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After Sagan and Bodnar had gone clear in the crosswind on stage 11 of the Tour de France, Froome and Thomas bridged across; Sagan beat Froome in the sprint to take his second win while the Brit extended his lead

Photo: A.S.O.










13.07.2016 @ 17:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

On a day when many expected a bunch sprint, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Chris Froome (Sky) made a major coup on the windy roads to Montpellier as the Slovakian won the stage and the Brit finished second to extend his lead by 12 seconds. After Sagan and Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff) had escaped in the wind, Froome and Geraint Thomas (Sky) bridged across and the quartet did a marvelous job to keep the sprint teams at bay. Sagan easily beat Froome in the sprint before Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the bunch sprint six seconds later and so Froome now leads Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) by 28 seconds.


For days, the big sprinters have been looking forward to the flat stage 11 of the Tour de France. The roads to Montpellier were expected to give them one of their final chances to go for the win and many even took it easy in yesterday’s potential sprint stage to make sure that they were ready for today.


However, a danger occurred in the horizon a few days ago when a strong wind was forecasted and that completely changed the dynamic of what they had hoped would be a straightforward sprint stage. After a hectic and nervous race, Peter Sagan and Chris Froome made one of the most dramatic coups in recent years and even though the time gains for the race leader ended up being minor, it created a memorable stage that will never be forgotten.


It was the Tinkoff team that took the initiative in the crosswind with 12km when Maciej Bodnar and Sagan attacked and then Froome firmly silenced the critics who have accused him of being boring and defensive. The Brit sensed the opportunity and bridged across alone and when Geraint Thomas also made the junction, the quartet was gone.


While an isolated Nairo Quintana (Movistar) could only watch from behind, the sprint teams finally got the chase organized but it was too late. In the end, they missed out by six seconds and it was piece of cake for Sagan to beat Froome in the sprint. After Thomas had been dropped, a frustrated Alexander Kristoff won the sprint for fourth while the combination of time gains and bonus seconds saw Froome increase his lead by 12 seconds.


It had been an extremely nervous stage all day and the peloton had split on several occasions but as none of the key riders were dropped, it always came back together. It had been a very hectic stage but with 20km to go, there was total calmness. Tinkoff, Sky and Movistar were lined out on the front as they headed into a rare headwind section. However, things got nervous again when they entered the final 15km where Sky hit the front. Tinkoff took over and then BMC took charge.


Michael Schär (BMC), Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) were lined out on the front as riders started to get dropped. Cancellara then accelerated hard and made the group explode to pieces before Valgren and Bodnar continued to apply the pressure.


Bodnar and Sagan suddenly got a small gap and Froome immediately sensed the opportunity. The race leader bridged across and moments later his teammate Thomas also made the junction while Alexander Kristoff, Jacopo Guarieri (Katusha) and Valgren formed a chase group and Kristoff and Valgren almost made it across but when the Norwegian exploded, they had to sit up.


Cancellara started to chase immediately but as he didn’t get any help, the gap quickly went out to 15 seconds. Finally, Etixx-QuickStep tried to organize a chase but their riders, including Julian Alaphilippe, soon exploded.


Froome and Thomas hesitated a bit but then started to contribute to the pace-setting too. Despite Astana, IAM, Etixx-QuickStep and Trek all working on the front with riders like Julien Vermote, Jarlinson Pantano and Antoine Duchesne, the gap went out to 25 seconds.


Disaster struck for Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) who suffered a very untimely puncture and there was no chance to come back as Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL) were also working hard. Katusha found themselves in a difficult situation as Joaquim Rodriguez was in the third group but with 5km to go, they decided to go all in for Kristoff. Marco Haller and Jacopo Guarnieri started to work with Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal who had Tony Martin and Jens Debusschere on the front.


With 3km to go, the gap was still 20 seconds but as Guarnieri and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) took come huge turns, they continued to lise ground. Ginat-Alpecin hit the front with Ramon Sinkeldam and he shaved more seconds off the lead but when Bodnar led under the flamme rouge, it was clear that they would stay away.


Thomas took one final big turn before he sat up and fell back to the peloton and then Bodnar did his maximum to help the group stay away. Froome tried to surprise Sagan with a long sprint but of course the world champion was in a class of his own, easily passing the pace leader who had to settle for second. Six seconds later Kristoff beat Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) in the sprint for fourth. A group with Rodriguez, Pierre Rolland (Lampre-Merida) and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) lost more than aminute.


With six bonus seconds, Froome gained a total of 12 seconds on his key rivals and so extended his lead over Adam Yates to 28 seconds. He faces the next big challenge in tomorrow’s stage which finishes at the top of the famous Mont Ventoux. The first part is completely flat and then the riders will tackle a category 4 and a category 3 climb as a warm-up. However, the real challenge is the final ascent which is known as one of the hardest mountains in France with its average gradient of 8.8% over the 15.7km distance.


A flat stage

After yesterday’s hilly stage, the riders were back in almost completely flat terrain on stage 11 which brought the riders over 162.5km from Carcassonne to Montpellier. There were two early category 4 climbs but apart from that it was an almost completely flat run. However, a strong cross-tailwind was forecasted and was set to make the race very nervous.


