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David L. Stanley
2015 Tour de France: July 17
Stage 13 reviewed and assessed

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo,, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). 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.

David L Stanley

David L Stanley

Tour de France: 2019

Bill and Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2019: A Year of New Faces is available in both Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. For you copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

STAGE 13, 17 July 2015: Muret to Rodez, 123 MI/198km

In which we leave the Pyrenees, but not the hills.

Rolling to the northeast, we leave the Pyrenees behind and head towards the Massif Central. In the town of Rodez, one can dine upon aligot, a peasant dish that monks were known to make for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Aligot is made from mashed potatoes, cream, garlic, and melted local cheese. When served, it strudels and streams from bowl to serving spoon like half-melted buttercream frosting. It is considerably more hardy, however.

I hope the riders have had some. After three savage days in the Pyrenees, the organizers might have chosen a pancake flat route suited for the rouleurs who saved a bit in the autobus of the Pyrenees. Instead, the first 90 km are flat, but the last 100 km feature three categorized climbs. At the day’s close, the riders head up a 600 meter long climb at 8% as they sprint to the finish.
If Octave Lapize were racing today, he might have a word or two for race organizer Christian Prudhomme.

Stage 13 profile

Stage 13 profile

Let’s cut to the chase.

25 MI/40 km to go: A group of six is 2:30 up the road. They’re headed up to the Cote de la Selve, a category 4 climb that is 4 km long. That’s plenty long and steep enough to shake a few guys out the back of the breakaway.

Three feet above the tarmac, the temps have been measured at 106F/42C. In Kelvin, that is 314. Whatever scale one uses, that’s too darn hot.

In the break: Gautier (Europcar), Kelderman (Lotto-Jumbo), Geniez (FdJ), Haas (C’dale-Garmin), Perichon (Bretagne-Seche), and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal).
BMC and the Tinkoffs make tempo. This is a great stage win chance for both teams, as those closing climbs suit Sagan (Tinkoff) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC).

20 MI/ 32 km to go: The break’s time gap is 2:02. The break is off of the climb and it’s safe to say they will be back in the fold before the finale.

The big question: Can two or three of the riders attack out of the break and hold off the big chase?

Often times, once the main breakaway is caught, a small group can gain a few moments. It’s psychological- “We caught the big break. We’ll reel in those guys in a few.” The main field eases for a couple of minutes, and the gap goes out.

12 MI/20 km to go: Nathan Haas, a Tour newbie and an Aussie who’s good in heat, goes up the road from the break. Perfect timing. When the “band of brothers” (thanks Jens Voigt) stops working together, it is time to go alone.
In the bunch, the Tinkoffs are doing a lot of work at the front. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) just got dropped as a result. Good planning from the Tinkoffs.

One serious threat to Sagan is gone.

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10 MI/16 km to go: The break chases down Haas. And there is much waving of hands. He was not a hard worker in the group. He stayed at the back. He missed a few pulls. His co-workers were not happy about his move.

It’s a slackline balancing act. The ethos says that it’s “all for one and one for all,” but the reality is that you need to be selfishly aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. The balance: work hard enough to make the break work, but save enough to make your attack work.

Why, you ask, the balancing act? You can’t make enemies in the peloton. It’s like the Mafia: your breakaway companions will remember, and when you need help, none will be forthcoming. Worse, the offended riders will take great pleasure in ruining your chances even when it doesn’t help their own.

The break has 1:30.

How in the world is J-C Peraud (AG2R) still in contact? Staggering. He had a horrific solo crash at ludicrous speed. Forearms, hips, a chunk of face, shoulder- more bandages than skin - all bandaged on the move at the race doctor’s vehicle. He even carried water bottles up to his teammates, post-crash, on this blistering day.

J-C looks like he was tumbled inside a gemstone polisher.

J C Peraud

J. C. Peraud finishes with lots of bandages

8 MI/13 km to go: The break is shattering on the climb to La Primalube (really, that’s its name). It’s all hands on deck and every man for himself. There are attacks all over the place with a gap of 1:04 back to the peloton.

7 MI/11 km to go: Thomas DeGendt, Wilco Kelderman, and Cyril Gautier are linked up.

In the peloton, Porte and Rodriguez have been dropped on the climb. Ditto Thomas Voeckler. The peloton is hitting this last climb hard. I don’t blame Purito for not digging deep. Between his work to win yesterday’s stage, and tomorrow’s stage as perfect for him, he should roll easy for the last twenty minutes.

In a bad sign for the break, Nathan Haas is 25 seconds in front of the peloton. The guys in the chase love to have a carrot.

