Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tour de France: Rogers Wins in Luchon

July 22, Stage 16: Carcassonne - Bagnères-de-Luchon 237.5km

Van Garderen loses ground on Port de Balès

Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) took his first Tour de France stage win in Bagnères-de-Luchon on Tuesday, thriving out of a breakaway group that made it to the finish line. He made his winning move with 3km to go from a smaller front group and soloed in to the finish line. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), who had fought hard for the win, took second just ahead of Vasili Kiryienka (Team Sky).

It was the third Grand Tour stage victory for the Rogers, who returned from an overturned doping suspension to win two stages of the Giro d'Italia in May.

"It was amazing. Once I got to the bottom of the last climb the race began for me. I knew Voeckler would be hard to beat. I tried to drop him and I knew I would have to," Rogers said. He was seen wagging his finger at Voeckler on the final descent, and giving some harsh words to the Europcar rider. "I said, 'don't play with me because you're not going to beat me. I've been in this position too many times, not to win.'"

The group of overall favourites was still some eight minutes back when Rogers crossed the finish line. But Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) handily defended his overall lead, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) safely still in second. Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) lost nearly two minutes and dropped from third, with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) moving up from fourth. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC), formerly fifth, was dropped on the final climb and came in almost four minutes behind, sliding to sixth overall, now 4:19 off the podium.

As for Rogers, it has been a startling reversal of fortune. The Australian, a three-time time trial world champion, has enjoyed more mass-start stage victories since returning from his temporary suspension that resulted from a positive for clenbuterol at last year's Japan Tour, than he has had in most of his career combined. What has changed?

"I think there was a fair bit of joy coming out there. I've tried many times and I think I've changed mentally. I am more hungry, opportunities are more clear to me and I'm not scared of the outcome any more. Previously, I was already scared to try something because I was scared of failure."


Photo: Tim de Waele

The peloton heads into the first stage in the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees were calling on stage 16 after a much-needed rest day. Two riders folded their sails and went home; Orica-GreenEdge sent home their youngster Simon Yates and world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) went home sick.

It was a lively start to the race with the action starting almost immediately. Unfortunately, Reto Hollenstein of IAM Cycling crashed within the first kilometer, and although it took a short time, he finally made his way back to the field.

There were two category four climbs early on, mere bumps on the road compared to what was still ahead. Tinkoff-Saxo's stage 14 winner, Rafal Majka took the one point available on the first climb over the Côte de Fanjeaux and moved ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez in the mountain competition.

A series of attacks eventually led to an eight-man group with Lotto Belisol's Adam Hansen, however, it failed to gain any significant time on the peloton. A 12-man group formed shortly after that looked like it had the foundation to be successful, however, it too failed because Garmin-Sharp missed it and later reeled it back in.

The winning move of the day formed with 21 riders some 75km into the race. It included Rogers, Voeckler and Kiryienka along with Michal Kwiatkowski and Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Cyril Gautier and Kevin Reza (Europcar), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Jon Izagirre (Movistar), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Jens Keukeleire and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Matteo Montaguti and Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Anthony Delaplace and Florian Vachon (Bretagne Séché Environment), Bernard Eisel (Team Sky) and Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling).

The group had an eight-minute lead as they headed up the third climb of the day, over the Col de Portet-d'Aspet, where Voeckler took the points at the top. The peloton, still moving at a comfortable pace, hit the top 10:15 minutes later.

The front group climbed the next ascent over the Col des Ares, and it was Voeckler, again, leading the group over the top, with peloton ambling over at 12:11 minutes down.

Port de Balès, the only Hors Category climb of the day, still lay ahead. It was an 11.7km long and up to 1,755 metres, with an average gradient was 7.7 per cent, but there were sections of over 10 per cent.

Kluge was the first to fall back from the lead group on the long climb, and much further back, the sprinters started forming the gruppetto behind the main field.

Roy pushed the tempo a number of times on the climb, helping to shed more and more riders. But much of the lead work was done by Reza, helping his captain Voeckler, as he had been doing for most of the stage. He eventually fell off pace with 29km to go.

Kwiatkowski had a lot to gain by being up front and he toyed with the idea of moving back up into the top 10, however, he wasn't strong enough to hang on to the fast pace up the climb.

The lead group had been reduced to a handful of riders with 26.5km to go, and it was Rogers and Voeckler who looked the strongest. The Frenchman attacked out of the group, with his trademark tongue hanging out, until there were only four men were left: Voeckler, Rogers, Serpa and Gautier.

Gautier attacked next, determined to grind down he and Voeckler's rivals, so that Team Europcar could take the stage win but is efforts proved to be futile and he too fell off pace.

The main field behind had also been reduced to the favourites, about 15 riders in total. Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who was hoping to have a smooth rider through the Pyrenees, was the first overall contender to be dropped, and he slid from fifth place to sixth GC.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) led the charge in the next big move, that caught Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) off guard. Nibali, Valverde and Peraud latched onto his wheel and the quartet formed the first chase group.

Up front, the trio of Rogers, Voeckler and Serpa headed through the masses of fans to the top of Port de Balès, which was still more than 21km away from the finish line in Bagnères-de-Luchon. Serpa jumped to take the points, and Kiryienka and Gautier crossed over some 20 seconds later.

Roy, who had previously dropped back from the lead group, join the Pinot's chase group, which gave FdJ.fr two riders in the chase. Meanwhile, Bardet and van Garderen's GC hopes stretched further away as they fell further behind.

The leaders on the road held eight and a half minutes heading toward the finish line when a heated discussion broke out between Rogers and Voeckler, with Rogers suggesting that the Frenchman need to contribute more to the workload in the breakaway. Soon enough, Kiryienka and Gautier caught the three leaders with about 9km to go.

Gautier was the first to attack while Rogers and Voeckler gave chase. The Australian made his attack and left both Frenchmen, and Serpa, behind him. He easily soloed in to the finish line, with the rest coming in nine seconds later.

Behind them, Nibali jumped on the descent but Valverde, Pinot, Gadret and Peraud were able to catch up. The group rolled in 8:30 minutes later. Bardet was able to limit his losses to two minutes, and van Garderen to about 3:30 minutes.

Article Source: Cycling News 

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