by Todd Hofert
Following a dramatic first day in the Alps the race set out once again into the mountainous terrain of southeast France. The stage, despite passing over seven categorized climbs, lacked a summit finish giving way yet again to the strong possibility that a break could succeed. A tough stage proceeded it and two difficult stages with summit finishes follow leaving little more than table scraps for ambitious non-GC men trying to grab an elusive stage win. Today seemed ripe for such a coup.
Regardless of what happened in relation to success or failure of a breakaway, Chris Froome’s nearest rivals continued with a resolve to attack the Yellow Jersey in hopes of finding a chink in his armor. Despite these claims, short of flicking a few flies from his lanky elbows, Chris Froome has been up to the challenge. Unless the trio of Spanish speaking contenders were to cooperate with a relentless barrage of attacks against the leader, he seemed poised to continue his dominance right through the summit of Alpe d’Huez and on to his second Tour de France title in Paris on Sunday.
In addition to the Stage 16 DNS of Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) another five riders would succumb to the brutality of the race with a DNF status. The most notable of course were Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep). They were joined by Sam Bennet (Bora-Argon 18), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) and Jerome Coppel (IAM Cycling). South Africa’s Louis Meintjes of MTN-Qhubeka did not start today’s stage due to illness leaving 162 riders in the race. Sébastien Chavanel (FDJ) claimed the honor of the Lanterne Rouge three hours and thirty-three minutes behind the race lead.
As has become customary the attempts to form a break were almost immediate. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) took the initiative right at the base of the days first climb, the Col Bayard, whose summit was just 6.5km into the stage. He was followed straight away by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Julian Arredondo (Trek). Halfway up the climb, 16 riders would bridge to join them followed by another group of 10. 12km in and a break of 29 had established itself.
The 29 breakaway members were: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Romain Bardet, Jan Bakelants and Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Roman Kreuziger and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jonathan Castroviejo and Winner Anacona (Movistar), Damiano Caruso and Rohan Dennis (BMC), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Georg Preidler (Giant), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Michael Matthews and Simon Yates (Orica), Pierre Rolland, Cyril Gautier, Romain Sicard and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Julian Arredondo and Bob Jungels (Trek), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), Stef Clement (IAM), Jan Barta (Bora), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka). The best place rider in the break on GC being Romain Bardet, 12th at 16.04. The Peloton was at 1.35 at km 14.
The result over the Cat 2 Col Bayard: Joaquim Rodriguez-5 points, Jakob Fuglsang-3 points and Thibaut Pinot-2 points. It would appear as though “Purito” was growing tired of borrowing the Polka-Dots from Chris Froome and he was out to earn them rightfully. The cat 3 Rampe du Motty was next on their plate and Rodriguez again passed first and scored two KOM points while Serge Pauwels took one. Rodriguez now within a couple of points of Froome. The gap to the peloton had grown to five minutes at the 45km mark.
Rodriguez would again claim the top spot and two points for the côte de La Mure drawing even with Froome at 61 points apiece in the mountain classification, the battle of the day thus far. A few attempts to whittle down the size of the break all failed and Joaquim Rodriguez would again claim maximum points over the top of the fourth of seven climbs, the Col de Malissol with Serge Pauwels again chasing him over in second. News came across that Mark Renshaw (Etixx – Quick Step) had abandoned, leaving Mark Cavendish without his favorite lead out man, a key ingredient for his success on the Champs-Élysées.
Yesterday at the end of the stage I came down with a migraine before the final climb, and the pain never went away overnight,” Renshaw said. “I woke up with the same pain this morning. It’s pain from really stiff muscles in my neck, and that pain from the stiffness has gone up into my head in the form of a migraine. Every hole, every bump, every rough part of the road I could feel the pain in the back of my head with this stiffness in my neck. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Together with the team we decided for me to stop. There is no way I could keep going like this. I already knew when I woke up this morning that it’d be hard to finish the stage. The pain was so intense and never lessened.
