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After two bad days, Rodriguez took his second stage win in the Tour de France when he emerged as the strongest from a big 22-rider breakaway in stage 12; the favourites finished together and Froome retained the yellow jersey

Photo: Sirotti

CHRIS FROOME

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JAKOB FUGLSANG

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JOAQUIM RODRIGUEZ OLIVER

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TEAM SKY

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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16.07.2015 @ 17:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After two days of suffering, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) bounced back in the most splendid way by taking a big solo victory on the Plateau de Beille in stage 13 of the Tour de France. Having joined a 22-rider breakaway, he passed lone leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) on the final climb and held off Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) to take his second win in this year’s race. The GC riders were unable to distance each other and so Chris Froome (Sky) retained the yellow jersey.

 

Going into the Tour de France, Joaquim Rodriguez had lofty ambitions about finally taking that elusive grand tour victory. Things were looking good for at least a podium after the opening week as he had shown impressive strength with a stage win on the Mur de Huy.

 

However, since then nothing has gone to plan for the tiny Spaniard. In the first two mountain stages where he was expected to shine, he lost significant ground and after yesterday’s big failure, he admitted that his GC campaign was over. Instead, he would turn his attention to stage wins and this proved to be a great plan B.

 

Already today Rodriguez was back on the top step of the podium when he came out on top in probably the hardest stage of the race. Stage 13 included no less than four big Pyrenean mountains and finished at the top of the steep climb to Plateau de Beille that is one of the toughest climbs of the race.

 

That was the perfect terrain for Rodriguez to take his revenge and he showed his intentions right from the start when he joined a 22-rider break. As the peloton showed no interest in chasing them down, it quickly became apparent that it would be a day for the break to decide the stage. Here Rodriguez turned out to be the strongest as he reached the summit as the lone leader.

 

At the bottom of the final climb, the front group had been whittled down significantly. Michal Kwiatkowski and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) had attacked in the valley between the second and third climb and hit the ascent with an advantage of nearly 2 minutes over a chase group with Rodriguez, Jakob Fuglsang, Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka), Romain Sicard (Europcar) and the Ag2r duo of Mikael Cherel and Romain Bardet. The peloton followed 11.30 later when Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the battle to hit the climb first.

 

Cherel sacrificed himself completely for Bardet and so started to slowly bring the leaders back. Meanwhile, the going got too tough for Vanmarcke who was distanced after 2km of climbing. In the peloton, Peter Kennaugh (Sky) upped the pace for Sky and he made bunch explode to pieces while also bringing the gap down significantly.

 

With 11km to go, the gap was down to 1.20 for the chasers and now Cherel swung off. Fuglsang launched an immediate attack and was joined by Rodriguez, Bardet and Meintjes. Izagirre was chasing a little further back while Barta, Sicard and Cherel were distanced immediately.

 

In the peloton, Rafal Majka upped the pace for Tinkoff-Saxo before Michael Rogers took over. That had a big impact on both size of the peloton and the time gap.

 

Meanwhile, the attacking continued in the chase group where Rodriguez tried twice. The first attack was enough to get rid of Meintjes and Vanmarcke who had been caught, but Fuglsang and Bardet stayed glued to his wheel.

 

The attacking had brought the gap down to 40 seconds with 10km to go where Roman Kreuziger had taken over the pace-setting in the peloton. That was enough to send several riders out the back door, including Andrew Talansky.

 

Fuglsang tried again but it was Rodriguez’ counterattack with 8km to go that made the difference. He quickly bridged a 30-second gap to Kwiatkowski who could only hang on for a short while. Further back, Fuglsang dropped Bardet and stayed 12 seconds behind the Spaniard for a while. Kwiatkowski cracked completely.

 

In the peloton Majka had taken over from Rogers and he was followed by Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contadir, Tejay van Garderen, Pierre Rolland, Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema, Thibaut Pinot, Robert Gesink, Samuel Sanchez and Warren Barguil. The rest had been dropped and Barguil also quickly lost contact.

 

Majka swung off and left it to Porte to set the pace. Sanchez was briefly dropped but made it back before Gesink punctured out of the group.

 

Finally, Contador made his attack but he only got an advantage of a few metres before Porte slowly reeled him in. Nibali made an immediate counterattack and he had more luck as he maintained an advantage for a longer while. Sanchez was again dropped.

 

Fuglsang was losing ground and with 5km to go he was 35 seconds behind Rodriguez who was digging deep on the steep slopes. Moments later Valverde attacked but Porte responded immediately.

