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David L. Stanley

2015 Tour de France: July 18
Stage 14 reviewed and assessed

Back to Commentary index page | 2015 Tour de France

David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes.

STAGE 14, 18 July Saturday: Rodez to Mende - 110 MI/178.5 km

The region of Mende is part of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. This area is one of the world’s great seats of viticulture. With over 700,000 acres under production, the regions around Mende produce over 33% of France’s wine. As recently as 2001, the Languedoc-Roussillon produced more wine than the entire of the USA. Make sure to sample Minervois, a rose` unique to the region, if you want to experience the local vines. Perhaps the winner of the day might find some Cremant de Limoux on the team dinner table. Cremant, a sparkling wine made in the traditional methods, is found only in the Mende region.

After the sprint up the final climbs of Stage 13 in Rodez, the riders find no rest today in stage 14. While the race’s first 55 km are reasonable for all, the middle 80 km are essentially all false-flat, and the final 40 km feature three short, but very steep, challenging climbs. The day finishes with a climb up the Croix-Neuve, a ramp of 3.1 km with an average incline of over 10%. The last 1,500 meters are again a slight false flat.

This could be an excellent chance for Valverde, who showed great form on the Plateau de Beille. It could be another stage win for Purito, as well.

Stage 24 profile

Stage 14 profile

Let’s cut to the chase.

25 MI/40 km to go: In the Break: A seriously strong break of 20 is away. All the top teams are well-represented in the break. I see Sagan and van Avermaet and Pinot and Bardet. The breakaway is focused only on a stage win. The gap to the peloton is 5:50.

In the Field: SKY leads, followed by TVG’s BMC-men, followed by Astana, and then Movistar. All the top teams have claimed a place at the front. Richie Porte is setting a tough tempo and the back-markers are having a rough time on the Cote de Sauve-terre. Greipel is out the back and will coast into the autobus.

22 MI/35 km to go: In the Break: Cycling’s version of the Donald, Oleg Tinkov, is in the team car for Tinkoff. “SAGAN! You don’t win? You’re FIRED!”
In the break, 2 FDJ men have made tempo all the up the climb. Seems like an odd tactic, to sacrifice two men so early for Thibaut Pinot’s chances.

In the Field: SKY still sits at the front of the group. SKY’s tempo will kill off plenty of those at the rear. There is no concern about the breakaway.

20 MI/32 km to go: In the Break: At the summit, the FDJs crest first. At the rear of the break, Sagan and Greg van Avermaet ride next to each other. The last climb, up the Croix-Neuve, is not suited to VA’s skills. Sagan can climb a bit, but still, the Croix is probably too far for Sagan.

In the Field: Still led by the SKYs, they crest the climb 5:24 behind. That’s the perfect spot—close enough to keep an eye on things, not so far so as to let any danger men get any ideas.

Peter sagan did well today

Peter Sagan didn't do too badly today

16 MI/25 km to go: In the Break: Mikal Golas (Etixx) has attacked out of the group and has 12 seconds. He’s not a real threat. He’s gone to make things easier for his captain Rigoberto Uran. When guys jump to bring Golas to heel, Uran will latch onto the wheels, and get a free ride up the road to plot his own escape.

In the Field: Things are status quo in the group as they descend single file across the valley floor.

10 MI/16 km to go: In the Break: Golas has 21 seconds. He’s going to make the group work hard to bring him back. That will suit Uran. Look for the 2012 Olympic road race silver medalist to attack hard on the Croix-Neuve. Uran is a terrific climber on the short, steep ramps.

9 MI/14 km to go: Kristijan Koren (C’dale-Garmin) is tired of sitting in, and has a go after Golas. Koren attacks on the Cote de Chabrits. He is already 13 seconds ahead of the group. Big move. Golas is 25 seconds ahead of the breakaway.

8 MI/12 km to go: Koren has Golas in his sights. 8 seconds is the gap. Koren is a wolf stalking a deer. At the front of the breakaway, the FDJs continue to tap out the tempo. They have a plan, and they’re sticking to it.

