A big break eventually escaped on this long stage over the tough climbs of the Portet d’Aspet and the Port de Balés before the drop in to the finish in Bagnéres de Luchon. Michael Rogers was in that group and he was odds on for the win, but he had to fight it out with Thomas Voeckler. Voeckler had a team mate with him, but the Australian had the better of them both. The overall riders let the break go, but that didn’t stop the fireworks on the last climb. The pace saw off a handful of GC hopefuls, Bardet, Van Garderen, Schleck and Van Den Broeck. The race is still on, but Vincenzo Nibali is looking unbeatable.
The long 237.5 kilometres from Carcassonne to Bagnéres de Luchon has five categorized climbs, the first one coming after only 25 kilometres, the Côte de Fanjeaux (Cat 4, 2.4km at 4.9%). After 71.5 kilometres the Côte de Pamiers (Cat 4, 2.5m at 5.4%), the route then is fairly flat until the Cat 2 Col de Portet d’Aspet (5.4km at 6.9%) after 155 kilometres. The Col des Ares (Cat 3, 6km at 5.2%) comes before the final climb of the Cat HC Port de Balés (11.7km at 7.7%) which summits at 21.5 kilometres before the finish line.
Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) has Bronchitis and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) is taking a rest after a great first Tour de France at 21 years of age.
The Early Action
The first break of the day included Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS), this was not a popular move and was soon pulled back. At the first climb; Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka jumped away to take the one point on offer to take the King of the Mountains jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), we will see if he still has it at the end of the day.
A small group including: Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jérémy Roy (FDJ.fr), Michael Alabsini (Orica-GreenEDGE), Kevin Reza (Europcar) and Anthony de la Place (Bretagne-Séché Environment), battled to escape the chasing bunch for a long time. They were joined by Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Bernard Eisel (Sky) and then by Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Jon Izagirre (Movistar), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) and Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling) and the lead for the twelve riders started to rise.
The lead got to 1:45 and then Garmin-Sharp decided to chase with the eventual help from Belkin and Giant-Shimano and the lead came down to 50 seconds. Behind the peloton there was a big group that were in trouble, it included the green jersey of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), the KOM jersey of Joaquim Rodriguez(Katusha), plus team leaders Richie Porte (Sky) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) along with around 40 other riders.
In the end the Garmin-Sharp chase succeeded in pulling everyone back except Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale), he was eventually joined by 14 others with another 6 chasing. Eventually there were 21 riders off the front and with 150 kilometres to go they had a lead of 4 minutes. At the back the dropped group managed to rejoin the peloton.
The Break of the Day
The 21 riders were: Michal Kwiatkowski & Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Thomas Voeckler, Kevin Reza & Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Jon Izagirre (Movistar), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Michael Albasini & Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Jeremy Roy (FDJ.fr), Samuel Dumoulin & Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale), Anthony Delaplace & Florian Vachon (Bretagne Séché Environment), Vasil Kiryienka & Bernard Eisel (Sky), Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling).
Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) was the highest placed on the overall at 19:24 from the leader Vincenzo Nibali.
Another strong ride by Vincenzo Nibali
The Intermediate Sprint
Through the town of Saint Girons, after 123.5 kilometres, the 21 riders had a lead of 7 minutes over the Astana headed bunch and Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling) was first over the line ahead of Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ.fr), but they were no danger to the point’s competition leader Peter Sagan.
As the race entered its last 100K’s the lead was getting very close to the 9 minute mark, but the peloton was quite happy to leave them out there knowing that the big climbs would decimate the break later.
Col de Portet d’Aspet
Nineteen years ago Italian Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli crashed on the Col de Portet d’Aspet and died. The race will pass the point of his accident where a monument has been built in his memory.
Both groups steadily climbed the Aspet and Thomas Voeckler was first over the top followed by Rogers and Bakelants. The peloton were at 10:18 and looking like they were having an extra rest day, although Sunday’s ‘nearly man’, Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) was in trouble at the back.
Col des Ares
Voeckler lunged over the line to take some more mountain points just ahead Jose Serpa who found the whole thing amusing, Voeckler didn’t. In the bunch Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had a puncture, there was no problem as two of his team mates also punctured at the same time and they all got back on. The gap was now over 12 minutes.
