaders.

Early on the descent, Bardet and another AG2R rider jump ahead. Nibali follows, and they are gaining a gap on the peloton...
Fuglsang is leading Nibali down the fast descent, despite his injuries from yesterday's crash.

Toward a majestic summit finish
Valverde is chasing next, then TJVG, Pinot, and a couple others are chasing.

-32k: The steepest descending behind them, the chasers form a growing chase group, containing: Nibali, Fuglsang, Bardet, Valverde, Mollema +...

Pinot yo-yos just behind them. He has been handling his descending issues with aplomb.
Michael Schar, and Rafal Majka, are trying to go with the elite group...

-24.7k: TJVG and Rui Costa are close to catching on to the GC chase group.
Peraud is working hard at the front, for Bardet.

News that Dries Devenyns has abandoned.

The 11 leaders are just a few kms from the day's final climb...

Nibali's move didn't pan out.  A bunch of riders, including TJVG and Rui Costa, catch them before the Risoul climb starts.

20k to go: The 11 leaders have 1:30 on the regrouped peloton. More than 50 riders are off the back.

*The cat-1 climb up the Risoul is 12.6k at 6.9%, and tops out at 1855m (6085 feet).

Serpa moves to the front of the break as they start the final climb.

Richie Porte is already struggling on the early part of the climb.
Rui Costa is falling back, too.

-11.2k: Alessandro De Marchi (ADM) attacks the lead group, Serpa chases.
The peloton trails by :40

Profile of the finish climb; cat-1 Risoul
*Serpa has joined De Marchi in the lead.

10k to go: AG2R have 4 men at the front of the peloton.

*-9.4k: ADM attacks and drops Serpa to take the lead alone.

*-9k: Majka catches ADM to join the lead.
JRod is chasing after the 2 leaders mow
Van Den Broeck is falling back.

*-8.4k: Majka attacks and drops De Marchi. The Italian for Cannondale can't hold Majka's pace.

JRod catches ADM;

*-7.5k: Majka still leads alone, with a gap of :45 to the GC chasers.

Serpa cracks.
*Purito and De Marchi are the first chase group.
The GC chase group has eaten up most of the erstwhile escapees.

(Nice aerial shot of mountain goats running along a high ridge)

-6k: Majka leads;
JRod and ADM chase at + :35;
The GC chase group (about 18 riders) is at + :51--but they are closing in now.

-5.5k: Simon Yates gets picked up by the 2nd chase group.

Majka could pull this off. It depends on how playful the GC guys get.

5k to go: for Majka. The Tinkoff Saxo rider is increasing his lead over everyone.

-4.5k: Rolland attacks the GC group (chase 2);
Only Peraud gets on his wheel. But Rolland doesn't really want a partner on this move, so he sits up. Peraud wanted to go.

-4k: Rolland accelerates again.
The other contenders reel him in again.
Majka looks like he's got a good chance here...

*Nibali attacks the GC group with gusto, as they pass under the 4k to go banner.
Only Peraud gets on his wheel. The veteran AG2R rider definitely feels good today. He just chased after Rolland's failed move.

These waters are full of shark attacks
JRod and ADM have been picked up by the GC chasers.
JRod starts to drop back.

3k to go for Majka
Valverde attacks.
TJVG gets on AV's wheel, as they round a steep switchback.
Pinot and Bardet manage to get on with AV and TVG.

Rolland is yo-yoing off the back of the GC group.
Mollema is gone.

The GC pack regroups as the attacking foursome are brought back by Pinot, Konig, Schleck, and....It's Laurens Ten Dam! Where did he come from...again?!
Mollema drops off and his buddy Ten Dam replaces him; neat trick.

Valverde takes a long, hard look at the other elite guys riding with him. They're all gauging each other's strength.

The GC chasers are splitting up after an attack from Tejay Van Garderen.
TVG brings Pinot, Bardet, and Schleck with him, as Valverde, Rolland, Konig, and Ten Dam chase.

2k to go for Majka.

2k to go now for Nibali/Peraud: Nibali accelerates again. Peraud stays with him.

-1.2k for Majka: Ten Dam attacks the 3rd chase group.

1k to go for Majka.

Nibs and JC Peraud pass under the red kite :32 behind Majka.
Chase 2: TJVG, Bardet, and Pinot pass under at about +:50, with Schleck trying to keep up..
Ten Dam is 7th on the road, at +:1:08; and Konig is a little ways back, riding 8th.
Valverde and Rolland are 9th and 10th on the road.

Rafal Majka hits the final ramp to the finish line. No one is in sight behind him. A broad smile is trying to break through a face distorted in pain. He can't take both hands off the bars to zip up his kit, but he punches the air, points to the Tinkoff Saxo logo on his jersey, and takes the win!

That is a big win to add to his palmares.

Peraud defers to Nibali for 2nd place at the line. The Frenchman rode on the shark's wheel for much of the last 4 kms of that climb.

Pinot and Bardet sprint past Van Garderen to take 4th and 5th.

Pinot and Bardet dumped Van Garderen before the line
DNF: Valls and Devenyns

That was a great race! Maybe the fewest crashes on any stage so far, too. Maybe.

One man survived from the early break, Rafal Majka of TCS. He held off the most aggressive and powerful climbers in the world, to take his first Tour de France stage win--in his first. Tour. The young Pole was apparently saving it all for the high Alps.

His team's original plan was probably to save him until yesterday, so that he could be fresh and ready to aid his original team leader, Alberto Contador, in the high mountains. In Berto's absence, his stellar support group are finding opportunities for themselves. Majka will also go down as the first rider to win on this mountain, the Montée de Risoul.

Saxo's backup plans proved good today: Majka won his first

Stage 15 to Nimes is a flat transition stage before the second rest day on Monday in Carcasonne. The sprinters will get another chance to go for the bunch sprint. Many of them have survived the Alps.

[I have some obligations that will keep me away tomorrow, so enjoy stage 15!
I should be back for stage 16. Thanks fort reading!]

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