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Cycling Racing News and Opinion
July 13, 2014

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Tour de France Stage Nine Notes

As the break with Tony Gallopin and Pierre Rolland raced over the Vosges today, they surely sensed that Astana was planning on giving up Vincenzo Nibali's yellow jersey. In fact, Gallopin did get the yellow jersey and Pierre Rolland moved well up in the general classification as a result of Astana's tactical decision.

But why? It is actually not uncommon for a rider who has ambitions to wear the maillot jaune in Paris to give up the lead to a rider who can be depended upon to dutifully suffer in the mountains and give up the lead at a later time. The most famous example was in 1956 when Roger Walkowiak, upon the advice of his director, let the lead go. Walkowiak then regained the yellow jersey in in stage 18 and went on to win the 1956 Tour de France.

1956 Tour de France: Federico Bahamontes leads Stan Ockers (rainbow jersey) and Roger Walkowiak.

This voluntary giving up the lead saves the team the onerous work of riding tempo at the front of the pack day after day. After defending Nibali's lead for seven days, Astana had been looking a bit ragged the last couple of days.

Astana explained their thinking: "The tactical choice to chase a breakaway before the finish is a frequent practice in the team sport of professional cycling, but rarer still is the equally tactical choice to calculate the time difference of escaped riders on a given day, compute the future risk,  and then choose to let them ride to a stage victory.

"Astana Pro Team, in full cooperation with many other squads in the race, chose to let Gallopin’s 28-man breakaway succeed – though Gallopin himself deserves full credit for the yellow jersey, and his Belgian Lotto-Belisol team tonight can celebrate on the eve of France’s national holiday tomorrow when the young rider will no doubt find a new depth of emotion in himself amid the cheers and support he finds along the road during stage ten.

"The Tour de France is 21 stages long – with the hardest, most decisive days yet to be raced – Astana Pro Team will defend Vincenzo Nibali strategically and tactically in the days to come."

Alberto Contador had this to say about the stage, "It was a harder day than expected due to the heavy rain and of course the terrain and I'm hoping to recover overnight for tomorrow's big mountain battle. Astana let go of the jersey so they don't have to lead the pack, but there are other riders to pay attention to besides Nibali. I think Valverde and Porte are looking strong but it will be revealed tomorrow."

Tony Martin's wonderful ride was a quixotic gamble that paid off. Here's what the world time trial champion had to say about the day, "I think there are not so many guys in cycling who can do it like this. But I have to do it this way because I am not a guy for the big attacks and playing games. When I have the space, when I have a gap, I know I can make a good race and go really fast. I can do an effort like that in more than a one hour time trial. I can put out this kind of effort in a three or four hour mountain stage. Today everything worked perfectly. I had good legs and condition. It was my kind of weather and with only one rider with me in the breakaway it suits my skills. We didn't play any games, we just were going and cooperating well. It was just a perfect day."

Indeed it was. Chapeau, Mr. Martin.

Tony Martin

Tony Martin finishes stage nine. Photo ©Sirotti

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