Tour de France (st. 17)
Movistar Team gets through suffering in Saint-Lary after sensational work from telephone squad, keeps Tour’s 2nd place overall; second spot for Giovanni Visconti after great breakaway
AUDIO | Giovanni Visconti [ITA] (1’17”)
PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery
Constance by Alejandro Valverde and excellent management and performance by the whole Movistar Team made the hardest moment so far in this year’s Tour de France become a great recovery that shrinks the overall fight for the podium, but keeps the Spaniard in the same 2nd place he had before Wednesday’s Queen stage in the Grande Boucle: 124 kilometers between Saint-Gaudens and Saint-Lary (HC), with three other Cat-1 climbs: the Portillón, the Peyresourde and Val-Louron.
After a great fight for the day’s breakaway, three of the Blues made the 20-man front group that would ride on till the finish: Ion Izagirre, Jesús Herrada and Giovanni Visconti. All three stayed calm and strong -except for a brief action by Herrada-until the foot of Saint-Lary, where two consecutive attacks by Visconti left him alone with about thirty seconds’ advantage. Behind, Valverde sticked to the main favourites before a move by Jean-Christophe Péraud (ALM) with 6km remaining made him struggle greatly. Still, Alejandro kept himself calm, and helped out by marvellous pursuit work by Herrada and Izagirre, who dropped themselves from the break, the Spaniard reached the wheels of Pinot (FDJ) and Bardet (ALM), whom he took five seconds at the finish, and complete his ride 50″ after Péraud and race leader Vincenzo Nibali (AST).
Ahead in the break, Visconti was chased down and ultimately left behind by Rafal Majka (TCS), having to content himself with a 2nd place which confirms great condition at the end of a Tour he started three months after recovering from a horrible tibia fracture. The Tour podium, now a tighter fight than ever -Valverde is 34″ ahead of Pinot; 42″ above Péraud; and 2’08” before Bardet-, will be decided into Saturday’s TT to Périgueux and the final mountain stage on Thursday: 146km starting at Pau and climbing two legendary, Hors Categorie climbs, the Col du Tourmalet and the finishing Hautacam.
Alejandro Valverde: “I got myself through a very bad moment – I kept a steady pace, my team-mates were really phenomenal and we got through the day with even better results than we could expect after dropping. I kept myself calm, trying to stay at the same speed, but when I saw the 300m banner, I gave it everything up to the finish. I’m happy to have got that way over this. We’re still into the fight, doing the best we can – rivals are strong, this is the Tour, anything is taken for granted and you’ve got to give your 100%. There’s still a really demanding stage tomorrow; I don’t know if it suits me better than today’s, I think it’s quite the same for me. We’ll have to give everything again. Péraud looks like the most dangerous rival for the podium in these days left, and especially for the TT, but no one can be ruled out.”
Giovanni Visconti: “I tried it hard and, at a certain point, I thought I could repeat last year’s action in the Galibier – but we have to compliment Majka, he had already won a stage, he was wearing the KOM jersey and that always gives you an extra bit of energy… Once I saw him coming from behind, I knew it would be very difficult. I’m happy with what I did, especially when I think that six months ago, I was in bed in hospital with a broken leg, and today I was here, fighting for arguably the toughest stage in this year’s Tour.
It was a very fast race. As expected, Katusha keep the break in a leash before the first KOM. The break was big and very strong; I always rode at the back, thinking that Alejandro could need my help if they came back from behind, but as I said, there were really expert guys in the break, and at the end I felt myself strong and gave it a try. There were so many sacrifices to reach this race in good condition and I couldn’t give up. I felt well, just like last year, and even believed I could make it, but it wasn’t to be.”