Putting up with none of the gurning shenanigans of Thomas Voeckler on the final descent, Mick Rogers warmed the heart of Oleg Tinkov once again by winning stage 16 solo. Vincenzo Nibali stayed in yellow but Thibaut Pinot put the thumbscrews on Romain Bardet to take third overall.
With a 21-man break getting away early on and gaining over 12 minutes ahead of the peloton before the final climb, the winner of this stage was always going to come out of this group of strong men. But it was quite a battle to get there, with a select group of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Meridia) and Mick Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) cresting the final climb of the day – the HC Porte de Bales – and taking on the descent together, to be joined by Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Vasil Kiryienka (Sky).
It’s known in the peloton that Voeckler can play possum when he’s in a break, especially if there’s a possibility of a win. With his teammate Gautier with him, he was content to let Serpa, Rogers and Kiryienka do the work. Kiryienka was riding an expressionless yet blistering pace to try to salvage something, anything from this Tour for Sky.
However, Rogers, fed up with Voeckler’s lack of work ethic, had a finger-wagging word with him 4km from the finish: “Don’t play with me because you’re not going to beat me. I’ve been in this position too many times not to win.” And with that, he set off on a ride of rage to take the solo win.
It sounds so simple when you put in black and white but it wasn’t. Today, like almost every day in the Tour so far, was one that surprised and entertained. The top step of the podium might be locked up by Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali but that doesn’t make this Tour a procession. It’s anything but.
Today on the final climb of the Port de Bales, no one sat in complacency. Attacks came from every group and for a myriad of reasons. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), perhaps remembering the pressure he was put under by Ag2r La Mondiale the other day on the descent, made sure that he did some digging and dropping himself, leaving the man ahead of him in the GC, Romain Bardet (Ag2r), to fend for himself minutes behind the lead group.
He also dropped Tejay van Garderen (BMC) right out of podium contention, as the American lost up to 3½ minutes on his podium rivals.
It was ruthless. It was unrelenting. It was magnificent.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Once again, I’m going to avoid the obvious and name Thibaut Pinot as rider of the day. Why? Because he knew he needed to make time on van Garderen before Saturday’s TT (Tejay being the better time trialist by a country mile) and he wanted to knock Bardet from third spot in the GC. And he did both with blistering attacks on the final climb that detached them good and proper. Add to that, on a tricky and scary final descent, he held his nerve and stuck with the Nibali group to keep the lead he’d built up over his adversaries on the climb.
A sobering spot
It was also a day of remembrance, as the Tour went over the Col de Portet d’Aspet. It was on this descent in 1995 that Fabio Casertelli crashed on the descent and lost his life. He was 24 years old. Please ride safely, everyone.
Stage 16 results
1. Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) 6:07:10
2. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) +0:09
3. Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) same time
4. Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) s/t
5. Cyril Gautier (Europcar) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 73:05:19
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +4:37
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +5:06
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) +6:08
5. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +6:40
6. Tejay van Garderen (BMC)+9:25
7. Leopold Konig (Netapp-Endura) +9:32
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin) +11:12
9. Michal Kwiatkowsi (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +11:28
10. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +11:33
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
King of the Mountains leader: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Best young rider: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).
Team classification: Ag2r La Mondiale.