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by Matt de Neef
July 17, 2014
Just days after taking and then losing the overall lead in the Tour de France, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) has taken a thrilling victory on stage 11 with a last-ditch solo attack. The Frenchman attacked on a short uncategorised climb roughly 13km from the finish before being caught and then attacking again about 3km from the line. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), meanwhile, finished in the fast-finishing main field and retains his overall lead in the race.
Sunshine and warm weather welcomed the riders back to the Tour de France after the first rest day; a welcome change from some poor conditions in the first 10 days of racing. On the menu for stage 11 was a 188km stage from Besancon to Oyonnax with four categorised climbs, all of them coming in the final 50km of the race.
There was a predictable flurry of attacks from the start with several riders trying to form a breakaway but it took roughly 30km for a group of three — Martin Elmiger (IAM), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) and Anthony Delaplace (Seche-Bretagne) — to get up the road and get settled.
The stage had been raced at a high tempo to begin with — an average speed of 50km/h for the first 45 minutes — but with the breakaway formed the peloton began to ease up and the three leaders were able to get more than six minutes clear after 50km of racing.
Astana looked to be leaving the early chasing to Cannondale and Orica-GreenEdge with both teams harbouring hopes of a stage victory (for Peter Sagan and Simon Gerrans respectively). Together the two teams brought the gap down to below 4:30 as they entered the final 100km of the stage.
At the intermediate sprint point in Charcier Cyril Lemoine took the maximum points in the breakaway while Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) led home Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in the main field. Peter Sagan was noticeably absent at the pointy end, seemingly saving his energy for a more important sprint later in the day.
With 80km of racing to go the gap to the three leaders was well inside four minutes while at the back of the peloton Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) was in real trouble. After several crashes in the first 10 days of racing the American was suffering from severe back pain and began falling away from the peloton.
The three leaders’ advantage was down inside three minutes with 66km and all four climbs still remaining as Cannondale worked hard to string out the bunch. When the first climb began, Anthony Delaplace cracked in the lead group and began drifting back towards the peloton. In the peloton, too, the relentless pace of Garmin-Sharp was putting many riders in difficulty, while the team’s would-be GC leader was steadily losing time.
Talansky was left to fend for himself, the rest of the team driving the pace in the main field. With roughly 50km to the finish Talansky dismounted and appeared to abandon the race, indeed official sources suggested he had. But after a long discussion with director sportif Robbie Hunter, in which the South Africa appeared to be urging Talansky to get back on, the 25-year-old did just that. He clambered back on his bike and, clearly in pain, continued his solo journey toward the finish.
Just inside 50km to go Delaplace was swept up by a rampaging peloton as Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) attacked with Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) following shortly after. Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Seche) attacked from the peloton as well, the former moving ahead while the latter was unable to stay clear.
In the lead group Lemoine was unable to follow the pace of the Swiss national champion, and he began to fall away leaving just Elmiger at the head of affairs. Elmiger took maximum points over the Cote de Rogna 46km from the finish as Bakelants, Lemoine, Slagter and Roche came together, 45 seconds behind the lone leader.
Nicolas Roche attacked his three companions over the top of the climb and only Bakelants was able to follow. As Lemoine and Slagter returned to the peloton Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Jesus Harrada (Movistar) moved clear as Cannondale tried to drive the pace.
Elmiger was solo when he took the points over the Cote de Choux 39km from the finish with Roche next over the line. On the climb to the Cote de Desertin, Bakelants and Roche caught Elmiger, and then Herrada and Gautier made the junction as well. Elmiger again took the points over the climb and as the five riders descended towards the final climb of the day, their lead was down inside 30 seconds. They had only a 19-second advantage with 29km left to race and when they hit the start of the Cote d’Echalon, Nicolas Roche tried to go solo.
The increased tempo spelled the end for Martin Elmiger who dropped from the lead group and was caught by the Cannondale- and Orica-GreenEdge-led peloton 21km from the finish.
With Roche out solo with an 18-second advantage, Bakelants, Gautier and Herrada were all caught by an ever-thinning peloton just before the summit of the Cote d’Echalon. Roche was first over the top while Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) was second, driving hard at the front of the peloton for Peter Sagan.
A short descent between the final categorised climb and another short climb saw Roche’s gap eroded by the impressive descending skills of Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). The German’s efforts on the winding, narrow roads saw a small split in the peloton but when the riders hit the short uncategorised climb the peloton came back together, albeit in one long line.
With 13.4km to the finish Tony Gallopin attacked and went over the top on his own, his advantage hovering at roughly 10 seconds. Peter Sagan led the peloton down the hill in pursuit and his superb descending skills created a small split in the peloton. He was joined by Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) just off the front as Gallopin continued to lead by eight seconds, 6km from the finish.
Gallopin was caught with just 4.3km of downhill and flat roads to the finish as Sagan came to the front, trying to keep the group of four away. Gallopin was back on the front with 3.3km remaining and then he was off the front, putting in a second big attack for the day.
There was some chasing from the group of three but when Sagan sat up and wouldn’t chase, Gallopin was able to extend his lead. The peloton, meanwhile, was storming home, setting it up for a close finish.
Gallopin entered the 1.6km-long finishing straight with no more than 10 seconds over the chase group. The three chasers were swept up just inside a kilometre to go as the peloton bore down on Gallopin. But the Frenchman had done enough. He raised his arms in triumph as he crossed the line, winning just metres ahead of a reduced peloton led home by John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and stage 7 winner Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
A dejected Peter Sagan finished ninth but retains his commanding lead in the points classification. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will again ride in the polka dots of the KOM classification leader on stage 12, despite falling off the pace on the final climbs of today’s stage. And Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) will wear white again as the best young rider after his impressive fifth place on stage 10.
There’s little change in the general classification, with Vincenzo Nibali, Richie Porte (Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) all finishing with the same time. Andrew Talansky, meanwhile, managed to finish the day just inside the time cut after a long and painful solo ride to the finish. It remains to be seen how long the Criterium du Dauphine winner will be able to stay in the race.
On stage 12 tomorrow the riders cover 186km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne, summiting two third-category climbs and two fourth-category climbs along the way.
– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow
– Stage 7: Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow
– Stage 8: Blel Kadri solos to stage 8 victory, Nibali holds lead after GC shakeup
– Stage 9: Tony Martin takes solo win as Tony Gallopin rides into yellow
– Stage 10: Nibali takes back yellow as Contador crashes out of the Tour de France