The 192 riders who reached the finish, yesterday were all there when the peloton gathered under a sunny sky, and there was drama right from the start. Team Sky accelerated as soon as the real start was given, and everyone was extremely nervous. Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie) and Ruben Plaza (Orica-BikeExchange) lost contact while Arthur Vichot (FDJ) tried to get clear. He was brought back quickly and then the peloton slowed down


Vichot and Howard get clear

Vichot tried again and was joined by Leigh Howard (IAM). While the peloton rode attentively, they slowly built a gap of 2.30.


The peloton was extremely nervous, with Sky, Tinkoff, Etixx-QuickStep and Katusha lined out on the front, and this resulted in several crashes. punctured, then George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) went off road and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ) hit the deck and moment later Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha) took a tumble. Everybody got back on their bikes but the FDJ team spent several kilometres in desperate chase mode, trying to bring Reichenbach and Pinot back.


The peloton calms down

The front duo hit the first climb with an advantage of 2.45 but the nervousness had shaved 15 seconds off the lead when Vichot won the KOM sprint uncontested. Meanwhile, all the riders who had been involved in crashes, made it back to the peloton.


Tinkof, Katusha, BMC, Sky and Etixx-QuickStep ontinued to ride on the front but as they pass through a less exposed area, things calmed down a bit. Hence, the gap had gone out to 3.20 when the front group hit the second climb. When Vichot led Howard over the top, it was 3.45.


Tinkoff attack in the wind

Things calmed down considerable and so the gap had reached 4.20 when they entered the final 100km. Moments later, BMC, Orica-BikeExchange and BMC hit the front as they approached a more exposed section and the gap immediately started to come down.


With 91km to go, the expected attack came when Tinkoff accelerated hard with Maciej Bodnar and Matteo Tosatto. Also Roman Kreuziger took turns and immediately two big groups were distanced.


Mechanical for Kelderman

Tinkoff stopped their attack and then Etixx-QuickStep briefly tried with Keisse. However, they soon stopped too but the nervousness was huge as Sky and Etixx-QuickStep lined out their troops on the front. The acceleration had reduced the gap to just 2 minutes.


Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) had an untimely mechanical and had to chase hard to rejoin the second group in which FDJ were chasing desperately s Sebastien Reichenbach had missed the split. They were 40 seconds behind the peloton and were not getting much closer as Sky, Tinkoff and Etixx-QuickStep continued to ride attentively on the front.


Trek accelerate

The peloton finally slowed down a bit and the gap started to grow again. That allowed the second group to almost make the junction but then the peloton accelerated again. Meanwhile, Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExhange), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Borut Bozic, Arnold Jeannesson (Cofidis), Alex Howes and Lawson Craddock (Cannondale) found themselves even further back.


Trek was the next team to make a big attack when Gregory Rast and Fabian Cancellara hit the front. The peloton immediately exploded to pieces and there were suddenly groups all over the road.


Sky accelerate

The group slowed down a bit when they entered a small town just 30 seconds behind the leaders and it was Astana that hit the front with Andriy Grivko and Paolo Tiralongo. Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) was one of the many riders to have been dropped but he was lucky that the peloton slowed down and so he rejoined the group.


The slower pace allowed the escapees to maintain a 20-second advantage and a big group of climbers to rejoined the peloton before Sky again upped the pace with Vasil Kiryienka, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard. The British team made a big attack and made the peloton explode to pieces. In a matter of seconds, the break was brought back with 61km to go.


Majka goes down

When Sky briefly slowed down, Tinkoff took over with Bodnar. LottoNL-Jumbo also came to the fore with Maarten Wynants and Timo Roosen and that inspired Sky to accelerate again. This time Chris Froome even took turns himself.


Lots of groups were left behind but then the group slowed down again which allowed a few riders to make it back. However, the nervousness was still huge and that caused a crash. Rafal Majka, Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff), Damiano Caruso (BMC), Robert Wagner (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Winner Anacona (Movistar) were all involved and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) was caught behind the incident. However, the American quickly made it back.


FDJ in chase mode

Movistar, Etixx, BMC, Cannondale and Orica-BikeExchange rode attentively on the front as they approached the intermediate sprint where Etixx-QuickStep did a full lead-out for Kittel. Fabio Sabatini delivered the German sprinter who was first across the line followed by Sagan, Cavendish and Sabatini.


A big second group had gathered and as Reichenbach had again missed out, FDJ were chasing desperately. They were 50 seconds behind at the sprint. Anthony Roux, Jeremy Roy and William Bonnet got some help from Fourtneo but during the next ten kilometres, they didn’t get any closer. The group also included sprinters Edward Theuns (Trek) who had crashed earlier in the stage, and Matthews.


The peloton slows down

LottoNL, Sky, BMC, Orica, Cannondale, Movistar, Astana and Katusha lined out their trains on the front as the nervous peloton continued to ride fast. However, suddenly the group slowed down and this allowed the second group to make it back with 35km to go.


The peloton rode relatively easy with the big teams lined out on the front for a few kilometres but then things kicked off again with 30km to go. Marcus Burghardt (BMC) and Matteo Tosatto (Tinkoff) briefly accelerated but it soon slowed down again. From there, it looked like it would be relatively quite until Sagan and Bodnar suddenly hit the gas.



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