Tour de France (st. 14)
Valverde struggles into final 3km of Risoul climb after mechanical difficulties; Movistar Team leader keeps 2nd overall in the Tour after Alps
PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery
A critical moment saved, a GC fight that shrinks. Alejandro Valverde is out of the Alps in second place overall in the Tour de France after his biggest suffering so far in this year’s Grande Boucle, a struggle in the last 3km up Risoul (Cat-1) after 177 kilometers including the Lautaret (Cat-1) and the Izoard (HC), the ‘ceiling’ of the French major tour.
A long breakaway of 17 riders including Jesús Herrada -his second real attempt of the race, reaching more than five minutes on top of the Lautaret to get almost caught (1′ up) on the foot of Risoul- always kept Movistar Team in the front of the race, while the likes of Izagirre, Gadret, Rojas, Plaza or Visconti protected Valverde through the first two climbs. A split in the downhill of the Izoard, which Alejandro kept close by sticking to Bardet, Péraud and Nibali, isolated him briefly from Gadret and Izagirre, whom he found again later on and rode until halfway through the final ascent. There, an attack by Nibali and the response by Valverde, together with the rest of the favourites, anticipated the difficulties.
Valverde, who suffered a mechanical setback after a slight, unintended touch of wheels with Pinot (FDJ), could not follow neither him nor Pinot and Van Garderen, losing 34″ at the finish. The bad moment does not take the Movistar Team’s GC contender out of the place he held atop Chamrousse, yet shrinks the fight for the overall podium: 13″ on Bardet (ALM), 29″ over Pinot (FDJ) and 1’12” ahead of Van Garderen (BMC) with seven stages remaining. Sunday will bring a flat day (222km) from Tallard to Nîmes, suited for breakaways and sprinters, before Monday’s second and final rest day.
REACTION | Alejandro Valverde: “It’s true that I’m still in 2nd place, but it was hard today. In a swerve with 3k or 3.5k to go, Pinot accidentally touched my gear with his front wheel. It didn’t work well, it was jumping from one ring to another and I had to climb on a big gear, I was super stuck. It might not have been the best day for me, maybe because of that partly – still, we got over it with not much damage. Nibali is clearly the strongest, but all the rest of us are very close to each other. I took some time yesterday and they did the same with me today: that’s cycling. We must carry on – there’s still a lot left and we’re still here.”