Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TDF Stage 17 Race Report and Stage 18 Preview 2014 Tour De France


Stage 17 on the map
124.5K From Saint-Gaudens to Pla d'Adet
Weather: Sunny, 80 f; light wind

The 17th stage of the 2014 Tour De France was dubbed the queen stage of the race. It began with about 50k of relatively flat roads.  The final 75k featured virtually no flat roads. What it did feature were four big mountains for the peloton to climb. First, three category-1 climbs: the 1292-meter high Col du Portillon, the 1569m Col de Peyresourde, the 1580m Col de Val Louron Azet; and then came the finish, 1654m up on top of the Hors Categorie Pla d'Adet.

An 8-man break got away early, without the top mountain jersey contenders. Joaquim Rodriguez tried, but failed to get into the break again.  As a result, his Katusha team chased hard to try and bridge the gap to the leaders before they reached the mountains.

Stage 17 profile, with four big Pyrenean climbs

The 8 escapees were: Gautier, Slagter, Elmiger, Arashiro, Edet, Kadri, Voigt, and Paulinho. They held a lead of one minute by the intermediate sprint point at km 31. Kadri took the INT ahead of Elmiger and Paulinho...

**Just noting that Cyril Gautier has made the break four times so far (on stages 9, 14, 16 and 17). Europcar have had riders in most of the breaks so far, but they have yet to claim a stage win. In fact, the French squad hadn't even had a top 3 finish until Thomas Voeckler's second place finish on yesterday's stage 16.

Simon Spilak did some work driving the Katusha train at the front of the peloton in the first half of the race. Before they reached the first climb however, Spilak pulled off and quit the race. It looked like back pain.

The riders crossed the border into Spain, keeping the break on a tight leash. With 75k to go, the peloton trailed the 8 leaders by just 34 seconds as they reached the first climb of the day. Joaquim Rodriguez was first to attack from the peloton. He quickly bridged up to the crumbling lead group, and was first over the summit of the Col du Portillon, temporarily regaining the lead in the king of the mountains competition.

A flurry of attacks ensued on the Portillon descent, and a new lead group formed with Juaquim Rodriguez, Alessandro De Marchi, David Lopez (SKY), Nico Roche (TCS), Kristjan Durasek (LAM), and Bauke Mollema (BEL). They were soon joined by a chasing group that contained Rafal Majka, and expanded to 21 riders, as they passed back into France and readied for the second climb.

Team SKY's Vasil Kiryienka went on the attack on the Col de Peyresourde.
With 50k to go, Nico Roche led the 21-man chase group, at about 1:40 behind Kiryienka. The GC peloton was at +3:00.  Michal Kwiatkowski was one of the first to falter on the climb. Roche and Herrada broke free, and crossed the Peyressourde summit trailing Kiryienka by 1:14.  JRod and Majka were next, at 1:49; and the peloton crossed over at 5:25. The escapees started to see some hope of surviving.

Roche and Herrada did not work well together, and seemed to be grumbling at each other. With about 30k to go, Roche was called back to help Majka, and the dueling duo were reeled in on the flat roads leading to the third climb of the day.

Kiryienka continued to lead in front, as he hit the Col de Val Louron with a one-minute advantage over the first chase group--which had been reduced to 17 riders.  The peloton was still over five minutes back, as FDJ came up front to share the pace-making with Astana. AG2R and Movistar were staying close to the front of the peloton as well.

Riders were being dropped off the back as the peloton, driven mostly by Roche and Jeannesson, picked up the tempo. Fuglsang and Thomas fell back.

Van Den Broeck and others fell off the 1st chase group before the summit. Kiryienka tried to hang on to his lead, but was caught just before the summit of the Val Louron. Rodriguez attacked and outsprinted Majka to the KOM line.

*km 102.5: 3rd KOM; Val Louron (7.4k at 8.3%):
1. JRod  2. Majka  3. Izagirre  4. Mollema  5. Velits  6. Moinard

With 20k to go the riders began the dizzying descent of the Val Louron. The yellow jersey group splintered apart as FDJ attacked first, right after the KOM line at the top. Nibali followed, and a chase group of ten formed. Romain Bardet launched a brave attack on the descent, gaining time on Nibali, and chasing the leaders in no man's land for a while.

At the bottom of the descent, Pierre Rolland attacked the lead group, taking just 3 others along, into the lead: Roche, Visconti, and Moinard. They led the race onto the final climb of the day: the HC Pla d'Adet (10.2k at 8.3%).  Ten riders chased the four leaders with 10k to go, at about +:25. Bardet was at 1:35, and the now 11-man yellow jersey group (YJG) chased at 2:11. Pinot led the YJG onto the final climb, as they swept up a fading Kiryienka.

the peloton rode through the gorgeous Pyrenees on stage 17

Another series of attacks followed, on the first km of the climb. Nico Roche managed to break free, and then Giovanni Visconti followed suit. Shortly after the leaders rounded the "Poulidor Corner", with about 8.6k to go, Visconti attacked again, and went away alone up the Pla d'Adet, and into the lead.  