7.2 MI/11 km to go: In the Break: Mikal Golas softpedals as Koren bridges. Wise move. They’ll need plenty of wattage as they motor towards the last climb. A few words are exchanged. A Pole and a Slovenian are off together. 1.5 km to the top of the climb. It’s only a Cat 4 climb, but again, the day is very hot, and the climb plenty steep.

In the Field: Key SKY man Richie Porte flats and coasts to the road side. Porte dope-slaps an asshat fan who wants to grab a selfie together whilst Porte waits for a new front wheel.

6.2 MI/10 km to go: In the Break: The Golas:Koren move is down to a 12 second gap. Jeremy Roy (FdJ) is driving the chase up the 6% gradient for Thibaut Pinot. He’ll make his move on the Croix-Neuve in just a few km. The road looks newly paved.

In the Field: Gruppo compatto at 5:53.

5 MI/8 km to go: In the Break: Golas:Koren are on the way down. The roundabouts at 70 km/hr are sketchy. The other breakaways hold steady at 12 seconds in arrears.

In the Field: The SKYs continue to make tempo in the way up the Cote de Chabrits. Guys are sitting up. At this point, you’re a contender. Or you’re not.

2.8 MI/ 4.5 km to go: In the Break: Golas:Koren are on the 10% Croix-Neuve. They have a 16 seconds lead on the breakaway. The FDJs are still at the front. 
Thibaut Pinot better deliver the goods, or he’s gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do.
I doubt the pair will stay away. Van Avermaet is looking comfy near the middle, ditto for Uran Uran.  Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) and Sagan are near the front. The lads from OGE have not had a lot of success this Tour.

2.4 MI/4 km to go: In the Break: Romain Bardet (AG2R) jumps away. The lead duo is done. The break is broken. Every man for himself on the climb. Thibaut Pinot looks cooked.

Romain Bardet

Romain Bardet on the attack

2 MI 3.4 km to go: Cyril Gautier (Europcar) goes. Bardet covers. Simon Yates is stuck on Bardet’s wheel. Sagan is suffering at the back. The accelerations are tough on guys like Sagan. As a climber, he needs a steady tempo. The ability to repeatedly answer attacks is the province of the true climber.

1.8 MI/3 km to go: In the Break: Yates hangs on to Bardet like grim death. Bardet jumps on the 11% section before the finishing false flat. Bardet looks comfortably redlined.
Yates pops.

In the Field: 5:45 back, the peloton starts the final climb- the Croix-Neuve. SKY leads on the climb.

Nairo jumps and gets a gap. Nibali answers. Go, Nibbles! Valverde is on Vincenzo. Froome is now alone. Contador sits on Froome and makes him work. TVG is on AC. 4:30 back, and Froome is dragging the Nairo group back.

Alone.

TVG looks about to back off. It is always better to go at your own tempo and lose a few seconds than to try and ride someone else’s tempo, blow, and lose minutes.

In the Break: Bardet hits the top. He has 1km of false flat to go. Pinot, where the heck did he come from? Somehow, he gets up to Bardet

In the Field: Froome makes the tempo. He passes and drops Nibali. He pulls Nairo back.

800 meters to go: In the Break: Former World team pursuit gold medalist Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) has extra-ordinary speed across the flat. He’s hardly been seen at the front of the breakaway for the last twenty kilometers as the FdJs were content to make tempo. Steve-O crests the climb alone, about fifty meters behind the duo Pinot-Bardet. Cummings is going at least 5 kph faster than the two leaders.

He’s not waiting. 300 meters to go and Cummings rides right over the top of them, jumps really hard as he passes, and has 30 meters before Pinot & Bardet have a clue.

Pinot and Bardet cannot catch him.

Cummings, racing for an African team, wins on Mandela Day! He’s built just like Greg van Avermaet; 6’3” and 175 lbs - he’s able to hang on the shorter climbs, and simply fly across the flats.

What an awesome Tour de France this MTN squad has had! The polka dot jersey for a few days with Daniel Teklehaimanot and now this stage win.

Steve Cummings, he who dares, WINS!

Stephen Cummings

Stephen Cummings gets it all just right.

