Under the thunder, lightning, hail and rain of the Tour de France’s stage 12, it was fitting that the the general classification battle was a rather soggy squib. Dave Brailsford’s Team Sky automatons turned in one of their soul-crushingly authoritative performances to ensure Chris Froome lost no real time to his competitors, while Joaquim Rodriguez took his second stage win of the race from a breakaway.
Rider of the day
The weather was wet, but that didn’t stop everyone’s favourite anthropomorphic cigar smoking his way all the way to the finish line. Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez may be impervious to water but fortunately he isn’t immune to boredom, and another day being dropped by Froome wasn’t what motivated him to roll out of bed this morning. Instead, the frolicsome Spaniard got himself into the day’s strong breakaway, and after first gunning down world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) on the climb up to the Plateau de Beille, he dropped Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) to take a solo victory. Gracias, Purito, for showing that there’s still fun left in this race yet.
Four things we noticed
1. The most dominant Sky performance yet. While Purito’s quixotic breakaway victory was a triumph against the odds, Sky weren’t leaving anything to chance. It was their most dominant performance in a string of dominant performances, with Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas chasing down attacks from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) with little obvious difficulty (if it wasn’t for Froome, they could both probably win this race themselves). Sky are all looking in absolute optimal condition, and it’d take a massive disaster for them to throw this race away now.
2. No road to redemption for the unlucky escapees. It’s about that time in the Tour when red-faced directeur sportifs start counting down the stages left for them to redeem their race, demanding their riders make it into breakaways in a bid to do so. That may well have been the case for a few of today’s escapees: Kwiatkowski and Bardet have both had individually disappointing races, and Fuglsang‘s Astana have let themselves down on many different levels (not all of which are very surprising). Purito’s win denied them all redemption after plucky rides, but hey, at least they got themselves some airtime.
3. Louis Meintjes. Such was the spectacle-sapping nature of Sky’s management over the general classification race that our minds started to wander. Who was this Meintjes? And why on earth is his name pronounced like that? (Mine-keys, for those wondering). Well, anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of South African history won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a Dutch name, derived from the Germanic name Meine, which itself has its origins in the word “magan,” meaning “strength”. As it turns out, that’s incredibly fitting, as young Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) delivered a wonderful performance to finish fifth. If he’s this good on his debut Tour, he could well be a force to be reckoned with soon enough. Congrats, Mr. Louis Strength.
4. BMC may well have themselves a leadership dilemma next season. Richie Porte is such an oddly hit and miss rider, but right now he’s certainly hitting. On today’s showing, his (reported) team for 2016, BMC, will be licking their lips, but it’ll be interesting to see how they handle a potentially tricky leadership situation with Tejay van Garderen enjoying a pretty strong season to date. He’s still up in second on GC.
Stage 12 result
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 5:40:14
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +1:12
3. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:49
4. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) +4:34
5. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) +4:38
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 46:50:32
2. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +2:52
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:09
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +3:58
5. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +4:03
6. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +4:04
7. Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) +5:32
8. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +7:32
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +7:47
10. Bauke Mollema (Trek) +8:02
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
King of the Mountains leader: Chris Froome (Sky).
Best young rider: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Movistar.
Link: Official race website
Featured Image: Purito on the podium (Image: Katusha/Twitter/Tim De Waele)