6.2 MI/10 km to go: We’re down to 40 seconds, and Haas is caught. The three are still riding their 3 man TTT. The last 500 meters of the day are very twisty. That will be to their advantage-to be out of sight for as long as possible.

4.2 MI/7 km to go: Still at 40 seconds and de Gendt is clawing back on after acceleration by Kelderman and Gautier. In the group, Sagan is about 10th wheel.  Froome looks sharp-he’s 4th wheel- and that looks like TVG two riders behind him. And there is Nibali, too. All the GC guys are riding near the front.

Geraint Thomas and Vncenzo Nibali

Geraint Thomas and Vincenzo Nibali

3 MI/ 5 km to go:

We’ve seen no quit in the break as they roll slightly downhill towards the small but testing hill at the end. These three breakaways have been away since KM ZERO. Yes, I am rooting for Kelderman.

1.8MI/3 km to go: The gap is 20 seconds, but the roads are so twisty, they’re still out of sight.

1.5 MI/2.5 km to go:

The peloton is screaming downhill at 70 kph on their way to the climb.

1.2 MI/2 km to go: 15 seconds to the catch. Maybe. The break still rides as one.
Daniel Oss (BMC) is handing out pain at the front to the advantage of teammate Greg van Avermaet. Oss is a brute-6’3” and 175 lbs. The break is still riding together.

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RED KITE TIME! On the climb and the break has 1o seconds. This is too close to call. The three men in the break have their heads down and they are hauling the mail up this hill.

Mark Renshaw (Etixx) is dragging Cavendish across a big gap. Renshaw looks like he’s sprinting for the win, and Cav is on him tight. Cav can go up a hill. You don’t win Milan-San Remo on the flats.

Said Mark Cavendish after the race, “There are twenty-six category 1, 2, and HC climbs in this year’s Tour. Mate, we’ve only done 7.”

500 meters to go: There GOES VAN AVERMAET! That’s a big gap. Sagan is after him.

Sagan has him. Sits on him. This looks like Sagan’s race. He’s catching his breath.

Greg Jumps! Sagan jumps. Greg kicks again, gains a half a wheel. Sagan jumps.

He’s not getting him. Sagan can’t come around. It’s all van Avermaet!

GREG van AVERMAET takes a brilliant win on a difficult day.

The usual suspects on GC: Froome, Nibali, TVG, Contador, Nairo- all present and correct in the front of the main group. Good on them.

Greg van Avermaet wins stge 13

Greg van Avermaet wins stage 13 in front of Peter Sagan

The finish order:

  1. Greg van Avermaet-BMC 4:43:42
  2. Peter Sagan-Tinkoff @ same time
  3. Jan Bakelants-AG2R @00:03
  4. John Degenkolb-Giant @00:07
  5. Paul Martens-Lotto s.t.
  6. Froome-SKY s.t.
  7. Nibali-Astana s.t.
  8. Contador-Tinkoff s.t.
  9. Valverde-Movistar s.t.
  10. TVG-BMC s.t
  11. Quintana-Movistar s.t.

The GC:

  1. Froome 51:34:21
  2. TVG @02:52
  3. Nairo @3:09
  4. Valverde @3:58
  5. Sir Geraint @04:03
  6. Contador @04:04

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What Did We Learn Today?

1) J-C Peraud is tougher than tarmacadam. That was a horrific crash; skidding across the pavement at 55 kph, on a very rough road. His face bounced, his shorts left behind, his arms peeled clean of skin. Yet he only lost 1:30 at the point the crash, got back on his bike, made his way through the caravan to get bandaged at the rolling ambulance; the voiture médicale. After J-C was swaddled, he loaded up with waterbottles, made his way forward, and handed them out to his teammates.

2) GC leaders can never afford to let their concentration waver for an instant. Together all day, you could toss a carpet over them at the finish. Not all top riders exhibit that level of awareness, even in this era of marginal gains. They must have all stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

3) Greg van Avermaet is the real deal. He motors on the flats for his captain. He outsprints the world’s greatest uphill sprinter for a win. That win today was taken with 100% confidence. His jump out of the group was not a lick and a prayer. It was a freaking statement.

Random Race Facts: Today was the 15th stage in which Peter Sagan has finished second. However, he does have, at the moment, both the white jersey (young rider) and the green jersey (points leader). So, he’s got that going for him.
Which is nice.

Join in the conversation. Can Sagan win tomorrow? Which jersey should he wear: white or green? Maybe he could start in one, and change at the feed-zone?

And please, no wagering.

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