Tour de France (st. 13)
Courageous Valverde -4th in Chamrousse after furious pacemaking by Movistar Team at climb’s foot- jumps into second overall in the Tour de France behind unstoppable Nibali
PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery
Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team took back full protagonism reserved for them in the big mountains of the Tour de France during the first Alpine stage of the race, another day under intense heat, with 198km from Saint-Étienne to the HC climb of Chamrousse, with the steep slopes of the Col de Palaquit (Cat-1) in between.
Giovanni Visconti’s breakaway, kept on a leash by Katusha and Europcar, and eventually caught halfway through that first ascent, freed the Blues from any responsibility. Izagirre, Rojas and Gadret, present in the main group into the flat between both climbs, decided to grab control before FDJ at the front and push the pace for some kilometers, with the Frenchman especially well-tuned. A courageous Valverde tried to jump away with 10k remaining, bringing on his wheel only two men: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and race leader Vincenzo Nibali (AST), who later dropped the duo with 6k left.
From that point on, an unsuccessful pursuit allowed nonetheless Alejandro and his break companion leaving Porte (SKY), 2nd overall, behind: the Australian lost almost nine minutes at the finish. The duo also held off the final charge by Bardet (ALM) and Van Garderen (BMC), who seem like the other main contenders against Alejandro for a podium place in Paris. Valverde (2nd) is now 3’37” behind Nibali; 47″ ahead of Bardet (3rd); 1’03” above Pinot (4th) and more than a minute and a half over Van Garderen, with all Pyrenees and the final TT remaining, as well as another big Alpine trek on Saturday: Lautaret (Cat-1), Izoard (HC) and Risoul (Cat-1) in 177km starting at Grenoble.
REACTION | Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really demanding stage and the heat made it even harder. Katusha decided not to let the break go far and the whole stage was super fast. We attacked in the finale and could distance some of our rivals for the overall, but unfortunately, the man in front got a bit further. I had good legs and put my team-mates to pick up the pace from the foot of the climb. I might have been too ambitious with that attack from so far from the finish, but I had to try. The pace was getting slower, there was no real leader taking charge of it and decided to move. I couldn’t let this stage go without trying.
“I’m satisfied, because those good legs lasted until the finished, and even though Nibali proved to be ahead of the rest, we made everything we could and we’re now in second overall, leaving such a dangerous rival as Porte behind, which is important for our ambitions – the GC podium, as I stated from the beginning of the race. We’ll keep fighting and attacking, because anyone can have a bad day. As I said in previous stages, there’s road to gain time and also to lose ground, so we’ll keep re-planning our strategy, day by day. Tomorrow’s stage is going to be super hard: all the climbs, in day fourteen… it will get stiff. I hope to keep these sensations I’ve had up to date.”