Sunday, July 18, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 14: Get Away to Les Pyrenees

July 18, 2010
Pics: ASO (c) 
The steep Pyrenees brought victory to tough-minded Frenchman Christophe Riblon who escaped in the first 20 km of the stage and stayed away over some of the most difficult mountain passes the riders will experience in this Tour.

"Yesterday I said to myself, there is one week left and I have to try something," said Riblon,jubilant after the stage. "I don't know what to say, it's unbelievable."

It was just one more day that has not gone as expected, and has made this one of the more exciting Tours that I can remember.  It's also another victory rung up for the French who have taken more stage wins in this Tour since over 12 years ago in 1997 when there were 6 stage victories for French riders.

Riblon who rides for the French team AGR2 and turned pro in 2004, does not have a long track record behind him: he won a stage of the Route du Sud in 2009,  won the Tour de la Somme in 2007, was Champion of France in 2004, and won a silver medal in the 2008 points race of the track world championships. But it was fitting that a Frenchman should win the ascents up hors categorie climb on the Port de Pauliheres and the final cat 1 climb up the Ax 3 Domaines on the 100th Tour anniversary over the Pyrenees.

The overall classification for the top riders remained the same, with Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador marking each other on the climbs, and in the process allowed other GC riders to race ahead and gain time. But these two contenders are so high up in the overall rankings they can still afford to watch each other's moves without making an aggressive play away, at least for now.

The final stages in the Pyrenees will cause even more surprises to surface. Today's wild card was the breakaway that stayed ahead of the peloton for most of the 184.5 km race with a 9-minute lead from the break to the chasers even as they reached the hors categorie Port de Paliheres, which featured a 15.5 km climb at 7.9 percent grade. The following climb to Ax 3 Domaines, was 7.8 km at an 8.2 percent grade.

There was an attack in the opening kilometer of this stage by Knees (MRM) who was joined by 11 other riders including Jens Voigt (SAX), Di Gregorio (FDJ) and Champion (BTL).

At 9 km from the start, six of the break retreated to the peloton leaving only Thomas (SKY), Zabriskie (GRM), Brutt (KAT), Moinard (COF) and Gutierrez (GCE) up front.

RadioShack led the chase and Gutierrez slipped back to the peloton. With a lead of 25 seconds, five riders counter-attacked and took off in pursuit of the lead group. At the 24km mark Vaugrenard (FDJ), Riblon (ALM), Van de Walle (QST), Rolland (BTL) and Auge (COF) caught the four leaders. That was the move that made the win for the day for the Frenchman who showed he was the strongest rider today, and was well ahead of the other riders on the first climb up the Port de Paliheres.

The Astana team led the charge of the yellow jersey’s peloton on the early slopes of the Paliheres shedding riders including Kreuziger, Basso and Leipheimer.

Five kilometers from the finish, Contador was the only Astana rider left in his team, and he would attack twice before the finish – both times Schleck and Menchov responded.

By then, however, Riblon was over the top and raced toward his first victory in the Tour de France.

He has had only seven pro victories before today, including a stage of the Route du Sud in Luchon according to

Andy Schleck finished fourth in a group that was one minute and 8 seconds behind Riblon and although he lost 14 seconds to Menchov and Sanchez, he maintained his lead over Contador and will wear the yellow jersey in stage 15.

Although the top two positions of this year's Tour seem to be on course for Contador and Schleck, the Luxemburger will need to establish time over his rival. Contador could easily take time from Schleck on the last day of racing, a 52-km individual time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac, an event that the slim Schleck does not excel in.
With Lance Armstrong presumably out of the top three finishers, the third podium place is still up in the air and could go to any of seven or eight strong climbers, including Levi Leipheimer, Jurgen van den Broeck, Sammy Sanchez, Luis Leon Sanchez, Denis Mechov, Alexandre Vinokourov, Robert Gesink, and Joaquin Rodriguez. (Take our quiz and vote for whom you think will be the winner). After today, that race for third place became more refined, and as I predicted earlier on in this Tour, Leipheimer does not seem to have the legs these other Europeans have.

