A Fast Start
At only 161km today’s Bastille Day stage is one of the shortest of Le Tour 2014 but with 7 categorized climbs on the agenda it also promised to be one of the hardest.
Not afraid of the tough climbs on offer and in fact hoping to profit from them and take the famous polka dot jersey, Thomas Voeckler was amongst the first attackers after the flag dropped in Mulhouse. He was quickly joined by a group of 6 others; Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Markel Irizar (Trek), Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) & Giovanni Visconti (Movistar).
These 7 worked very well together building up a gap despite the high pace back in the peloton where Katusha was driving the pace, unhappy that their man for the KOM competition, Joaquim Rodriguez had missed the move. After a few kilometres of trying to get the break’s gap down the Katusha boys were tiring though and it was at this moment that Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took off with Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) in his wheel and Jan Barta (Team NetApp-Endura) along for the ride also.
A Tough Chase
These three were now trying to cross a gap that was over 2 minutes to a group of 7 that were working perfectly together and there was only Sagan and Rodriguez pulling turns as Barta wasn’t rolling through. Meanwhile back in the peloton it was André Greipel working for the yellow jersey of Tony Gallopin.
Eventually the three made it across to the front to form a group of 10 attackers just as they started to climb the first difficulty of the day, the Col du Firstplan an 8.3 kilometre-long climb at 5.4%. The group attacked this climb at a very high pace, just as the rain started pouring down but the wet weather did nothing to slow down either the break nor the peloton who were now being powered by IAM and Cofidis who had both missed the move.
Over the top of the climb there was a very tight sprint for the KOM points between Voeckler and Rodriguez with Voeckler just getting the nod over Purito and the group’s gap was dropping to the peloton who were now at just 2m31s under the impetus of IAM and Cofidis.
A Wet Descent & A Man On A Mission
With the rain and the narrow roads the descent was dangerous but it didn’t stop the Superman from yesterday’s stage, Tony Martin from going clear of the peloton with his white jerseyed teammate, Kwiatkowski in his wheel along with two IAM riders and Cofidis’ Rein Taaramae for company. Martin went to the front and never left it driving the descent, the valley and the climbs until he brought this group back to the leaders. There was now a group of between 9 – 13 riders in the lead group, a number which kept changing as riders were dropped and then caught back on to the Tony Martin led group.
Over the Petit Ballon there was another great sprint for the points between Voeckler and Rodriguez with Rodriguez getting the points this time.
Descending The Petit Ballon
On the descent the front group now had 5 minutes lead over the peloton who were starting to stress a little as Tony Martin was riding currently 4th placed Kwiatkowski into the yellow jersey with his amazing work up front. Lotto-Belisol didn’t seem to have the firepower to bring them back so it was Astana who began doing the work.
It was then that the 3rd placed on General, Tiago Machado, crashed on the descent and it was quickly announced by race radio that he had abandoned. Luckily for Netapp and Portugese fans though this wasn’t the case and Machado was able to remount and start chasing back but he had lost a fair amount of time and it looked like being a very difficult day for him. (Ed: It was in fact a terrible day for Machado but he struggled on all stage and finished the race as last rider on the road. He was originally eliminated by the race jury for being outside the time limit but the latest news is that he has been reinstated although he went from 3rd overall at the start of the day to 47th now @ 44m12s)
With the wet roads, the crash of Machado and the pressure starting to be put on by Astana the peloton were on edge when the big news of the day happened – Alberto Contador crashed and crashed heavily. He broke his bike in two, broke his left shoe and most importantly had a huge cut on his right knee. He was eventually attended to by the race doctor and was patched up and given a new bike and shoes by his team but the crash had already seen him lose more than four minutes before he got going again.
Col du Platzerwasel
With Contador on the ground Astana called somewhat of a ceasefire for a few minutes and eased off the pace but with Kwiatkowski up the road and gaining time they couldn’t wait for long and soon started chasing again. Contador continued to lose time despite being paced by numerous teammates and it looked like his knee injury was going to be too much for him to continue. He tried hard to chase back on for a full forty minutes before eventually abandoning and climbing into the team car with Riis and Tinkov. (Ed: After the stage his DS stated to French TV that Contador had in fact fractured his tibia which makes his 40 minutes of chasing even more impressive)
The 2014 Tour de France had now lost it’s 2nd Grand Favorite of the race with the 3rd favorite in Vincezo Nibali now looking better and better for the final yellow in Paris. There was still a long way to go to Paris of course and still 70km to go in this stage that included the climbs of the Col des Croix, the deceptively difficult Col des Chevrères and of course the summit finish of La Planche des Belles Filles.
40km To Go
With 40km to go Astana and Lotto-Belisol had joined forces on the front of the peloton in their attempt to bring back Kwiatkowski who was still out front in the group of what was now nine riders with 100% of the work being done by Tony Martin – as it had been for the 40km prior. Martin truly was doing an amazing job holding off the chase of two combined teams but by the time the group arrived on the Col des Croix it looked like Martin was finally tiring and the gap had dropped to 3m20s. The Col des Croix was the only Cat 3 climb of the day with it’s 3.2 kilometre-length @ at 6.2% but it was really starting to hurt Martin and the group after a tough day out in the rain already.