Jeannesson did tremendous work for his leader Pinot on the Pla d'Adet, paring down the YJG, and narrowing the gap to the leader, Visconti.
Inside 8k to go, Majka led an attack pulling eight riders along, then just four, and then he summarily dropped them all, including JRod, Izagirre and Schleck.
With 7k to go Majka bridged up to the first chase group, containing his teammate Roche, who was still with Rolland and Moinard. The foursome chased after Visconti for about a kilometer, until Roche pulled off. Then Majka dropped Moinard and Rolland and went after Visconti alone.

profile of the final climb: Pla d'Adet
Back down the road were Bardet, still chasing alone, some other remnants of the earlier breaks, and then the Nibali group (including Kangert, Pinot, Valverde, Van Garderen, Mollema, Velits, and Nieve), slowly closing the gap.

Inside 6k to go, Jeannesson finally dropped off, and Peraud attacked the yellow jersey group, and bridged up to Bardet.  The move dislodged Valverde and Nieve in quick order. Nibali, TJVG and Pinot climbed onto Peraud's wheel, distancing the other GC contenders.

With 5k to go, a quick succession of attacks from Nibali showed a chink in Van Garderen's armor, and then Nibali was off. Peraud was the only rider able to get on the Shark's wheel. They passed earlier escapees including Van Den Broeck and  JRod, who didn't look likely to challenge Majka for the copious mountain points available on the double-value HC summit finish.

With 4.2k to go to the summit, Majka caught the leader, Visconti. Visconti had held them all off for 4 or 5 kms of the steep climb. Now Majka took the lead.

Nibali and Peraud continued to chase together, passing more fading riders from the earlier break. Behind, Valverde had Izagirre with him to help limit his losses, and catch him up to the TJVG group.
Nibali and Peraud hooked up with De Marchi with about 2k to go, and the trio chased after Majka and Visconti ahead..

Majka gave a sly wink to the moto camera inside the final kilometer, knowing a huge win lay just ahead of him. Van Garderen tried a late attack further back, dropping Valverde again.

Majka pushed up to the summit of the Pla d'Adet . He gestured for some noise from the crowd, and he got it. Majka crossed the line with an emphatic series of fist pumps, and took a big win on the first Pyrenean summit finish on Pla d'Adet.

Nicolas Roche getting some encouragement from the fans
The young Pole took his second stage win of the race. He also took a nice lead over Purito in the KOM competition, earning 50 KOM points on the final climb, and reclaiming the polka dot jersey. Nibali actually passed JRod to take 2nd place in the KOM competition.

Visconti managed to hold on for 2nd place;
Nibali led Peraud over the line next;
ADM crossed the line in 5th.

Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo got his 2nd stage win

Among the GC favorites, only Peraud was able to stay with Nibali's accelerations in the mountains today.

Several riders shuffled their GC positions today in the Pyrenees. Among them:

AV holds onto 2nd place on GC, ahead of Pinot by :34 after finishing 5 seconds ahead of his young rival.

Peraud narrows the gap to Pinot from 1:02 to just eight seconds. The fight for the podium positions will continue through the stage 20 ITT.

Bardet and TVG hold onto 5th and 6th positions.
Mollema does well to jump from 10th to 7th place on GC;

Ten Dam leapfrogs over Konig, but still sits in 8th place, since Mollema jumped them both;
Konig drops from 7th to 9th, after losing more than three minutes to the yellow jersey today.

Rolland jumps over Zubeldia, and pulls himself into the top 10.

Tourmalet and Hautacam tomorrow!
Profile of stage 18; the final summit finish in the Pyrenees

Tomorrow is the last summit finish, and the last chance for the climbing specialists to gain time on those who excel in the time trial. We should see more of what we saw today, with the GC contenders battling on stage 18 for better positions in the overall standings.  The Tourmalet and Hautacam are beasts of climbs. Both are HC, and could blow up any legs that reach their limits there. They are also separated by the wicked Tourmalet descent. We may see some riders take big risks on the descent to try and get gaps before the final climb. I would not expect the break to succeed tomorrow, as the GC contenders will want to race for time. We may see another fight for the KOM jersey tomorrow, as Rodriguez still has a shot at it. although Majka has a lead, a high finish from Nibali could ruin the day for Majka and JRod.

My pick for stage 18: Vincenzo Nibali.

No comments:

Post a Comment