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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Friday, July 17, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Today's Racing

Today's Tour de France stage, number 13, is a transition stage, 198.5 kilometers going from Muret to Rodez. it will have three rated climbs, two category 4 and 1 category 3.

Starting Friday is the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (Women's Tour of Thuringia). We'll post results for this week-long, important stage race.

Coming up are a couple of important single-day races. On the 19th will be the Italian Trofeo Matteotti (1.1) and then on the 22nd the Grand Prix Cerami (1.1) will be run. We'll post complete results for both.

Tour de France stage 12 was a hard, wet day in the mountains. David L. Stanley tells the stage story and gives it his usual excellent analysis.

Froome doping allegations won't go away

I was hoping that I wouldn't have to deal with this, but avoiding something unpleasant doesn't make it go away or make it untrue. What follows is by Radio France Internationale posted before Thursday's stage 12:

"As riders prepare for Thursday’s nasty 195-kilometre stage from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille, the battle for the yellow jersey has been overshadowed by accusations of doping levelled at Tour de France leader Chris Froome. Speculation has been fuelled by the press and social media with much focus on what happens on Team Sky’s tour bus.

"Englishman Chris Froome has never tested positive for drugs, but he has been forced to field increasingly tense questions on accusations of doping.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome. Can a rider win the Tour de France without allegations of doping?

"Many of Froome’s fellow competitors agree, including rival Alberto Contador, that Froome is simply better than his rivals. They say that his performance, which has so far been astonishing, is merely down to better training. Nevertheless, Team Sky has agreed to open their sacrosanct tour bus to inspection to help dispel doping allegations. Unfortunately for Froome, the allegations coincide with the arrival of disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong.

"Armstrong, who was stripped of his record seven Tour titles for using performance-enhancing drugs, returns to France for a charity ride on Thursday alongside England football player Geoff Thomas.

"Tour organisers would rather Armstrong disappear from the event and although his appearance is without any official Tour authorisation, his return casts a dark shadow.:

Tour de France team reports

This came from BMC:

Plateau de Beille, France - Tejay van Garderen maintained his grip on second place overall at the Tour de France Thursday by keeping pace with race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) during a third straight challenging day in the Pyrenees mountains.

Van Garderen placed 13th and in a group of nine riders that arrived at the summit finish 6:47 after Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha Team) won his second stage of the race. Rodriguez soloed out of what began as a 22-man breakaway early in the 195-kilometer race that included four major climbs.

"I knew Sky had a really strong team and they were going to try to neutralize any of the attacks of all the dangerous guys," van Garderen said. "So when they were jumping, I just sat behind Sky to make sure they pulled them back. Hopefully, those guys will keep doing that so they waste a few of their bullets. Then, in the third week they might pay the price."

Tejay van Garderen

Tejay van Gardeen close to the finish of Thursday's stage 12

On a day when rain pelted the peloton for the second half of the stage, van Garderen had teammate Samuel Sánchez at his side until the group of favorites dwindled to a dozen. Not long after Sánchez lost contract with six kilometers to go, the attacks began. First, from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), followed by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team), then Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and finally from his teammate, Nairo Quintana. But each time, the aggressor was brought back.

In the overall standings, van Garderen is 2:52 behind Froome. Quintana (Movistar Team) and Valverde are third and fourth overall, 3:09 and 3:58 back, respectively. Only two other riders - Froome's teammate, Geraint Thomas and Tinkoff-Saxo's Contador - are within five minutes of the lead.

"There were two guys who I needed to mark, guys who I was close to on time," van Garderen said. "I feel like I did a good job of staying close to them and staying within my limits. It is all going according to plan."

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said he was pleased to see van Garderen stay even with time on Froome after conceding two-and-a-half minutes to the 2013 Tour de France winner the first day in the Pyrenees but no more time on Wednesday or Thursday.

"We are happy with the results after the Pyrenees," Ledanois said. "We have kept the second place on the general classification. For the moment, that is most important. I think Tejay was a little bit better the second day and better today. He is motivated and he has the legs."

Ledanois said the BMC Racing Team decided before the race not to be a part of the day's breakaway. "Most important was to stay with Tejay, all together," Ledanois said. "Before the last climb, he still had five guys with him. So all the guys did a very good job for Tejay today."

Tinkoff-Saxo had this to say about Tour stage 12:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador regained momentum on stage 12 to Plateau de Beille, where the team leader notes that he felt better. Under the deluge, which had imposed itself on the riders going into the final climb, Contador finished together with the main GC rivals after an array of attacks in the group without any clear winner. Peter Sagan retains the green jersey by 2 points.

After crossing the finish line in 14th place behind stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez, who claimed the day from the breakaway, Alberto Contador says that he felt better, as the stage progressed.