The bad news for the group out front continued as Movistar also joined the chase making it 3 teams against one man and the gap quickly dropped to less than 3 minutes with the official gap being 2m45s at the summit and finally 2m30s at the bottom of the Col des Chevrères.
The Second Last Climb
It was at the bottom of this climb with its 9.5% average where Tony Martin finally pulled off and left Kwiatkowski to it. Kwiatkowski then increased the pace which would quickly prove too much for Voeckler, Riblon, Moinard, Wyss and Visconti leaving just Kwiatkowski and Rodriguez out front with the young Polish rider in his white jersey doing all the work, trying to profit from Tony Martin’s amazing teamwork throught the stage.
Back in the peloton and on the lower slopes of the climb Andrew Talansky was in trouble and losing ground as was Pierre Rolland who was quickly followed out the back door by the yellow jersey Gallopin. All three were losing time on the steepest sections of the climb and were looking like they would lose their top GC placings by day’s end.
Meanwhile up at the front it was no longer Kwiatkowski who was driving the pace but Joaquim Rodriguez who found the steep slopes to his liking and rode away from Kwiatkowski who suddenly started to fade quite badly and was caught and left by Visconti. Rodriguez crested the summit alone, and he now had 16.6km to go and a 1m33s lead over the peloton and 15s lead over the Italian Visconti who soon caught him on the descent as did Moinard and Kwiatkowski to leave 4 riders out the front with 15km to go.
Up front Kwiatkowski was descending superbly and after he caught the three others he actually rode straight past them but back in the peloton somebody who was not descending so well was Michele Scarponi who crashed on a difficult corner leaving Nibali down to just one teammate, Jakob Fuglslang.
La Planche des Belles Filles
It was now time for the big mountain of the day that everyone had been waiting for the Cat 1, Planche des Belles Filles, 5.9 kilometre-long climb at 8.5% but with sections a lot steeper than that. Kwiatkowski had been joined up front by Rodriguez and they had a 2m58s gap as they started to attack the climb.
Incredibly Scarponi had picked himself up from his spectacular crash and fought his way back up to the front of the peloton and was straight back to working hard for Nibali to try and cut the gap to Kwiatkowski.
At 5.3km to go Rodriguez put the hammer down and Kwiatkowski had simply nothing left and let him ride away, unable to respond. At the same time back in the peloton there was action aplenty as many big names were being dropped under the pressure of Scarponi including Mollema, Costa, Horner, Schleck and more with the Nibali group getting smaller and smaller every minute.
With 4km to go Rodriguez’s lead had shrunk to just 1m01s with Tony Gallopin doing his best to save his jersey a further 2m20s down.
3ks to go Scarponi had given his all and it was at this moment that Nibali attacked. Nibali was sprinting like the 10% slopes were just 2% and nobody in the front group could answer. Richie Porte came to the front and tried to limit the losses but nobody was willing or perhaps able to help the Australian and Nibali was riding away.
At 1.2 km to go he caught a quickly fading Rodriguez and rode past with the Spaniard spent from a long day out front and he had simply nothing left. Behind it was the local boy Thibaut Pinot who attacked out of the group to try to come across to Nibali but it was all too late. Nibali had ridden away for another stage win and would be once again wearing yellow tonight.
Pinot came over in 2nd place, 15s down with Valverde in 3rd @ 20s.
A simply superb performance by Nibali, a disappointing end to a great day for Rodriguez who would end up finishing 9th @ 52s but with the consolation of the KOM jersey and even if they lost the yellow jersey it was still a great 14th July for the French who placed 3 riders in the Top 10 and Romain Bardet moved into the white jersey lead.
Gallopin gave it his all but in the end he lost his jersey by more than 3 minutes
With Alberto Contador out of the race and Nibali in simply scintilating form the man from Sicily is looking hard to beat this year. Keep it PEZ for all the latest, roadside coverage, PeloPics and rest day news.
Stage 10 Results:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 4:27:26
2 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:15
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
4 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:22
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
7 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:25
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:00:50
9 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:52
10 Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:00:54
11 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:04
12 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:01:06
13 Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida
14 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team 0:01:08
15 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing
16 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing
17 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:01:16
18 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre – Merida 0:01:21
19 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:23
20 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:01:26
21 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:42
22 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:01:58
23 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:02:01
24 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:02:13
25 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:02:47
General Classification After Stage 10:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 42:33:38
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:02:23
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:47
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:01
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol 0:03:12
6 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:03:47
7 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:03:56
8 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:57
9 Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida 0:03:58
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:04:08
11 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:04:18
12 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:04:31
13 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:04:39
14 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:05:17
15 Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:06:03
16 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:06:47
17 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre – Merida 0:07:33
18 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar 0:07:36
19 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:07:42
20 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:08:01
21 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:08:25
22 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:09:45
23 Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne – Seche Environnement 0:09:56
24 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:10:35
25 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:11:51
26 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin – Sharp 0:14:44
27 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano 0:15:19
28 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:15:27
29 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:18:14
30 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team 0:21:20