Tour de France (st. 14)
Rojas -4th behind winner Trentin (OPQ)- and Erviti fight for victory en route to Lyon, get Movistar back into teams’ overall fight before the Mont Ventoux
After a big blow yesterday in the 2013 Tour de France, the Movistar Team riders bounced back from misfortune to shine bright on stage 14, over 191km with seven rated climbs between Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule and Lyon. The impressive pace all day (45 kph average) was the result of a hard fight to enter the day’s breakaway, with José Joaquín Rojas and Imanol Erviti ultimately making into the 18-man attempt that would end up contesting the day’s glory.
The escape had to ride hard for almost hundred kilometers in a frantic arm-wrestle against the bunch, with teams out of the original break forcing them to more than two hours of effort. The penultimate climb, with 15k to go, saw the real attacks for victory: a first move from Tejay van Garderen (BMC), quickly responded by Rojas, was followed by another dig from Julien Simon (SOJ), whose effort took him up-front until the ‘flamme rouge’.
With Erviti dropped after a great work for Rojas, the Spaniard took responsibility for a long final sprint, where he was beaten by Matteo Trentin (OPQ), Michael Albasini (OGE) and Andrey Talansky (GRS). Despite not bring able to crown the work done, the effort from the two Blues was a huge recovery in the teams’ classification -after losing almost 20 minutes yesterday-, with Movistar now in second, just two-and-a-half minutes away from wearing their yellow helmets again. Sunday will bring one of the key stages in this year’s Grande Boucle: the longest day of the race, with 243km between Givors and the mythical Mont Ventoux (HC), with its 21 kilometers at 7.5% average.
José Joaquín Rojas: “After all, what we wanted today is tell everyone that, despite what happened yesterday, we have not lost all hope in this year’s Tour – we’re willing, we have the courage to keep fighting and shining. It was my turn to contest the win today, but I couldn’t take it. The break companions knew I was the fastest guy and, as logical, they forced me to go after several moves in the finale, especially in the last kilometer, when Albasini attack. I saw the race off my hands and had to give almost all I had on the tank with 600m to go – Trentin was on my wheel and profited from it. All those efforts leave you drained, but I had to ride like that in order to win.
“Today I’m leaving this city with the feeling of having lost a chance, but also satisfied because I gave all I had in my legs and my heart. Not only strength counts here, you always need good luck. It might have been harsh yesterday, but we must keep trying – that’s cycling. There’s another good stage for me on Tuesday to make the break, but all team riders have good stages in the next week to be up-front. We haven’t done all we could do yet. We know we did things well in this Tour – it was only the road who turned its face to us yesterday.”
Imanol Erviti: “You all could see what happened yesterday – we have to move on and keep fighting. Optimism is the only way to move forward, and it’s just what we wanted to show today: we’re still here, up for the fight. The good thing is that we knew it was going the first day with real battle for the breakaway and we still were able to put two of us into the group. Racing together, sharing efforts, we were able to get into the final sprint with Rojas. In a moral point of view, contesting this stage is really positive.
“There were some teams which couldn’t get one man into the original group and it was a tough fight with the main field. They eventually surrendered, but it took us more than usual to get the break confirmed – we didn’t until the feed zone, almost 100k on full steam. Some teams like ours had two riders in the break and one of them made bigger efforts, so the escape did never stop. For the end of the stage, we had planned to keep one of us into every move – my role was keeping the group alive and reaching the finish together so Joaquín could sprint. I’m happy with my Tour so far: I didn’t have any troubles with crashes like last year, I’m riding well and I always try to help my team-mates.”