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"I don’t think it rained more when Noah was building his Ark than it did today. It was unbelievable. And the peloton does not really slow down, they can’t because the break out front is not going slower, so we can’t a...

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GREGORY RAST

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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20.07.2014 @ 20:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

With Danny Van Poppel out of the race, Trek have no sprinter in the Tour de France and so today's stage was all about keeping GC riders Frank Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia out of trouble. Torrential rain, however, made it a tough affair for veteran Jens Voigt.

 

It was a difficult shift in gears for the 222-kilometer stage from Tallard to Nîmes as the Tour de France exited the Alps after two days and entered the flat and wind-exposed terrain of the Rhône valley.

 

“You are pushing a lot of watts in the mountains using the small ring and today you are also pushing a lot of watts, but in the big ring," Jens Voigt said. "For me, today, it was easier and I prefer this, it was less of a big change, but probably for Fränk [Schleck] and Haimar [Zubeldia], they suffered more today. For the skinny guys it's easier to produce the watts in the mountains.”

 

It was supposed to be a day for the GC riders to sit back and take a deserved day off and give center stage to the sprinters. Except what evolves on the road is not always what appears easy on paper: wind, rain and the stress of getting left behind created an anxious day in the peloton.

 

Two lone riders formed the day’s breakaway soon after kilometer zero and submitted to what should have been a certain suicide mission. On paper.

 

It was a serene start. But after halfway, it was no day in paradise.

 

“The start was a lot easier than expected you could see the sprinters teams get together and not let more than a few riders go," Voigt said. "Until the feed zone it was a little bit like a rest day: relatively easy start, teams took a steady and controlled tempo, and for the first time in 14 days you could actually talk to someone.

 

"But then everyone got word of the expected crosswinds and smaller roads and it was enormous fighting and nervousness again. So all the mental energy we saved in the first part of the race, we all had to throw it out in the second half.”

 

The sky darkened and the rain pelted for the final kilometers wetting the roads, limiting vision, and hindering the chase. The numerous roundabouts in the final 10 kilometers aided the two riders out front, and pandemonium was evident in the sprinters’ teams: what was supposed to be an easy catch was now coming down to a nerve-wracking ending. The chase was in jeopardy of failing.

 

“It was enormously stressful, sketchy, and dangerous with the rain," Voigt said. "I don’t think it rained more when Noah was building his Ark than it did today. It was unbelievable. And the peloton does not really slow down, they can’t because the break out front is not going slower, so we can’t afford to slow. It just gets much more nervous. You have water everywhere, in your eyes and your vision goes bad, you can’t see.”

 

Under the flamme rouge it appeared that the two men would hold off the strung-out peloton thundering on their heels, but with 200 meters to go the sprinters kicked it into another gear. 

 

Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) stood on his pedals and gave one last desperate effort, but in the final meters nine riders zoomed past - after 220 kilometers the sound of heartbreak resonated loud.

 

“I was surprised at how long they kept the breakaway out there," Voigt said. "When I saw it was only two guys and it went quite early, I thought, ‘nah they don’t stand a chance, they are doomed for a slow death.’ But they surprised everybody. They were determined and did not play games. They went all-in.”

 

Alexander Kristoff of Katusha threw his arms in the air as he claimed his second sprint victory in the thrilling finale, while Jack Bauer could only hang his head in extreme disappointment. It was another example of the cruel, dichotomous nature of the Tour de France.

 

Trek Factory Racing, despite an unnerving day, all finished in the same time as the winner and the overall remained intact.

 

After two weeks of strenuous and stressful racing, Trek Factory Racing heads into the second rest day in good spirits. Three days in the Pyrenees lie ahead, and the race still has many grueling kilometers to cover before Paris, but a good sign within the team is the humor still is alive and well:

 

“We raced for five hours and it takes Jens six hours to tell the race story," Gregory said.

 

But ‘Jensie’, never at loss for words, is also never without a witty retort:

 

“Half of my job is taking the ribbing from the others. They make me feel miserable for talking too much and being too old. So they feel happy. I am the team’s punch bag, but hey as long as the other eight guys are happy…

 

"Tomorrow we will see – we will have a team sprint back to the hotel!”

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