Tour de France: Stage 13 review

Stage 13: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d’Agde, 217km

This long, transitional stage saw a breakaway getting away early: Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-BigMat), Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Roy Curvers (Argos-Shimano), Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale), Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) and Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Unsurprisingly on Bastille Day, five of the eight escapees were Frenchmen.

With 64km to go Morkov went off on his own, riding solo for nearly 35km. However, with crosswinds and the climb of the Mont Saint-Clair coming up, BMC started driving hard on the front of the peloton. Once on the climb, Morkov was caught and Cadel Evans (BMC) put in small digs but Bradley Wiggins (Sky) kept his cool and rode like a metronome, cresting over the top not far behind Evans.

Splits formed in the group by the steep gradient meant most of the big sprinters were left behind, including Mark Cavendish (Sky). An audacious attack in the last 16km by Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) was chased down by the hard-riding Lotto-Belisol boys. Under the 1km banner, Wiggins went to the front in an attempt to lead out his trusty lieutenant Edvald Boasson Hagen but EBH couldn’t keep the wheel of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Andre Greipel (Lotto), with Greipel taking the win by half a wheel.

VeloVoices rider of the day

Easy choice today. The rider of the day and winner of the stage’s combativity award is Michael Morkov. This was Morkov’s fourth breakaway in two weeks and he was a man with a mission. As this was the fifth anniversary of his father’s death, Morkov wanted to win this stage in honour of him. It’s just a shame it didn’t come off, as everyone watching was pulling for him to win.

I was riding with a lot of emotions because today is, in fact, five years since my dad died. He started me in cycling – he gave me the inspiration – and I really wanted to let my family know that I’m now in the best league. I’m in the Tour de France now and I know he would be proud. I was really fighting hard for the win today. People who do sport know that, if you have special feelings – if you really want to perform something special – you can dig deep and get some real power out of your legs. I did that today and I felt really good when I was out there alone.


Although the Tour organisers have put in over 100km of time trial and, for me, unless I’m watching Cancellara ride those I find them tedious, they certainly used a lot of imagination on the rest of the course. In what could have been a rather uneventful transitional stage, the organisers put in a vicious climb less than 25km from the finish with gradients of the kind you’d find in the spring Classics and then a technical and incredibly fast run-in to the finishing line.

On nearly every stage, the race profile at first glance looks straightforward enough, but looking closer, there’s always something unexpected – be it bone-grinding gradients, the mix and order of climbs or something technical on the stage, always ensuring that somewhere there will be chances for the touch-paper to be lit.

Tactical analysis

Greipel throws for the line (image courtesy of official Tour de France website)

None of the main GC contenders got caught out by the wind splits today, so it was all about the green jersey. Although Matt Goss had been diligent over the past few days to contest the intermediate sprints, Orica-GreenEDGE seemed to misjudge it today and Peter Sagan mopped up the points the breakaway didn’t take. Add to that Goss’ no-show at the finish and it looks more and more like nothing can stop Sagan from riding down the Champs-Elysees in the green jersey in his first Tour. One of many, I predict.

But it was also interesting to see that Mark Cavendish was dropped almost immediately on Mont Saint-Clair and didn’t even have Bernie Eisel to ride with. Sky have always maintained that the yellow jersey is the focus but I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Cav, being relegated to the back of the bunch when he has spent so much time in his career as the big man in the peloton.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitter, reviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Tour de France official website

Tour de France preview: Stage 13

Stage 13: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d’Agde, 217km, flat

This may be a sprinters’ stage or it may be a splitters’ stage – the last 16km run into Cap d’Agde looks straightforward if you just look at the profile but the Tour’s organisers are not making anything completely straightforward this year. After yesterday’s stage – the longest of the 2012 Tour – today’s is the third-longest, just 9km shorter. Before the riders get to the finish, they need to get over a Cat 3 climb and ride along the Mediterranean coast for approximately 40km. As this is the part of the coast that attracts wind-surfers, you can guess the danger here – wind splitting the peloton so that a breakaway could stay away, sprinters could easily lose their place at the front of the peloton and all the GC contenders could get twitchy trying to stay out of trouble.

Sprinters should get two bites at the cherry today as Matt Goss and company seek to eat into Peter Sagan‘s hefty advantage in the points competition. The intermediate sprint just after halfway is slightly uphill on a gently curving road, but looks fairly straightforward. The finish, however, is far from routine. There is a tricky ramp at around 1.5km which could stall the sprint trains, then in the final half-kilometre the road bends left and then twice right, with the line only coming into view with 200 metres to go. Any aspiring stage winner will need to ensure he is in prime position in the front half-dozen or so before that series of bends, or it will be too late.

Add to all that the fact that this stage is being held on Bastille Day, which means that French riders will be doubly keen to shake the peloton so they can unfurl the tricolore.

Cycling the Alps’ interactive videos of the route can be found here.

Link: Official website