“The team worked well, I launched an attack, but nobody wanted to cooperate with me so I decided not to go alone. Sky was strong but still my condition today was much better. We’ll see how the race will go and if it’s possible to take a step up in the GC. It was a difficult day. The first part of the stage was very hot and then it rained. But little by little I felt better. We were all at the same level today. Everybody attacked. So did I, but it didn't work. You must try again everyday and I hope that my sensations will return in the last week”, says Contador, while teammate and yesterday’s stage winner Rafal Majka adds:

“It was a very tough day today and I also suffered a bit after yesterday with my long breakaway. I think a lot of riders suffered - also because of the conditions. I tried to do my best for Alberto, surely he was feeling much better today and attacked. The final climb was really hard and together with Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger we pushed hard and tried to set a hard tempo early on the climb and we definitely rode this climb really fast. It’s still a long Tour, Alberto feels better and we still try to do our maximum”

Froome group

Alberto Contador finished with the Froome group today.

Stage 12 from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille started off with a fast tempo towards the intermediate sprint, where Peter Sagan managed to retain his green jersey. After the stage finished he says:

“I had a bit of recovery on the last part of the stage and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. It could be an important stage but I’ll have to see how I feel. We are in a very hard part of the Tour with many mountain stages but it’s true that the fight for the green jersey is really close right now. I want to keep trying and fight for this jersey. Today was a very hard stage and I’m very happy to finish but I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow. The most important thing is to rest right now”, says Peter Sagan

Michael Rogers took part in the pacesetting up Plateau de Beille in an effort to create a selection within the group of favorites. Upon crossing the line, Rogers elaborates on the battles to come.

“It was a tough stage and on the last climb I was really trying to send a message to my legs to keep going but it didn’t really get through. Alberto performs better in these conditions, he likes the rain and for some reason he always performs well in the wet. He is a real fighter - when he feels good, he attacks and when he doesn’t, he suffers and tries to hang on for as long as possible. We are hopeful that we can get a stage win with him, the yellow jersey will be tough but the podium is still possible and we’ll try every day. The coming stages are days of transition although there are some tough climbs. But I’m sure they will be good for Peter”, comments Michael Rogers.

According to Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh the team had its focus on preparing the terrain for Alberto Contador, while supporting Peter Sagan in the decisive intermediate sprint.

“We had a very fast start and we wanted to put Peter in a great position going into the sprint. It took some energy as the intermediate sprints are very competitive but Peter took third place and secured the jersey. The boys did well and stayed with Alberto and on the final climb, Roman, Rafal and Michael set a hard tempo and Alberto performed well on the final climb, where the favorites attacked each other. The weather was quite different from the other days, colder and much wetter but actually we didn’t mind that as we’ve had some very hot days.

LottoNL-Jumbo sent this to me:

Robert Gesink moved up a spot in the Tour de France on Thursday despite bad luck on Plateau de Beille. The leader of Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished 18th on top of the giant in the Pyrenees and lost one minute on the yellow jersey group, but holds the seventh overall after overtaking Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal).

Joaquím Rodriguez (Katusha) won the 195-kilometre stage, which started in Lannemezan. The Spaniard was part of an early flight

“Today went quite well, although it sucked that I had a puncture at the foot of the Plateau de Beille,” Gesink said. “It was a bad moment. I took another bike, I started riding to the top as if it was a time trial. Thanks to the adrenaline, I almost made it back to the yellow jersey group. I could see them all the way up, but unfortunately I couldn’t close the gap.”

Gesink was happy about his performance. “I was really strong, it was another good day. It was a shame that I punctured.”

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink in stage 10

Sep Vanmarcke was one of the riders in the leading group with Rodriguez. The Belgian started the ascent to Plateau de Beille as race leader after he managed to create a gap together with Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quickstep).

“With the team, we had agreed that I would attack so that I could help Robert in the final,” Vanmarcke said after crossing the line in 30th at 12’38”. “It went pretty good, it wasn’t until the final climb that I was caught. I secretly hoped for a top ten, but the climb was too steep for someone with my weight. The last ten kilometres were hard. I’m glad it’s over now, although I amused myself today. I needed this, after last week’s bad luck.”

Bam Tankink moved up to the front of the peloton when Plateau de Beille was approaching and made sure that Gesink started the climb from a good position. Eventually, he placed 61st, more than 20 minutes behind Rodriguez.

“On the last climb it started to pour. It was very cold. We picked up the pace to warm ourselves up. It is too bad that Robert lost time, but it’s better that it happened because of a puncture than because of a bad day.”

Nico Verhoeven was pleased with Sep Vanmarcke’s performance. “It was a good move. He even attacked from the break. Sep had a hard time after his bad luck in the cobbled stage, but today he confirmed that he could do his thing in other type of stages. If there would have been a battle on the penultimate climb between the GC riders, Sep could have been important for Robert in the valley, but that was not the case. On the way to Plateau de Beille, the pace was so high that he could not really do anything.”

Verhoeven thinks an attacker has another chance of success on Friday. “It will be difficult for the sprinters’ teams to keep a break in check. Tinkoff-Saxo of course has Sagan, but they also have GC ambitions with Contador. Besides that, they have only seven riders left.”

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary