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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, July 15, 2013

Date published:
July 15, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Mollema saves Tour de France podium position on Mont Ventoux

    Bauke Mollema (Belkin) leads teammate Laurens ten Dam to the finish at Ax 3 Domaines
    Article published:
    July 14, 2013, 20:00 BST
    By:
    Sam Dansie

    Belkin fights back to hang on to second

    Belkin riders Laurens ten Dam and Bauke Mollema clawed back a 40 second deficit on Alberto Contador to maintain the team's slender second place on the overall classification after stage 15 of the Tour de France to the Mont Ventoux summit.

    On the longest stage of the Tour, ten Dam – fifth on GC – neutralised a gap gained by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff Bank) and towed his team leader Mollema to the Ventoux summit. Mollema's gap is now 11 seconds over Contador.

    "I was still good and Bauke could only follow – I was his super domestique," ten Dam told Dutch radio after the 242km stage.

    A ferocious pace set by Richie Porte (Sky) for yellow jersey and stage winner Chris Froome dragged Contador free of the Belkin riders with around 8km to go.

    And at one point, the gap between Contador and the Dutch pair – joined for a while by their teammate Robert Gesink – was more than 40 seconds.

    Belkin directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven said: "Robert, Laurens and Bauke worked well today.

    "Lau made a good pass with 2.5km to go and then Contador was back under 30 seconds and breaking. It gave Lau good motivation to keep going."

    Verhoeven said the day's strategy had been to keep Mollema and ten Dam together and riding tempo to avoid losing time to other GC riders. He said Gesink was active in the race but was unable to sustain the effort with 6km to go.

    Now the team's thoughts turn to how it to protect its podium spot from an onslaught of challengers, including two Saxo-Tinkoff Bank riders Contador and Roman Kreuziger. Going into the second rest day tomorrow, six...

  • Contador: Froome is far superior in Tour de France

    Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) struggles on the final kilometer
    Article published:
    July 14, 2013, 21:08 BST
    By:
    Barry Ryan

    Spaniard left reeling on Mont Ventoux

    On the barren slopes of Mont Ventoux on Sunday, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) came face to face with the arid truth of this Tour de France, as a torrid afternoon in Provence ended with his admission that Chris Froome (Sky) is the strongest man in the race.

    Froome's exhibition at Ax 3 Domaines last weekend had suggested as much, of course, as had his display in the subsequent Mont-Saint-Michel time trial, but Contador's inventive repossession of over a minute on Friday had reignited hopes that he could yet rage against the dying of the light.

    The combination of the formidable Ventoux and a seemingly other-worldly Froome served to destroy those ambitions on stage 15, however, as Contador was left floundering when the yellow jersey accelerated viciously six kilometres from the summit.

    Froome stayed seated during his attack, but rather than burn Contador off his wheel slowly, he simply careered clear at a startlingly high cadence, giving the impression that his legs could simply not turn quickly enough. It appeared as if Froome were riding in fast forward while Contador remained stuck on pause.

    "Froome is far superior to every else in the mountain stages – he's shown it here and in the Pyrenees," Contador said. "I did what I could by trying to ride up at my own regular rhythm, but in each head-to-head we've had, he's distanced me a bit more on general classification.

    "On the form he had today, nobody can beat him unless he has a bad day. We'll see what happens in the Alpine stages, which have several climbs in a row and might cause his team to suffer. We'll see what the options are."

    Head-to-head

    Mont Ventoux formed...

  • Porte: Sky will not be complacent in defending Tour de France lead

    Richie Porte (Sky) satisfied with the team's work
    Article published:
    July 14, 2013, 21:48 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Contador a threat until the end, says Australian

    Richie Porte has ruled out any complacency setting in after Team Sky re-asserted its control at the Tour de France on Sunday. Race leader Chris Froome burst clear on the slopes of Mont Ventoux to become just the second race leader in history to win on the climb while in yellow. Froome now leads the race by 4:14 from Bauke Mollema, with Alberto Contador now trailing at 4:25.

    Although Froome handed out most of the punishment to his rivals, it was the Sky team as a whole which effectively set him up for the victory.

    Porte set a relentless pace on the slopes of the climb, and at one point only Froome and Porte's ex-teammate Alberto Contador could follow in his wake.

    "People say I had a bad day last Sunday, but in reality Movistar took it up, then I had to ride on the first climb and then in the valley. It wasn't a bad day it was just that I got worked over tactically by two of the strongest teams in the race," Porte told Cyclingnews.

    "It's good to see that I have good climbing form today and that Froome could finish it off, but I don't think you can single one person out. It was the whole team who raced well."

    Complacency and a sudden loss of form now appear to be Froome's biggest threats. The Sky leader has shown throughout this year – not just this race – that he is practically unbeatable on a long uphill finish. His now distant rivals will need to expose Sky's weakness at controlling the race on more varied terrain if they are to move back into contention.