Part of the reason is the choice of stage routes combined with the weather, and the combination of riders in the teams. Choosing narrow, winding routes with messy oil-stained surfaces led to multiple crashes and broken bones in stage 2, followed by cobblestones and more crashes and broken bones in stage 3, and unyielding heat all through the nasty climbs of the alps, have not only caused some favorites to leave the race--Tyler Farrar, sprinter for Garmin Transition, or to lose so much time they were no longer in contention, like Lance Armstrong of RadioShack.

Like the outcome or not, the Tour this year has yielded more successful breakaways and less predictable winners than any Tour I can remember for a while.

For one there are many more French riders winning stages, like Anthony Charteau who is currently in the Polka Dot Jersey, today's stage winner Riblon,  and Sylvain Chavanel who was in the Yellow Jersey twice this tour, with spectacular stage wins.

And what is so remarkable is that none of them have the massive marketing machines behind them the likes of Saxo Bank and dare I say it, RadioShack, with their unending and incomprehensible ads. (RadioShack's ads with "Alphonse" whose TV-induced relationship with Lance Armstrong is inexplicable--would a seven-time TDF winner put up with that kind of idiocy in real life, or even hang out with such a loser?)

What's more these French winners crave their Tour wins as a life time dream, and blink into the light of their fame through shy eyelashes and smiles. They are a refreshing change from the more egotistical riders who pound their chests when they come across the line, an act that somehow reminds me of our ancestors, the apes, when they claimed their kingdoms in the jungle.

In fact, if you look closely at the roster of the AG2R Mondiale team, you'll recall the names of riders who made some of the most aggressive moves in this year's tour:  Maxime Bouet, Dimitri Champion, Nicolas Roche, and Rinaldo Nocentini to name a few.

The General Classification Standings at the End of Stage 14 

1. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 68h 02' 30"
2. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 68h 03' 01" + 00' 31"
3. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 68h 05' 01" + 02' 31"
4. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 68h 05' 14" + 02' 44"
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 68h 06' 01" + 03' 31"
6. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 68h 06' 57" + 04' 27"
7. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 68h 07' 21" + 04' 51"
8. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin 77 KATUSHA TEAM 68h 07' 28" + 04' 58"
9. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 68h 08' 26" + 05' 56"
10. BASSO Ivan 41 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 68h 09' 22" + 06' 52"
11. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 68h 09' 34" + 07' 04"
12. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 68h 09' 41" + 07' 11"
13. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 68h 09' 47" + 07' 17"
14. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 68h 10' 33" + 08' 03"
15. SASTRE Carlos 91 CERVELO TEST TEAM 68h 10' 45" + 08' 15"
16. LÖVKVIST Thomas 37 SKY PRO CYCLING 68h 12' 16" + 09' 46"
17. KLÖDEN Andréas 24 TEAM RADIOSHACK 68h 12' 57" + 10' 27"
18. WIGGINS Bradley 31 SKY PRO CYCLING 68h 14' 00" + 11' 30"

The Stage Standings at the End of Stage 14

1. RIBLON Christophe 89 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 52' 42"
2. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 4h 53' 36" + 00' 54"
3. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 4h 53' 36" + 00' 54"
4. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 4h 53' 50" + 01' 08"
5. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin 77 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 53' 50" + 01' 08"
6. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 4h 53' 50" + 01' 08"
7. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 4h 53' 50" + 01' 08"
8. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 4h 53' 50" + 01' 08"
9. CUNEGO Damiano 201 LAMPRE - FARNESE 4h 54' 31" + 01' 49"
10. SASTRE Carlos 91 CERVELO TEST TEAM 4h 54' 31" + 01' 49"
11. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 4h 54' 35" + 01' 53"
12. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 4h 54' 42" + 02' 00"
13. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 4h 54' 42" + 02' 00"
14. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 54' 44" + 02' 02"
15. MOREAU Christophe 166 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 54' 44" + 02' 02"
16. KIRYIENKA Vasil 165 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 54' 58" + 02' 16"
17. HORNER Christopher 23 TEAM RADIOSHACK 4h 55' 08" + 02' 26"
18. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 55' 09" + 02' 27"

1 comment:

Herb said...

The race for 3rd between Menchov and Sanchez might be more exciting than 1st and 2nd because of Schleck's lack of time trailing ability.
Great job Jen.