Tour de France (st. 11)
Kiryienka, Valverde fight for the win from the very beginning of the Queen stage in the Alps towards La Toussuire, with Rui Costa conceeding his top-10 chances after dropping at the Croix-de-Fer climb
Movistar Team took their heart out to chase for glory in the Queen Alps stage with their six survivors on the route searching joy in the 2012 Tour de France. Vasil Kiryienka was the top performer for the telephone squad in the tough 148 kilometers between Albertville and La Toussuire (Cat. 1), preceeded by three other major climbs. The Belarusian joined Alejandro Valverde into a massive, 30-rider breakaway through the initial climb of La Madeleine (HC). The race started breaking into pieces behind at the also-HC Col de la Croix de Fer, where Juanjo Cobo, previously dropped alongside Karpets and Plaza, recovered and made the summit within the main favourites in his best performance since the 2011 Vuelta a España.
It didn’t happen the same with Rui Costa, who went dropped at the Croix-de-Fer and was helped by Vladimir Karpets into the final climb to lose almost a quarter hour on the leaders. Ahead of him, Kiryienka made the final selection through Mollard with Sorensen (STB), Kiserlovski (AST) and Rolland (EUC). Despite the attempts by the Eastern rider to bridge him back, Rolland went solo at the final climb to take the win, while Kiry was reached by the yellow jersey’s group -left by Cobo and Valverde, dropped halfway through the climb- with less than 2k from the finish. The Blue squad will keep searching for a podium appearance in the Grande Boucle on Friday during stage 12, the longest in this year’s Tour with 226k from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Dévezieux, containing two Cat. 1 climbs in the early part plus the Cat. 3 Côte de Ardoix just 19k from the finish.
QUOTES Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really hard stage, one of those I have suffered the most on a bike. We saved almost 5.000 meters of drop in just 148 kilometers, which is infamous. We knew it was a stage where the break could stay away until the finish and we searched for it from the very start. I attacked from behind at the Madeleine to reach the split ahead and after that, we went on full steam, all day. The break was the good one, but Sky was so strong behind that the gap didn’t got big. We never reached four minutes and that, in such a stage, means nothing. At the Croix-de-Fer, I don’t know if I paid from my effort, riding to the limit all day. The goal is clearly searching for the stages, but should the leader’s squad stay within this line, it will be really hard. We’ll have to keep trying, the team fought for it until the end today.”
Juanjo Cobo: “To be honest, I spent many days to find some good legs but it seems that I did today, an important thing for the Pyrénées that gives me much confidence. I came to this year’s Tour with a lack of competition pace and these ten days let me gain that. I’m still suffering with pace changes, and when Evans attacked I had to drop a bit and then bridge back together with Haimar and Schleck. Then I rode way better until La Toussuire, which got a bit too long for me. Now there’s a couple of stages when breaks will be made from the start. We will search for them, but that first attack is still taking too hard for me, and I think that the Pirenaic stages can suit me better to chase that win so hiding for us despite all the work.”
Blues avoid crashes at Polish cobbles
In turn, Sergio Pardilla, Giovanni Visconti and Javi Moreno are still 10 seconds behind Italy’s Moreno Moser (LIQ) at the 69th Tour de Pologne (UCI World Tour) following the third stage of the race on Thursday, over 201 kilometers and a difficult final circuit in Cieszyn including three passages through the difficult cobblestones in the final kilometer, difficulting the chasing work for the bunch as Henao (SKY) and Rutkiewicz (POL) were able to stay away into the final kilometer before Czech Zdenek Stybar (OPQ) went past them to claim the day’s honours. The race will head into a more clear sprint chance on Friday into another final circuit in Katowice, only 127 kilometers preceeding the mountain stages in Zakopane (Saturday) and Bukowina Tatrzanska (Sunday).