It’s a shame that I cannot finish this Tour de France after riding with my teammates for two and a half weeks. Especially since I was getting ready for Paris on Sunday and my legs were okay. I’m really sad about it, especially since I can’t be there to help Mark Cavendish for the sprint on Sunday. But I will absolutely be there in Paris to give my full support to my teammates in any way I can, and I wish them the best of luck in these final two days in the Alps before then.”
– Mark Renshaw, Etixx – QuickStep
More of the same over the Col de la Morte. Joaquim Rodriguez-5 points, Jakob Fuglsang-3 points, Georg Preidler, 2 points, and Christophe Riblon-1 point. The intermediate sprint would precede the big test of the day, the hors categorie Col du Glandon. The result of the sprint inconsequential in terms of the points competition but there was money to be had for the winner and Thomas De Gendt would claim the prize. Ironically, news was coming forward that the leader of the points competition, Peter Sagan, was off the back of the peloton.
Thomas De Gendt’s ride to the sprint line forced a split in the break with Jakob Fuglsang, Jan Bakelants, Winner Anacona, Damiano Caruso, Joaquim Rodriguez, Thomas Voeckler, Ruben Plaza, Andrew Talansky, Dan Martin and Jan Barta with him. De Gendt’s plan, however, was not for this much company and he would press on solo. The rest of the break would regroup behind him as they sped toward the Glandon. De Gendt would be caught right at the official start of the climb. The peloton were 2:10 behind at the base of the climb, the tempo lifted and the selections started almost immediately, the original break reduced to eleven.
A steady pace by the Sky led peloton would progress up the mountain, the break increasing the gap. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) had a dig and rode off the front of the peloton. Robert Gesink and Mathias Frank joined Barguil with Richie Porte blowing off the back. Nicholas Roche, Leopold Konig and Geraint Thomas all still present in front of race leader Chris Froome.
The next attack came from Alberto Contador. Nairo Quintana looked to Froome and Sky to respond, they refused and Contador quickly jumped across to the Gesink group. 5km to the summit and the race was heating up. Romain Bardet led the break over the summit ahead of Anacona. Rodriguez popped and was struggling to hang on for the summit. He would fail to add points to his tally for the day.
Nibali launched a couple of moves against Froome followed by Quintana. Valverde popped. The Contador group suffering from the pace behind. Bardet attacked the descent and opened a gap on Anacona. Valverde raced to rejoin the Yellow Jersey group.
Romain Bardet arrived at the foot of the Lacets de Montvernier with a 41-second gap over his chasers. He was able to hold that gap status quo over the top grabbing five more points and bringing himself on par with Rodriguez, each with 68 points in the mountains classification. While Rodriguez will retain the jersey for now, his days are surely numbered.
Pierre Rolland set off in pursuit of his countryman both taking risks on the descent toward the finish. The group of the Yellow Jersey and the current top ten of the race marking each other all of the way.
Bardet offered the French and AG2R their second stage win of this years Tour holding Rolland at bay, his solo efforts successful. Winner Anacona came home third followed by Bobby Jungels and Jakob Fuglsang.
Warren Barguil, having been dropped a couple of times on the final climb was able to fight his way back to the Yellow Jersey group and lead the bunch over the line 3:02 behind Bardet whose effort moved him up into the top ten. The nine places ahead of him remaining the same as it was at the start of the day.
Two more days in the Alps and two summit finishes separate the riders from Paris. On tap tomorrow the climbs of Col du Chaussy (15.4 kilometre-long at 6.3%) – category 1, the Col de la Croix de Fer (22.4 kilometre-long at 6.9%) – category HC, Col du Mollard (5.7 kilometre-long at 6.8%) – category 2 and the summit finish at LA TOUSSUIRE (18 kilometre-long at 6.1%) – category 1. Opportunities for Quintana, Valverde, Contador, Gesink and company are now wearing thin.
This was one of the toughest days on the bike. I wanted to try things and see what could be done but at the end, we didn’t achieve anything in particular. I dropped Valverde on Glandon, this always brings confidence but the only thing I now focus on is to recover. It was a very hard stage and my attacks were more driven by the heart than the legs. I was able to observe a few things and we will now see how I recover for tomorrow.