1.5 MI/2.5 km to go: In the Field: Nairo and Froome are together. Nairo leads up the last few hundred meters of the climb.

TVG has missed the move but he drags back Nibali. They’re at least 200 meters back. Valverde is ahead of them a bit, in view, with Contador on his wheel.
Nairo jumps and goes out of the saddle. He’s forced Froome to lift his tempo with

2 km to go.

Froome & Nairo crest the climb together. Nairo turns and talks to Froome. How the heck can he spit out the words? Otherwordly fitness. Could be a deal.

Nairo: “I want the time. You take the place.”

With a gain of 17 seconds, Nairo will take over 2nd place.

Valverde drops Contador.

Valverde is moving faster than anyone at the moment; Froome, Nairo, Nibali, anyone but Steve Cummings.

Cummings looked shot from a gun.

RED KITE TIME: Nairo is doing all the work. Froome jumps to the left and gets a two second gap. He takes the sprint, followed by Nairo Quintana.

Valverde is just a few bike lengths, 3 seconds, behind Nairo and closing hard. If Valverde can keep his climbing legs, it’s conceivable that Movistar will have two men on the podium. At the least, Froome will have another guy to worry about in the Alps.

Contador is 5 seconds behind Valverde.

Nibali is another 8 seconds back.

Tejay chases Nibali. Here’s TJ, ten seconds behind Nibali.

TVG lost 39 seconds to Quintana and will cede second place. Tejay has 30 seconds over the 4th place Valverde.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome gained more ground today

The finish order:

  1. Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) 4:23:43
  2. Thibaut Pinot (FdJ) @ 00:02
  3. Romain Bardet (AG2R)@ s.t.
  4. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx) @ 00:20
  5. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)@ 00:29

The GC:

  1. The Froome 56:02:19
  2. Nairo @ 03:10
  3. TVG @ 03:32
  4. Valverde @ 04:02
  5. Contador @ 04:23

What Did We Learn Today?

1) Even when isolated, as he was on the final climb, Chris Froome is incredibly resilient. He took several very serious body shots from Quintana, and answered them all. The SKYs are super-strong, true, but if Froome is the last man standing, he’s still standing tall.

2) Fans are idiots. Last year, in England, fans trying to take selfies with the fast approaching peloton caused several accidents. Today, Richie Porte flatted at a crucial moment. He headed to the roadside, clearly nursing a flat. First on the scene was not a team car or neutral support, but a tall fan with a very low IQ. Fan hustled over and tried to pose with Porte for a selfie. Fan got himself dope-slapped. Too bad he didn’t get tossed in the hoosegow by the gendarmerie. Idiot.

3) When the finish line is 800 meters away, a world class pursuiter, i.e. Stephen Cummings, can ride really, really fast. The world record for the 4,000 m pursuit is around 4:10. That’s an average speed of 35 mph for 2.4 miles from a dead start. I’d love to see the wattage and speed data for Cummings over the last 1,000 meters of today’s stage. Don’t forget, he did that after 110 miles of darn tough race course.

Stick your head out of a car window at 35 mph sometime. Cummings did that. Under human, not horse, power. Yee-ha!

4) Once again, today was two thrilling races in one. A nice gift.

5) A case of Cremant de Limoux bubbly for the MTN-Qhubeka team, s’il vous plait. Put it on the Underhills’ tab.

Random Race Fact: The publicity caravan that precedes the Tour de France takes 45 minutes from front to back. It is 12 km long with 180 vehicles are in the parade. 37 brands pay for the privilege of giving away over 15 million pieces of brand & TdF oriented schwag. Over 600 people are involved; driving, talking over the squawkboxes, and tossing out the goods.

Join in the conversation. Sunday’s stage is a true sprinters’ stage. Who ya got, and how much do you like ‘em?

And please, no wagering.

Hit up the McGann Facebook page to make your case, and give McGann a LIKE.

On the Twitter, you can follow BikeRaceInfo here.

Stanley’s Twitter is here.  I tweet early, and often.

For great live text updates of the daily stages, don’t miss LiveUpdateGuy.com

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