 

Valverde tried again and this time he managed to join Nibali before Porte brought the pair back. From there the Australian kept riding on the front until Quintana made his move. Howeer, Thomas seemed to be at ease when he reeled the Colombian in.

 

Pinot and Mollema were briefly dropped but managed to get back while Thomas continued to ride on the front. However, Froome was not content with the situation and finally made his move with 5km to go.

 

Quintana was glued to his wheel and Contador and van Garderen also quickly made it back. When Valverde joined the group too, the Spaniard made an immediate attack but Froome shut it down immediately and also quickly reacted to the counterattack from Quintana.

 

Nibali, Pinot, Thomas and Rolland managed to rejoin the group and so Thomas went back to work. At this point, the contenders accepted a ceasefire and Thomas maintained a steady pace all the way to the finish.

 

Meanwhile, Rodriguez rode away with the stage win while Fuglsang took second with a time loss of 1.12. Romain Bardet was 1.49 behind in third. Inside the final kilometre, Valverde launched his sprint to gain a single second and take ninth on the stage while Froome and Quintana led the main group across the line.

 

Hence, Froome defended his lead of 2.52 over van Garderen as he goes into what is the first transitional stage of the second week. Stage 12 has a flat first part before the terrain gets lumpier in the second half with three smaller climbs. In the end, the riders will tackle a 570m climb to the finish and its average gradient of 9.6% should rule out the sprinters.

 

The toughest stage

After two tough days in the Pyrenees, it was time for an even harder challenge on the final day in the mountain range. Stage 13 brought the riders over 195km from Lannemezan to a summit finish on the HC climb to Plateau de Beille. After a flat first part of 50km, the riders faced the category 2 Col du Portet d’Aspet and category 1 climbs of Col de la Core and Port de Lers before the descended to a valley section that led to the bottom of the brutal final climb.

 

It was an even hotter day when the riders gathered in Lannemezan for the hardest stage of the race. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present and they prepared themselves for a fast start.

 

Greipel wins the sprint

However, already in the neutral zone it was clear that Lotto Soudal wanted to keep things together for the intermediate sprint which was located already after 20km of racing. Right from the start, Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen, Lars Bak and Tim Wellens hit the front and they made sure that the peloton was single file as they approached the sprint. Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18) tried a short lived attack but otherwise everybody realized that it was better to wait until the sprint had been contested.

 

As it has been the case in most of the sprints, it was Giant-Alpecin who did the lead-out, with Roy Curvers and Koen De Kort hitting the front. However, Peter Sagan had passed John Degenkolb to move into second position and started the sprint from the front. Nonetheless, André Greipel easily won the sprint, holding off Degenkolb, Sagan, Mark Cavendish and his teammate Jens Debusschere.

 

A big group gets clear

Bryan Coquard and Lieuwe Westra used the sprint action to attack and they were immediately joined by Louis Meintjes. Daniel Navarro took off in pursuit and quickly a big chase group gathered around the Spaniard as Jakob Fuglsang, Romain Bardet, Mikael Cherel, Matthieau Ladagnous, Gorka Izagirre, Georg Preidler, Joaquim Rodriguez, Romain Sicard, Kristijan Durasek, Jerome Coppel, Sylvain Chavanel, Frederik Brun and Anthony Delaplace joined him.

 

Coquard was dropped and fell back to that group before Westra and Meintjes also decided to wait. Behind, Michael Kwiatkowski, Sep Vanmarcke, Jeremy Roy, Christophe Riblon and Jan Barta had taken off in pursuit and they made the junction with 167km to go.

 

The peloton takes it easy

Cannondale-Garmin had missed the 22-rider move so they briefly started to chase with Ramunas Navraduaskas. However, Ian Stannard managed to persuade them to stop their effort and so the peloton stopped for a natural break while the Brit and Luke Rowe set a slow pace that allowed the gap to widen to 6.00 as they entered the final 150km.

 

Nonetheless, Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) and Angelo Tulik (Europcar) had taken off in pursuit and they found themselves 1.20 behind at this point. However, they quickly lost ground and were 2 minutes behind when they hit the Col du Portet d’Aspet.

 

Dowsett and Dempster abandon

Rowe and Satnnard set a relatively slow pace on the climb but it was still too much for both Zakkari Dempster and Alex Dowsett who dropped and both abandoned the race. The break was also pleased to take it easy and they lost a bit of ground. After Preidler had beaten Roy and Westra in the sprint for the KOM points, Stannard led the bunch across the line with a time loss of 5.10.

