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Kadri makes it a fabulous day for Ag2r by winning the first mountain stage of the Tour de France from a breakaway; Contador attacks several times and finally puts 3 seconds into Nibali to take second

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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DECATHLON AG2R LA MONDIALE

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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12.07.2014 @ 18:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Blel Kadri made a fantastic coup for Ag2r when he won the first big mountain stage of the Tour de France as he emerged as the strongest from a 5-rider break on a rainy day in the Vosges. Further behind, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) made repeated attacks on the final climb and finally managed to distance race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who limited his losses to just 3 seconds and defends his overall lead.

 

One year ago, Ag2r took a big victory in the Tour de France when Christophe Riblon won the queen stage to the top of Alpe d’Huez. Today the team added another mountain stage to their growing palmares when an incredible Blel Kadri won the first summit finish of this year’s edition of the French race.

 

On a day when the peloton showed no interest in catching the early break, the Frenchman made several attacks in the early part of the stage but seemed to have missed out when Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) escaped. However, he refused to give up and together with Adrien Petit (Cofidis) and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), he bridged the gap to the front duo.

 

The five riders were allowed to build an 11-minute gap and it was evident that the stage winner would be one of the escapees. On the final three climbs, however, Kadri was in a class of his own.

 

Chavanel tried to anticipate the hostilities by attacking on the lower slopes of the first climb and briefly rode away from his rivals. Riding at his own pace, however, Kadri rejoined his compatriot before dropping the IAM leader. From there, he kept the pace high all the way to the line and ended as the only survivor of the 5-man group.

 

In the peloton, the battle between the race favourites was fully on as Tinkoff-Saxo set a brutal pace as soon as they hit the first climb. Whittling down the peloton, they put riders like Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Haimar Zubeldia (Trek), Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) into difficulty even before they hat the final steep ramp to the finish.

 

Right from the bottom, Nicolas Roche dropped the hammer which put everybody on their limit and made the group explode to pieces. Moments later, Alberto Contador launched the first of several acceleration and only race leader Vincenzo Nibali could keep up with him.

 

While Richie Porte (Sky) fought hard to make it back to the pair, Contador continued his aggressive tactics but for a long time, Nibali seemed to be unshakable. The Italian seemed to be at ease when he responded to the attacks and nothing suggested that Contador would be able to make the difference.

 

Just before the line, however, Contador made a final acceleration and this time it was too much for the race leader. Nibali finally cracked and had to let his Spanish rival go, with Contador taking second on the stage. However, Nibali limited his losses really well and crossed the line in third, just 3 seconds later than Contador.

 

Porte took fourth while Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) made it a great day for Ag2r by taking 5th and 6th. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) failed to live up to his own expectations and could only manage 7th.

 

Nibali extended his lead over teammate Fuglsang to 1.44 while Porte moved into third. Contador is now sixth as the peloton heads into the next big stage in the Vosges. With the first part containing no less than 6 climbs, it is a very tough affair but as the final 21km are completely flat, it seems to be a good day for a breakaway.

 

A hilly stage

For the first time in this year’s race, the peloton faced a summit finish when they travelled over 161km from Tomblaine to Gerardmer. The first part was completely flat but inside the final 30km, the riders went up three climbs, with the final one being a short 1.8km ramp to the finish at Le Mauselaine.

 

The riders took the start under cloudy conditions but unfortunately one key rider was missing. IAM leader Mathias Frank (IAM) who crashed in yesterday's finale and suffered a broken femur, is our of the race. Luckily, Paul Voss (NetApp) who sustained a broken nose and finger in the same crash, has decided to continue in the race.

 

Puncture for Cancellara

As one would expect, the stage got off to a very fast start with numerous attacks. After 3km of racing, things were still together and 2km further up the road, Fabian Cancellara (Trek) was set back by a puncture at a time when the race was really fast.

 

Daniel Oss (BMC) was among several riders to try to attack but at the 11km mark, things were back together. Then Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE), Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne) and Gregory Rast (Trek) tried their hand but they had no success either.

 

Chavanel attacks

Chavanel made repeated attacks that caused several splits in the peloton, with Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin) being among the riders to be left behind. At one point, Chavanel was part of sextet that also included Terpstra and Fabian Cancellara (Trek).

 

Terpstra and Chavanel escaped on their own while the rest of the group was caught. Yates set off in pursuit and was joined first by Kadri and later Petit. Meanwhile, the peloton slowed down and allowed all the dropped riders to rejoin them.

 

A quintet is formed

Terpstra and Chavanel rode hard for a little while before they decided to wait for the chasers. With 117km to go, the groups merged while an injured Bart De Clercq (Lotto) abandoned the race.

 

Astana hit the front with Dmitriy Gruzdev and Maxim Iglinskiy and they were later joined by Alessandro Vanotti in setting a steady pace. While the atmosphere in the peloton was extremely relaxed, the gap constantly grew and had reached 10.40 by the time, the riders reached the feed zone.

 

The peloton ups the pace

Having eaten their lunch, the riders started to fight for position and the big teams started to position themselves next to the Astana riders. Meanwhile, Terpstra was allowed to take maximum points in the intermediate sprint uncontested.

 

In the peloton, Marcel Sieberg tried to lead André Greipel out but they were passed by Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Renshaw. However, it was Yohann Gene and Bryan Coquard who took control for Europcar and the latter beat Marcel Kittel (Giant) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in the sprint for 6th.

 

Rain

Just after the sprint, it started to rain and the fight for position now got intense. Several teams lined up alongside the Astana riders and the gap started to come down. With 37km to go, it dropped below the 10-minute mark while Katusha took control in the peloton with Vladimir Isaychev and Gatis Smukulis.

 

Belkin took over with Tom Leezer and Maarten Wynants before Garmin hit the front with Johan Vansummeren. Meanwhile, the escapees hit the first climb with an advantage of 6.25.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo up the pace

Just before the peloton hit the climb,Tinkoff-Saxo took over with Matteo Tosatto and Daniele Bennati and on the lower slopes of the ascent, Sergio Paulinho made the peloton explode. Meanwhile, Chavanel made an attack and he got clear on his own while Kadri set off in lone pursuit.

 

Kadri managed to bridge the gap and the pair stayed together for a little while before Kadri took off. Behind, Yates dropped Terpstra and Petit and tried to bridge the gap on his own.

 

Kwiatkowski is dropped

As the peloton continued to be whittled down, Rafal Majka took over for Tinkoff-Saxo and his pace was too much for Kiwatkowski and Zubeldia who both fell off. Meanwhile, Kadri crested the summit with a 50-second advantage over Chavanel.

 

Majka led the peloton over the top and joined forces with Michael Rogers to keep the pace fast on the descent. However, they were still 4.20 behind Kadri who had now started the penultimate climb..

 

Rogers takes control

As the peloton reached the slopes, Petit was caught while Majka put Horner into difficulty. Moments later, Rogers took over and he left Rolland and Fuglsang behind.

 

Rogers continued to ride really hard on the descent and this caused a crash that brought down Andrew Talansky, Geraint Thomas, Yury Trofimov, Brice Feillu and Leopold König. Meanwhile, Kadri had started the final climb and he kept his speed all the way to the top to take the win.

 

Roche ups the pace

At the bottom of the final climb, Roche upped the pace before Benat Intxausti took over for Movistar. They caught Yates and Terpstra and now only Bardet, Valverde, Pinot Peraud, Porte, Contador, van Garderen and Nibali could keep up with them.

 

Peraud hit the front when Intxausti swung off but moments later Contador made his first attack. Nibali, Valverde and Porte responded but soon after the latter two dropped off.

 

As COntador and Nibali passed Chavanel, the former continued to attack but Nibali seemed to be impossible to drop. When he made the final acceleration just before the line, however, he finally got clear and put 3 seconds into the race leader.

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