It was the first high mountain stage and the final climb up to Chamrousse saw Vincenzo Nibali power to the stage win while Alejandro Valverde and Thibaut Pinot ensured that Richie Porte‘s podium dreams were left in the melting tar.
Securing the yellow
We can still say that there’s a lot of racing to come yet, there is a final week in the Pyrenees – where Alberto Contador said the Tour would be won – but to be truthful, it would take a very bad day for the yellow jersey to change hands now. Today Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) made sure that 13 wasn’t his unlucky number by riding with one thing in mind – taking yet more time on his rivals.
First, he let Katusha do all the work in the heat of the valleys to keep the breakaway from loosening Joaquim Rodriguez‘s grip on the KoM jersey. It was ironic that, by the end of the day, Nibali would have inherited that jersey. Secondly, he used his team wisely to protect him, upping the pace when they had to, but backing off when it wasn’t necessary. By the time Tanel Kangert, his last teammate on the last climb, started riding backwards, the yellow jersey group was thin and without the second place rider, Sky’s Richie Porte.
Thirdly, he took the final climb in a cold, calculated, focussed way, refusing to ride defensively. He followed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) when he attacked with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) on the last 10km of the climb and he only needed to stay with them to keep his place at the top of the leader board. But he didn’t – he put in a dig that gave him a sizeable gap at just over 5km from the top, leaving Valverde and Pinot to work together (or not) to try to solidify their own places on the podium. Quickly bridging to Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka and Netapp-Endura’s Leopold Konig, they soon dropped back from the pace, leaving him to finish the stage in victory. On the hottest day of the Tour so far, Nibali has shown himself to be the coolest of customers.
The cracks are beginning to show
Most of the riders suffered today, for one reason or another. The hot weather saw off Cofidis’ Daniel Navarro, FDJ’s Arthur Vichot and Garmin-Sharp’s Janier Acevedo, who all abandoned the race for probable heat exhaustion.
Much to the chagrin of many, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) lost just over 30 minutes due to a crash on the descent of the first climb – one that he blamed on Lotto-Belisol’s Jurgen van den Broeck and a full Lotto bidon – dropping from 10th to 25th in the GC. And unfortunately for all the work Katusha did in the sweltering heat to keep Rodriguez well placed for taking more KoM points, he too cracked on the final climb, losing the jersey to Nibali, who now leads him by 17 points.
But it was Sky’s GC hope, Richie Porte, who was the big loser of the day. At first it looked like he was moving to the back of the main group to talk to his team car with 13km to go, but was soon apparent that this wasn’t a mechanical, but a bad day in the Alps for the Tasmanian. Although he had Mikel Nieve and, a little later, Geraint Thomas to help him, the main group weren’t in a mood to let him come back and turned on the pressure. Porte finished the day 8.48 behind Nibali, dropping from 2nd to 16th in the GC and kissing the podium goodbye. This is a spectacular fall for the team that has so dominated the Tour peloton for the past two years.
VeloVoices rider of the day
My rider of the stage is Thibaut Pinot, who now sits fourth in the GC, just 20 seconds behind his compatriot, Ag2r’s Romain Bardet, who currently occupies the last podium spot. Pinot was particularly frisky on the last climb, staying with the yellow jersey group until he went off with Nibali and Valverde, then matched Valverde pedal-stroke for pedal-stroke, until he foolishly let down his guard in the last few metres to the finish and Valverde sprinted past him, taking a few precious seconds.
This is a blazing Tour for the French, who currently occupy three of the top six places on GC. French riders are looking and acting like they believe they have every right to be on the podium and are willing to fight tooth and nail to ensure their place on it.
Stage 13 result
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 5:12:29
2. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:10
3. Leopold Konig (Netapp-Endura) +0:11
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:50
5. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +0:53
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 56:44:03
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +3:37
3. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +4:24
4. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +4:40
5. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +5:19
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) +6:06
7. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +6:17
8. Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +6:27
9. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) +8:35
10. Leopold Konig (Netapp-Endura) +8:51
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
King of the Mountains leader: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Best young rider: Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Team classification: Ag2r La Mondiale.