Tour (st. 17) / Giro della Toscana
Spaniard from Movistar Team remains in 8th overall, will wear white jersey tomorrow after finishing just over 1′ off López (AST), staying with top contenders until end. Valverde enters GC top-ten.
/ Today’s route
There was only two mountain stages remaining in this year’s Tour de France, and Wednesday’s was bringing the longest, highest climbs of the race: the Col de la Madeleine (Hors Categorie; 17.1km @ 8,4%) and the finish up the Col de la Loze (2,304m), 21.5km at an average 7.6% and a brutal finishing 5km from the Méribel ski station, at over 10% and with maximum slopes of 24%.
/ Weather report
If it wasn’t enough, the enjoyable weather we’d had over all of this Tour’s mountains -but the second Pyrenees stage- seemed to be truncated for today, as thunderstorms were expected over the final two climbs and temperatures were down to around 15ºC. Down into the valleys, the sun was shining and 30ºC were forecast.
/ Keys to the race
- Attacks flew in the opening 40km like a blur, the Movistar Team forced to follow several moves with big efforts from Verona, Cataldo and Marc Soler. In the end, only five riders were given green light to join the early move: yesterday’s winner Kämna (BOH), Alaphilippe (DQT), Gorka Izagirre (AST), Carapaz (IGD) and Dan Martin (ISN). The peloton, led by Jumbo-Visma, started to work as the escapees had gained a four-minute advantage, and reached the foot of the Madeleine with 6′00″.
- Bahrain-McLaren made a determined attempt through the Madeleine to reduce the field, increase the pace and reduce the gap against the break. And they succeeded: it went down to 1’30” for the escape -reduced to four riders, with Kämna dropping back- at the top of the climb (-62km) over a pursuit group containing less than 30 riders, with the Movistar Team as best represented together with Bahrain. Four riders stayed in contention with Verona, Nelson Oliveira and the Telefónica-backed squad’s two GC hopes: Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde.
- Bahrain’s pace intensified through the final climb and helped for a decisive move to happen with 3.5km to go. An attack by López (AST), who ended up taking the stage win, tore the peloton into many pieces, with Landa (TBM), Urán (EF1) and a fantastic Alejandro Valverde struggling before the acceleration; Pogacar (UAD), Roglic and Kuss (TJV) following López’s attack; and Porte (TFS) and Enric Mas in pursuit.
- The Spaniard, always following his own pace through the last climb, kept the good progression he had shown at the Grand Colombier last Sunday and crossed the finish in 6th place, 1’12” behind López and less than 1′ after Roglic -GC leader- and Pogacar, while Valverde, who now enters the overall top-ten, was 12th over the line, 2’48” back. Also remarkable on today’s stage was yet another fine performance from Verona (+6’53”), who helped reinforce the Movistar riders’ lead in the team GC (30’07” over Jumbo-Visma). Mas, who remains in 8th overall, will wear the white jersey tomorrow -since Pogacar, best young rider, also leads the KOM ranking-.
Enric Mas: “I won’t deny I’m feeling happy about my performance, yet it’s true that I would have liked to finish a bit closer to the top contenders, because I was feeling great until the last 3km. Maybe the altitude was taking its toll, too, but it’s just down to the rivals being stronger. The pace during the entire Tour, always full gas, pays in finishes like this one. It’s been a brutal race and all that wear and tear, as we enter the third week, creates these gaps by itself. We finished one by one, and everybody was dead tired (smiles). In our case, as a team, we have been steadily progressing all over the race; our preparations were focused on reaching our top condition at this stage of the Tour, and so here we are. Three weeks, one month ago we were at the Dauphiné and we didn’t think we would be here in 8th place overall, close to the top-5 – Let’s keep pushing. There’s another great stage to see more time gaps tomorrow and López has shown the Slovenians are not unbeatable. It will be another crucial day tomorrow.”
/ Upcoming goals
The final mountain stage of this year’s TDF comes on Thursday with a restless journey in Savoie, perfect for long-range attacks. Cormet de Roselend (Cat-1), Route des Villes (Cat-3), Saisies (Cat-2), Aravis (Cat-1) and the Plateau des Glières (HC + Bonus), with an added final gravel section, plus the non-categorized Fleuries close to the finish, were the menu for an absolutely exhilarating 175km towards La Roche-sur-Foron.
/ Over in Italy…
The Movistar Team was back with its alternate calendar to the TDF in Italy on Wednesday with the Giro della Toscana -Pontedera, 183km-, over a fast-paced course where the main difficulties, the final climbs to Peccioli (1.1km @ 6.3%), were located 29 and 17km from the finish, respectively.
The youngsters took on a protagonist role for the squad here directed by Maximilian Sciandri, with solid rides from both Mathias Norsgaard -part of the early break and only caught by the top sprinters’ peloton with 10km remaining- and Iñigo Elosegui, the last man trying to leave the bunch behind with a ‘finisseur’ action, neutralized with just 2km left.
Jürgen Roelandts took 7th place at a sprint dominated by Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria (UAD). The Telefónica-backed squad will be tacking part on Thursday, over a circuit around the same climb as today. in the Coppa Sabatini, second race of this ‘Tuscan double’.
RESULTS > 2020 Giro della Toscana
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto