Stage 15: Givors to Mont Ventoux, 242.5km
Chris Froome (Sky) took his revenge for the echelon episode and regained the time lost to Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) on his way to winning today’s summit finish on Mont Ventoux. In an extraordinary display of acceleration, he well and truly distanced his main rivals, climbing to the top with only Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for company.
It felt like the peloton just wanted to get it over with. So fast paced was the 220km on the way to the foot of Mont Ventoux, the riders were an hour ahead of schedule. En route, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) had latched onto the day’s 10-man breakaway and took the intermediate sprint. In typical Velvet Samurai fashion, he marked the almost certain green jersey victory by doing a wheelie as he started the climb of Mont Ventoux. [Robbie McEwen always used to do a wheelie at the top of the highest climb – Ed] The first man in the breakaway to hit the climb was Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), causing the French crowd to dream out loud of a French victory on Bastille Day. But it was not to be, although he did win the Combativity Award for his efforts.
The climb itself was explosive. Movistar went to the front to reel in the peloton and set up Quintana, who broke from the chasing group with 12.9km to go, quickly bridging across to Euskaltel’s Mikel Nieve. The Sky train then took over, ratcheting up the pace until they had whittled down the yellow jersey bunch to only three – Richie Porte, Contador, Froome. Riders were shelled out of the back at an alarming rate, with a surprising number of good climbers being dropped almost immediately.
With 7km to go, Richie Porte (Sky) swung off the front, leaving Contador and Froome to do battle, and it was the latter that landed the first, and decisive, blow with a ferocious attack that took him clear. Froome then went on to catch and ultimately drop Quintana with 1.5km to go to take the stage. The biggest surprise of the day? Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) came in fourth on the stage, after not being seen all day.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Chris Froome may have delivered the coup de grace on his GC rivals today, but my rider of the day is Nairo Quintana. After Valverde’s implosion on stage 13, all of Movistar’s hopes now rest on the young Colombian’s shoulders, and the poker-faced mountain goat rose to the challenge with aplomb. His attack with 12.9km to go showed tenacity and panache, and climbing with smoothness and grace he rode his way back into the white jersey, which he looks to hold all the way to Paris. He also jumped up the GC rankings and, but for a rampaging Chris Froome, would have taken the stage too.
Opinion & analysis
Today was a significant day for the jersey classifications. Peter Sagan all but sealed his green jersey victory by astutely embedding himself in the breakaway group and securing agreement from his breakmates not to challenge him in the intermediate sprint. With the focus on the GC, it would be easy to miss the significance of what Sagan achieved today, but he shrewdly triumphed over the brute force and speed of Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to take the green jersey out of reach.
As this is Bastille Day, which almost requires a French victory, and the fact that this Tour hasn’t had one at all yet, a great deal of hope (and pressure) was on the polka-dotted shoulders of KOM leader Pierre Rolland (Europcar). If he could have won today, he’d have picked up double points for a summit finish and added valuable points going into the last week (which is full of climbs). Sadly his legs left him and he was dropped almost immediately on the climb, relinquishing his polka-pants, not to mention the jersey, to Chris Froome.
There was a big opportunity for Nairo Quintana in the white jersey competition today and he snatched it. The young Colombian had ants in his pants and wasn’t long at the base of Ventoux before darting off in search of the summit. His attacks in earlier stages may be described as naïve, but his talent is rich, and it nearly paid off with a stage win today. He only started to fade in the last couple of kilometres, but his ride was nonetheless a huge success as he took the white and moved to sixth in the GC. With the amount of climbing yet to go, we could see Quintana on the main podium on Sunday night.
All the talk of the day, however, was focused on Chris Froome and his 7km blaze of destruction up the Ventoux, which left his GC rivals trailing in his wake. He attacked the Ventoux with a balls-to-the-wall show of strength, which not only took back all the time that he lost on stage 13, but also snared a second stage win on an iconic climb. There are three very hard stages coming up at the end of the week, but with a TT before them, it’s hard to see anyone else in the yellow jersey in Paris.
The big loser today was Alberto Contador, who lost the time he gained on stage 13 and then some (1.40) and is now 4.25 behind Froome. His teammate Roman Kreuziger made it to the finish line in front of him, taking fifth on the stage to Contador’s sixth. Bertie should be able to overcome second place Bauke Mollema (Belkin) later this week as there are only a handful of seconds between them, but it would be a Herculean task to rise up and take the top step of the podium.
Stage 15 result
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 5:48:45
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) + 0:00:29
3. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:01:23
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:01:23
5. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:01:40
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 61:11:43
2. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +04:14
3. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +04:25
4. Roman Keuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +04:28
5. Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin) +04:54
6. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +05:47
7. Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) +06:22
8. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +07:11
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) +07:47
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +07:58
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Polka dot jersey: Chris Froome (Sky)
White jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Team classification: Saxo-Tinkoff
Link: Official website