Tour de France (st. 12) / Pologne (st. 3)
Tremendous pile-up into final kilometer of Chalet Reynard turns TDF upside down; race jury and organisers reorder things to keep Froome (SKY) in yellow jersey, Nairo Quintana -struggling into Mont Ventoux, supported by fantastic Valverde (6th)- jumps into 3rd at 54"
An unfortunate race incident took the 12th stage of the Tour de France (178km) into havoc on Thursday. The mythical Mont Ventoux, shortened this time to a 10km ascent towards the Chalet Reynard due to unfavorable wind conditions, saw the first attacks by Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), who later struggled against the pace by Froome (SKY), Porte (BMC) and Mollema (TFS) in the final kilometer, supported by a sensational Alejandro Valverde. However, it all was bound to be overshadowed by a disgraceful happening.
Into the final kilometer, a pile-up caused by enormous crowds and the race motors acted as obstacle on the road and caused a collision of the three leading GC contenders, also stopping the pursuit group and even Quintana and Valverde. While the two Blues and the other competitors got through as soon as they could, Froome advanced without his bike for around hundred meters before taking a spare bike and later crossing the finish line with his own machine. He did so almost two minutes after Mollema; a minute and a half behind Yates (OBE), Nairo and 'Bala'; and way back from Porte himself.
A first GC made with instant times put Yates in yellow and Nairo Quintana in 3rd, 14" adrift. The race organisers had a first review of the stage classification made as it set Froome, Mollema and Porte with the Dutchman's time, which got Froome back in the lead, Nairo 4th at 1'01" and Alejandro Valverde, 6th and 1'39". Finally, a second rectification by the jury compensated Quintana and Valverde with seven seconds after the pile-up, taking Nairo up to third at 54" and Bala, sixth at 1'32". Those were official as this report was closed, and will be shaken again on Friday as a crucial, 37.5km TT towards Vallon-Pont-d'Arc brings the specialists to the fore.
Nairo Quintana: "What we saw today was disastrous. We came ahead of Froome and Porte after that problem they suffered and apparently we ended up losing not much time against them, arguably the most important rivals. To me and in hindsight, it seemed really premature to attack from where I did: there were gusty headwinds, I got caught really soon and wasted some energy which I missed at the end. It was a very demanding day: plenty of wind all stage, lots of horsepower – we came really out of energy into the final climb.
"When I reached the pile-up, Mollema, Porte and Froome were already on the ground. I think it was the organisation to blame, with all the motors and the spectators – these are race circumstances, but surely we should improve that. For me, and considering how things fared for me against Froome some days ago, it's fine to be where I stand at the moment. I hope I can defend myself well in the TT."
Rubén Fernández on the attack in Poland
The first mountains in the Tour de Pologne were seen during the monstruous 240km journey between Zawiercie and Nowy Sącz, where Rubén Fernández showed again good legs into the Cat-2 climb of Kunów, last ascent of the day at 24km from the finishing line. The man from Murcia profited by a move from Nicholas Roche (SKY) over the summit to search for the KOM points against the Irishman and local hero Maciej Paterski (CCC), before taking on the final, flat circuits. At the first of three urban laps, the trio became a quintet as counter attacks followed the Spanish climber, yet the bunch determined to finish into a bunch sprint, caught them with 15km to go.
Rubén's team-mates, always trying to keep the front and avoid any crashes -one of them even involving yellow jersey Fernando Gaviria (EQS)-, rolled together towards the finish, where Niccolò Bonifazio (TFS) profited from an early launch by Gaviria. The Movistar squad directed by José Luis Jaimerena and José Luis Laguía will have another long trek to tackle tomorrow, 218km between Nowy Sącz and Rzeszów/Podkarpackie, with five small ascents -four rated Cat-2, one Cat-1- as prelude of the weekend's grueling racing in the Tatr mountains.