In order for Valverde not to be on the podium, a catastrophe must take place. He has an incredible opportunity and just by doing things the right way it’s impossible for him not to reach the podium. The sport of cycling is like this and we will have to take it day by day.”
Alberto Contador, Tinkoff-Saxo
Tour de France 2015 Stage 18 Top 10
- Romain Bardet (FRA) #12
AG2R La Mondiale 05h 03′ 40″
- Pierre Rolland (FRA) #121
TEAM EUROPCAR 05h 04′ 13″ + :33
- Winner Anacona (COL) #52
MOVISTAR TEAM 05h 04′ 39″ + :59
- Bob Jungels (LUX) #147
TREK FACTORY RACING 05h 04′ 39″ + :59
- Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) #3
ASTANA PRO TEAM 05h 04′ 39″ + :59
- Serge Pauwels (BEL) #218
MTN-Qhubeka 05h 04′ 41″ + 1:01
- Cyril Gautier (FRA) #123
TEAM EUROPCAR 05h 05′ 30″ + 1:50
- Damiano Caruso (ITA) #62
BMC RACING TEAM 05h 05′ 30″ + 1:50
- Andrew Talansky (USA) #161
TEAM GARMIN-CANNONDALE 05h 05′ 35″ + 1:55
- Warren Barguil (FRA) #82
TEAM GIANT-Alpecin 05h 06′ 42″ + 3:02
Tour de France 2015 General Classification Top 10 after Stage 18
- Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
TEAM SKY 74h 13′ 31″
- Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
MOVISTAR TEAM 74h 16′ 41″ +3:10
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
MOVISTAR TEAM 74h 17′ 40″ + 4:09
- Geraint Thomas (GBR) #39
TEAM SKY 69h 74h 20′ 05” + 6:34
- Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
TINKOFF-SAXO 74h 20′ 11” + 6:40
- Robert Gesink (NED) #131
TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO 74h 21′ 10” + 7:39
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
ASTANA PRO TEAM 74h 21′ 35” + 8:04
- Mathias Frank (SUI) #181
IAM CYCLING 74h 22′ 18″+ 8:47
- Bauke Moellema (NED) #141
TREK FACTORY RACING 74h 25′ 37″ +11:47
- Warren Barguil (FRA) #82
TEAM GIANT-Alpecin 74h 26′ 23″ + 13:08
Tour de France 2015 Jerseys after Stage 18
Yellow (Overall leader): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Green (Points): Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
Polka-dot (KOM): Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
White (Best Young Rider): Nairo Quintana, Movistar
It was a hard day but I felt good and immediately went on the attack with the goal to take maximum points today. Everything went well but it was hard to control all riders in the break the entire day. In the flat part at the feed zone before the Glandon I had a bad moment. It went fast and I could not take my feed bag so on the Glandon I paid for that. It was my goal to also take those 25 points or even the stage win but it was over for me at that point. However, I won’t give up. There are two mountain stages to go and I will attack again. Fuglsang and Bardet will be motivated, too, but I will fight for it.
– Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
Date: 23 July, 2015
Distance: 185 km
Tour de France 2015 Stage 18 route
Tour de France 2015 Stage 18 route map
Tour de France 2015 Stage 18 profile
Tour de France 2015 Stage 18 climbs
6.5 km – Col Bayard (1 264 m)6.3 km de montée à 7% – category 2
35.5 km – Rampe du Motty2.3 km de montée à 8.3% -category 3
60.5 km – Côte de la Mure2.7 km de montée à 7.5% -category 3
70.5 km – Col de Malissol2 km de montée à 8.7% -category 3
85 km – Col de la Morte (1 368 m)3.1 km de montée à 8.4% -category 2
147 km – Col du Glandon (1 924 m)21.7 km de montée à 5.1% -category H
176.5 km – Lacets de Montvernier (782 m)3.4 km de montée à 8.2% -category 2
Maps courtesy of Le Tour de France / © A.S.O.
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