Jul 18, 2014

Tour de France Stage 13 Review/Stage 14 Preview

Stage 13 Review

Stage winner: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Nibali is the king and patron of this race, as we will see in this review. Today, he attacked from 6.6 km away, far further than he normally attacks from. It didn’t matter. This field is just a cut below Nibali in pretty much every way. Even the guys lower on GC for various reasons had no answers today. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) had been conserving energy for this day to help Alberto Contador while Leopold Konig (Netapp-Endura) had the leash to go given where he stood overall entering the stage. No matter, Nibali in his attack just rode them off his wheel afer dropping the other elite climbers.

Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
On this day, the Tour de France might have been locked up. Former second place Richie Porte (Team Sky) lost nearly 9 minutes and nobody had answers for Nibali. The lead now stands well over three minutes to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), a rider not known for either his attacking or his time trialing. Below him is the white jersey fight, easily the most enthralling in this race now and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who is climbing well enough that his time trial ability might get him on the final podium.

Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
As least Sagan couldn’t lose on tactics today. He just isn’t a high mountain climber, at least not in the GC sense (though he can rev it up in a breakaway on occasion and the stage in the Pyrenees that ends in a descent off the Port du Bales climb might entice him to have a go). No changes though in the standings here, especially as the intermediate sprint point was after a category one climb.

King of the Mountains: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
That’s right. Nibali now owns this jersey too. Of course a big part of that is the screwy points system where summit finish climbs are doubled. As Nibali has won both of those and the only hors category climb so far, he leads here. Given the way he is climbing, he can win this too if he wants. Just no gifts to the breakaways and a couple more stage wins and this will be his.

White Jersey: Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
Bardet got a big challenge from Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) today. Pinot was the equal of Alejandro Valverde and left Bardet behind. Bardet did a good job of using Tejay Van Garderen and working together with him to limit his losses, ending the day 16 seconds ahead of Pinot for both the White Jersey and 3rd overall. As a note, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was essentially eliminated from this competition. He is over 4 minutes behind Bardet and unikely to be in much better shape than he was today in the mountains going forward.

Tactical Masterclass: FDJ
Sometimes you do everything right and it doesn’t matter. Somebody else had better legs. That was the case today as FDJ reorganized on the fly with Arthur Vichot’s abandonment and then Pinot himself attacked and upped the pace to kill off Porte today. Nibali was better than Pinot, but that still doesn’t change that FDJ rode well and Pinot picked his spots on the final climb well.

Tactical Blunder: None
There weren’t any bad tactics today, only bad legs. Even Team Sky sending Nieve back to pace Porte wasn’t a bad idea, even if it turned out badly because Porte’s day was so bad there was no saving him.

Stage 14 - Grenoble - Risoul

Expectations entering the stage: The break is going to win the day. There is no reason for the GC guys to chase early meaning the break is going to arrive at the final climb to Risoul with an unassailable lead. If a non-GC man wants to win the Polka Dot Jersey, he needs to be in the breakaway.

Jersey’s in play
  • Yellow Jersey - Nibali looks good, but he could have a jour sans like Porte today. It is highly unlikely though.
  • Polka Dot Jersey - Nibali has no need to defend this and gained it by happenstance. He probably wants someone from the break to take it just so he doesn’t have the spend the two minutes signing these jerseys after the stage like the yellow jerseys each day.
  • White Jersey - Mountaintop finish with the top two separated by 16 seconds. Bardet and Pinot seem like they will battle all the way to Paris for this and it might change hands a couple of times along the way.

GC items of note: The podium fight really heats up here. Expect Valverde in second place to ride very defensively until the last possible moment. Bardet and Pinot might want to figure out a way to drop Van Garderen, as he is close enough to do some real damage in the time trial. Below Van Garderen, only Bauke Mollema (Belkin) has any real shot at the podium as he is often stronger in the Pyrenees than he is in the Alps. That means he has one more day of damage control to deal with.

Stage Pick: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)

Majka admittedly slow pedalled as a late call up coming off the Giro d’Italia in week one. With his team leader gone and he himself well behind, he will have the freedom to go in the breakaway that I expect to win the day and given his performance both in the Giro and at Chamrousse, I expect he will be the best climber if he is in the break.

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