The decent of the Ares was about 8 kilometres long, there was a short section flat of about 12 kilometres and from there to the top of the Balés was about 20 kilometres of torture, it starts in Mauleon Barousse (although officially it is only 11K’s long) at 600 and climbs to 1,709 metres altitude. The average gradient is 7.7%, but there are ramps of 10%.
Not a great day for Van Den Broueck, Mollema and Schleck
Port de Balés
The escape group rode steadily, as they had done all day, Voeckler had moved forward as the road started to slope upwards, but it was Bernard Eisel and Vasil Kiryienka of Sky who kept the tempo comfortable. First to attack was Jeremy Roy, but it was Kevin Reza who closed him down for Voeckler and Eisel again moved to the front. Roger Kluge was first to be dropped, then Doumolin and Eisel.
Astana were still controlling the peloton.
Reza moved forward to replace Eisel with Serpa and Rogers on his wheel. Kiryienka was dropped, but he worked his way back up and rode on the front. Slagter, Roy and Reza were next to go bringing the group down to around 10 riders, but at an easier point four or five got back on, but not for long.
Movistar had infiltrated Astana on the front of the peloton with Giovanni Visconti, while up front Michael Rogers was blowing the escape apart, for Voeckler to attack, but for nothing as Rogers was soon on his tail.
Next Kiriyenka goes with Serpa on his wheel, but again Rogers has him back in time for Voeckler to go again. But with 5 kilometres to the summit it was far too early and Serpa pulls him back. The lead group was now: Serpa, Voeckler, Rogers and Gautier. Europcar were able to play the ‘old one two’ and Gautier had his turn and Rogers again had to work to pull him back.
Bad news for Sky saw Richie Porte go out the back of the bunch; he was soon joined by Rodriguez and Van Den Broeck.
The yellow jersey group had shrunk to around 15 riders, Schleck and Fuglsang had also been distanced. Just behind the Nibali group Tejay van Garderen (BMC) was in trouble and a little later Bauke Mollema (Belkin).
Rogers had to control Voeckler on the climb of the Balés
Rogers pulled Gautier back and dropped him, although the Frenchman used his best Voeckler faces to help make enough effort to get back on terms before the top.
In the GC group; Pinot attacked to see Bardet dropped, the battle for the best Frenchman was on. With Pinot were Nibali, Valverde and Peraud.
Through the big crowd Michael Rogers towed Serpa and Voeckler to 50 metres of the top when Serpa jumped to take full points with Voeckler on his wheel, now it was all for the big descent to the finish.
The yellow jersey came over the top with Pinot on the front with Nibali and Peraud on his wheel, as Valverde had lost his place and Bardet had lost a lot of time.
On the descent Serpa, Rogers and Voeckler were caught by Kiryienka and Gautier. The yellow jersey group had Nibali, Valverde, Roy, Pinaud and Gadret. Bardet had lost over 2 minutes on Peraud.
Voeckler and Gautier were attacking Rogers in turn, but with 4 kilometres to go Rogers jetted past Gautier to launch himself down the hill and into Bagnères.
2K to go and Rogers had a handful of seconds as Kiryienka tried to pull him back. Under the red flag and he knew he had it in the bag and in the last metres he could freewheel through the corners and sit up and throw his arms in the air for a hard fought victory. Voeckler got ahead of Kiriyenka for second.
Movistar now had three men in the Nibali group, but they would not be able to distance the yellow jersey on the descent, the group did split, but with Nibali in the front part with Valverde and Pinot.
Big loser of the day Romain Bardet came in around 1:50 after Pinot and forfeits his 3rd overall and the white young rider’s jersey. Tejay van Garderen also lost a lot of time and dropped down the GC.
A hard win for Rogers, but a great one
Michael Rogers said after the finish; “I knew Voeckler would be hard to beat, but I said to myself: I’ve been in this position so many times and lost, but not this time.”
Tour de France stage 16 Result:
1. Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo in 6:07:10
2. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 0:09
3. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Sky
4. José Serpa (Col) Lampre-Merida
5. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:13
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:36
8. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:50
9. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp at 2:11
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol.
Tour de France Overall After Stage 16:
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 73:05:19
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar at 4:37
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 5:06
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 6:08
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 6:40
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 9:25
7. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura at 9:32
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin at 11:12
9. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 11:28
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 11:33.