Stage 20: Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz, 125km
Nairo Quintana recorded his first Tour de France stage win as he danced his way to the top of the ski resort of Semnoz, earning the right to declare himself King of the Mountains. He’ll have snazzy red polka dots stuck onto his white young rider’s jersey in Paris tomorrow, while Chris Froome is now only a leisurely 133.5km away from winning overall.
The most significant members of the day’s breakaway were those out to fight for the mountains points on offer over the six grueling categorised climbs, namely Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale). Rolland quickly amassed enough points to take provisional ownership of the polka dot jersey.
However, any hopes the escapees had of winning the stage were dashed by Movistar, who laid down a killer pace on the front of the peloton. With the gap stabilising at around a minute, Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) attacked his fellow breakaway companions, opening up a margin of over three minutes. Had the stage been a flat finish, Voigt would have had a chance of staying away alone. But with Movistar joined by Katusha at the front of the peloton just before the start of the 10.7km hors categorie climb to the line, not even screaming “shut up, legs” would enable Voigt to win the stage.
Movistar’s Rui Costa and Alejandro Valverde sprinted the first section of the climb, before their teammate Nairo Quintana followed Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) in the first GC attack. Chris Froome (Sky) quickly bridged the gap, with Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) again conspicuous by his absence. The lead trio relayed well, with the gap to an ailing Contador steadily growing. Rodriguez did the lion’s share of the pacemaking, before Froome – who had been sat on the back fending off irritating spectators – made his bid for glory with just a kilometre left.
Quintana jumped onto his wheel, before sailing right past the maillot jaune, building up an advantage which would ensure he wouldn’t be caught. Rodriguez followed in 18 seconds behind, with Froome a further 11 seconds in arrears. Contador lost over two minutes – he’s down to fourth overall.
VeloVoices rider of the day
He’s already won this prestigious award this Tour, but Nairo Quintana – and indeed the entire Movistar team – rode so perfectly today he’s a deserved recipient again. His outstanding three weeks has been capped by sealing the polka dot jersey – a symbolic, prestigious and, above all, fitting prize for the only rider who has looked seriously capable of matching Froome on the climbs. Arise, King Nairo de las montañas!
Opinion & analysis
Alberto Contador was, again, the big loser of the day. He’ll certainly lose sleep over failing so badly in his bid to reclaim the Tour title. Having announced he’s not going to defend his Vuelta a España title, it’s well and truly back to the drawing board to ensure El Pistolero is firing on all cylinders this time next year.
Despite Contador’s disappointment, it’s not all bad news for Saxo-Tinkoff. Contador’s teammate and loyal domestique Roman Kreuziger has ridden out of his skin this race, with his fifth place on GC contributing to the Danish outfit’s victory in the team classification. There’s no doubt, however, that the riders would rather be taking home stuffed LCL lions than fluorescent yellow dossards.
A trio of noteworthy names on the general classification are Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), who have finished eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. Fuglsang, who up until now looked like he’d go down as a wasted talent, comfortably bettered his previous best Tour finish of 50th, and proven he’s got what it takes to deliver at the top.
Navarro, meanwhile, is riding his fourth edition of the Tour, but his first not in support of Contador. Moving to Cofidis and finally leaving behind his friend and teammate – who he rode for at Liberty Seguros, Astana and Saxo Bank – Navarro’s top ten is a brilliant achievement, after an ever-exciting breakaway-packed three weeks. Talansky has ridden a quietly excellent race, with underrated 24-year-old overtaking Michal Kwiatkowski as second-best young rider. He’s a serious contender for stage races in the future.
Finally, it’s only fitting we leave the last word to the race’s last man. Orica-GreenEDGE’s Svein Tuft looks like he’ll finish the 2013 Tour as lanterne rouge, defying the odds and emerging from crashes and solo mountain stages to finish the race – not forgetting his role in his team’s TTT victory in Nice. (Doesn’t that feel a lifetime ago?!?) Almost 4½ hours in arrears of Froome, the 36-year-old Tour debutant deserves a huge chapeau.
Stage 20 result
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 3:39:04
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:18
3. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:29
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:42
5. Richie Porte (Sky) +2:17
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 80:49:33
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +5:03
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +5:47
4. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +7:10
5. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +8:10
6. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +12:25
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +13:00
8. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +16:09
9. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) +16:35
10. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) +18:22
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Polka dot jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
White jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Saxo-Tinkoff.
Link: Official website