Jan Bakelants on the podium at La Med, Leigh Howard defying the wind at Clasica Almeria and a feisty Andrea Fedi in the hills of Italy. To paraphrase the ‘Walrus of Luurve’ – it’s your first, your last, your everything!
While many predicted a certain Norwegian winner from Sky for this race, few would have put their money on Lars Petter Nordhaug over Edvald Boasson Hagen. But that was how it finished as the Grand Prix series in Canada came to a close. Nordhaug made a late attack and caught the peloton off-guard, surging in front of his fellow escapees as it seemed he was fading away. This was the biggest win of the 28-year old’s career, with Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) second and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) third.
Cyril Gautier (Europcar) took the best climber’s prize after getting into the day’s long breakaway, whilst it was unsurprisingly Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) who was the highest placed Canadian rider, finishing 23rd, 11 seconds in front of his nearest challenger David Veilleux (Europcar).
The early breakaway
Along with Gautier in the early break were Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) in the day’s early escape, while Kristjan Koren (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Simone Ponzi (Astana) floated behind the three leaders in an unsuccessful attempt to bridge across. While Gautier will have been rather pleased with his day’s efforts, the others were left frustrated as the gap was steadily closed down until it was all back together with just 20km to go.
The lead group only achieved an advantage of four minutes, and they weren’t helped when Boaro was dropped, leaving the two leaders resigned to being inevitably swallowed up by a peloton which was continuously full of impatient riders wanting to attack themselves, with Dennis Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) opening up a lead of around 20 seconds before being caught with the leaders.
Even strong riders like Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) all looked interested in trying to break away, before deciding better of it or being closed down by those who deemed it too dangerous to allow such riders to escape.
The greatest danger came when a seven-man break formed a small gap, with Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), Anthony Geslin (FDJ-BigMat) and Sebastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale) forming the escape. Voeckler attempted to bridge the gap, but the pacemaking being done by BMC meant that the move didn’t stick.
David Tanner (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) tried a solo move as it all came back together with 11km remaining, but despite opening up a handful of seconds on the bunch, holding off such a marauding peloton was a nigh-on impossible task. Veilleux also tried a move before Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) laid their cards on the table, but Sky did an excellent job of dragging the select 25-man group back up to the front for their man Boasson Hagen.
The winning move
With 5km to go Nordhaug made an unexpected attack, forcing Moser and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) to go with him. All of a sudden the three leaders became four, as Kolobnev made a stinging attack to surge in front of the leaders and open up a gap with 500 metres to go. But the Russian faded, seemingly handing Moser the win, as Nordhaug ran out of steam.
But, having left it to the dying moments, the Norwegian snuck by the Italian to take the victory by two seconds. Gerrans, the winner in Quebec on Friday, led the peloton home in fourth place, just ahead of Boasson Hagen. Last year’s winner Rui Costa (Movistar) was a further second behind in eighth.
For the third year running Canada provided the WorldTour with some of its most exciting racing of the season. There’s no doubt these races have been a superb addition to the calendar, and are always ones to look forward to. The parcours guarantees there is always an aggressive, chaotic finish and, as shown in this race, there’s usually an unpredictable winner.
In terms of the racing, it was interesting to see Kolobnev look so strong here. The Russian was a favourite to take the rainbow stripes a couple of years ago, but has faded from the cycling consciousness since his incorrect positive test in last year’s Tour de France. I wonder if he’s been quietly targeting the World Championships this season, as he could fancy the hilly course.
1. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky Procycling) 5:28:29
2. Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) +0:02
3. Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha Team) same time
4. Simon Gerrans (Orica – GreenEdge) +0:04
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t
6. Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
7. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
8. Rui Costa (Movistar) s/t
9. Luca Paolini (Katusha) s/t
10. Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) s/t
David Millar used his considerable Tour savvy to win from a breakaway and provided a much-needed fillip to Garmin-Sharp’s fortunes. Millar outwitted Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale) in a tense game of cat and mouse on the run in to the finish after the pair had distanced their three breakaway companions in the final kilometres.
Today’s stage had successful breakaway written all over it and it was no surprise that a group of 19 eventually broke free before the first climb of the day. A number of riders subsequently tried to unsuccessfully bridge across – at one time even the maillot jaune jumped out to herd an errant flock back into the peloton. Over the first two climbs, both Cat 1s, the breakaway was whittled down to 11 and then finally five: Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), fresh-faced Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in addition to the aforementioned Millar and Peraud.
Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) led home the peloton, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) on his wheel, to add to their respective points tallies in the hunt for the green jersey. Goss wavered from his line causing Sagan to check and the former was subsequently relegated by the race jury. Bradley Wiggins finished safely in the bunch as the peloton enjoyed a relatively easy day. No bad thing after the efforts of the previous two days and with the Pyrenees looming on the horizon.
This was Millar’s fourth stage win in the Tour, and only his second road win, the others being in prologues. It was also the fourth win by a Britain in this year’s Tour and now four of the five Olympics GB team members are Tour stage winners. It was also the 45th anniversary of the death of Tommy Simpson – the first British rider to wear the maillot jaune – on Mont Ventoux.
VeloVoices rider of the day
It has to be today’s stage winner, David Millar, who collapsed after crossing the line exhausted from his heroic efforts remaining in the day’s long break and then chasing down numerous attacks from his fellow breakaway riders to take an emotional, hard-fought and intelligently raced victory.
His teammates certainly seemed to appreciate the win:
@millarmind you beauty!— VandeVelde,Christian (@ChristianVDV) July 13, 2012
I have no idea why this was one of the stages which was televised from start to finish. During what could be politely called a lull in proceedings, television commentators everywhere were forced onto the back foot. There’s only so much time you can spend discussing France’s rich heritage, culture and gastronomy. We were treated to the full gamut from I-spy, trainspotting, reminiscing about one’s early career, amusing anecdotes and bad jokes. Out on the road we had giant pears, tricolour cows, French workers emulating The Full Monty from the roof of their warehouse, small hovercraft racing along the river Rhone and spectators in fancy dress. Even over on Twitter, we had to work hard to keep ourselves amused.
With little or no action of note on the road, everyone fell back on yesterday’s WAG story in which the respective other halves of Messrs Wiggins, Cavendish and Froome indulged in a cat fight. I think they’ve yet to kiss and make up a la Vincenzo Nibali and Wiggins.
Today was one of those famous transition stages where the successful breakaway provided a welcome reversal of luck for one of the teams staring down the barrel of a potentially empty-handed Tour. It had absolutely no impact on either the jerseys or the general classification. Instead it provided all, bar the five in the breakaway, with a recovery day ride.
Tomorrow’s stage heads down to the coast on a stage for the sprinters but the overall contenders need to be aware that the likelihood of coastal winds, in particular the Mistral, could wreak further havoc and more broken dreams.
VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitter, reviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.