 

Sieberg and Tulik had managed to bring the gap down to 1.25 but Tulik realized that it was mission impossible and decided to wait for the peloton. Meanwhile, Roy worked his way back to the break after a puncture.

 

The attacking starts

As the hit the Col de la Core, the break had extended their advantage to 6.55 but there was no cooperation in the group. Hence, Westra launched an attack and was joined by Durasek and Cherel, Rodriguez, Navarro, Delaplace and Chavanel were the next to get across and later Meintjes, Bardet, Fuglsang, Preidler, Sicard and Vanmarcke also made the junction. Next it was Coppel and Izagirre and later also Barta.

 

The faster pace had increased the gap to 8.35 when Brun and Kwiatkowski rejoined the leaders and later Coquard, Roy and Ladagnous also got back. Finally, Riblon also made it back and so the 22-rider group was back together with 104km to go where the peloton was trailing by 8.25.

 

The front group splits up

Durasek beat Preidler in the sprint for the KOM points while Cherel, Ladangous, Chavanel and Bardet were next. Roy, Barta and Riblon were briefly dropped and while the former two made it back, the latter would never see the front again. Stannard led the peloton over the top 8.35 later.

 

Rain had started to fall and this made the descent dangerous. Cherel and Vanmacke exploited the opportunity to attack and quickly got a big gap. Kwiatkowski, Durasek, Izagirre, Bardet and Meitnjes managed to join them and later Fuglsang, Rodriguez, Ladagnous, Coquard, Sicard, Delaplace and Preidler also made it back. Westra and Navarro had to chase hard in the valley but finally made the junction. Chavanel, Roy, Coppel, Barta and Brun found themlseves with a deficit of 1.10 at the bottom of the descent but finally made it back with 75km to go.

 

Kwiatkowski, Vanmarcke and Preidler attack

Just as they made the junction, Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke attacked and they were quickly joined by Preidler to form a trio that was 1.05 ahead of the chasers with 70km to go. At this point the peloton was 12 minutes behind as many riders had stopped for anatural break.

 

There was no cooperation in the chase group which was 1.30 behind when Barta tried an attack. Cherel and Delaplace briefly joined him but they were quickly brought back as Coquard got dropped.

 

Sky up the pace

As the break hit the Port de Lers, Westra decided to sacrifice himself for Fuglsang and he made the gap come down and the group splinter. He swung off when Barta and Cherel attacked. They were quickly caught though.

 

In the peloton, Leopold König and Wout Poels took over the pace-setting and they rode significantly faster. The peloton blew to pieces and was quickly reduced to around 50 riders. Rigoberto Uran was the first big name to get distanced and later Jean-Christophe Peraud also lost ground.

 

Preidler is dropped

Preidler was dropped from the front group and he was passed by Cherel, Meintjes, Delaplace and Coppel who attacked. Durasek, Rodriguez, Izagirre, Bardet and Fuglsang quickly joined them before the Dane launched an unsuccessful attacked.

 

Sicard and Barta also made it back to that group before Bardet attacked. Fuglsang and Meintjes followed him and those three riders rode away and started to get closer to the two leaders.

 

Kwiatkowski first at the top

Rodriguez and Sicard dug deep to rejoin the Fuglsang trio and later Izagirre and Cherel also made it back. Cherel sacrificed himself for Bardet and had brought the gap down to 10 seconds with 53km to go.

 

While Dan Martin (Cannondale) was dropped from the peloton, Vanmarcke and Kwiatkowski dug deep in a quest to reach the summit in first position. When the Pole led his companion over the top, they were just 5 seconds ahead while Cherel, Meintjes, Bardet and Fuglsang were first from the chase group.

 

The gap widens

The small gap was enough for Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke to go crazy on the descent and they quickly extended their advantage massively. Meanwhile, Poels led the peloton over the top 9.40 behind the leader.

 

Meintjes crashed on the descent but managed to rejoin the chasers in the valley. Meanwhile, Peter Kennaugh led the peloton slowly down the descent.

 

Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke had extended their advantage to 1.35 with 23km to go while the peloton had been distanced by 11.05. Poels and König had again taken over the pace-setting while Barta had joined the chasers.

 

With 20km to go, the riders were hit by a big shower that made the temperature drop dramatically but Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke were unfazed. They maintained their speed while the fight for position started in the peloton as Poels ended his work. Moments later, the front duo hit the climb and 11.20 Tankink led the peloton onto the ascent to start the final battle.

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