    "I don't think we're going to fall into that trap of complacency again. Look at what happened last Sunday, you just don't...

  • Evans left exhausted before the start of Ventoux climb

    BMC's Philippe Gilbert, Steve Morabito and Cadel Evans contest the final kilometre of the Mont Ventoux climb
    Article published:
    July 15, 2013, 0:13 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    BMC leader slips back to 16th overall

    Any hopes that Cadel Evans (BMC) had of finishing in the top 10 overall of the 2013 Tour de France were dashed when the Australian lost contact with the lead group of riders halfway up the punishing Mont Ventoux.

    The pace of Sky's Peter Kennaugh driving the group containing the maillot jaune Chris Froome, along with the likes of Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), plus the Belkin pair of Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam proved too much for Evans. He finished 8:46 behind stage 15 winner Froome, shepherded to the finish by teammates Steve Morabito and Philippe Gilbert. The 36-year-old slipped from 13th to 16th overall, 15:40 off Froome's overall lead.

    "What can I say? I was nowhere near where I wanted to be and had a lot of difficulties," Evans, the 2011 Tour de France winner said.

    The relentless pace of the peloton, which prior to reaching the foot of Mont Ventoux on the 242.5km stage was already 45 minutes ahead of schedule, took its toll on Evans.

    "I was feeling fine to start, a bit tired after the start and exhausted even before we started the climb. It's hard to go in with big expectations when you're exhausted before the climb even starts. As the climb went on, [I felt] worse and worse. When you're popped out of the group, it doesn't do much for your motivation."

    The team's plan had been for a teammates to be in the early break, with Marcus Burghardt along with Europcar's Pierre Rolland attempting to bridge to the 10-man escape group but the pair could only get as close as 15 seconds off the back before being swept up by the field.

    "We wanted to have one guy in the break to be support for Cadel later in the race when it started to blow," teammate Brent Bookwalter explained. "He was a little...

  • LeMond: There can be spectacular performances without doping

    Greg LeMond on the podium with stage 15 winner Chris Froome (Sky) on Mont Ventoux
    Article published:
    July 15, 2013, 1:39 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Sky reminiscent of Renault-Elf, says three-time Tour winner

    Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond was on hand on Mont Ventoux to witness the feats of Chris Froome (Sky), the American telling French television that he believes Sunday's stage winner has the centenary edition of the locked up.

    LeMond, who was on the podium for the stage 15 presentation, told RMC Sport that only a serious crash could derail Froome's chances of standing on the podium in Paris in a week's time.

    "He is very strong," the American said. "He can still have a bad day, but I don't believe he will. In 1986, during my first victory on the Tour I never had bad days… Now with more than four minutes on Bauke Mollema, Chris Froome is in the perfect position to win the Tour."

    Froome blitzed his rivals over the 21km climb, gradually distancing any threats with a seated high tempo and then finally out of the saddle to ensure victory over Nairo Quintana (Movistar). It was a showing which was again the source of much online speculation over the validity of the Kenyan-born Brit's performance, with Froome and Sky once again reiterating that natural ability was the source of such dominance.

    LeMond was supportive of Froome, but noted he had a "weird position" on the bike

    "There is a difference between a climber like Hinault for example, and Froome speeding away like that," the 52-year-old explained. "People look at technology now, wattage, VO2max and nobody is equal physically. You can't compare it to before. I don't like it when people ask me questions like that and I want to believe in what I'm seeing. There can be spectacular performances without doping."

    Sky's apparent fragility, with the...

  • Sagan celebrates 99-point lead with a wheelie

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) racked up even more green jersey points by making the breakaway on the Ventoux stage
    Article published:
    July 15, 2013, 3:34 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Slovakian had hoped to get to Ventoux with bigger gap on the peloton

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) extended his points classification lead in the Tour de France on Sunday, taking full advantage of his position in the early breakaway and giving the crowds something extra to cheer during stage 15.

    Sagan was stalked by Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) as the maillot vert neared the intermediate sprint point with 34km left before the Mont Ventoux summit, but in the end the Slovakian was never seriously challenged for the 20 points on offer for first across the line. Sagan now holds a 99-point advantage over nearest rival for the green jersey, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) with André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) another 55 points in arrears.

    The breakaway's maximum gap of seven minutes was eventually whittled down by the blisteringly-fast pace of the peloton, with Sagan struggling to keep up with his breakaway companions at the foot of the Ventoux climb. The 23-year-old however had hoped for a slightly better outcome.

    "I took the points I wanted, and I'm happy, but I thought the peloton wouldn't chase us so hard," said Sagan. "I hoped to arrive at the foot of Mont Ventoux with enough time to have a chance to finish the stage in top 15 and so take other points. We were a well-equipped group but some teams were left out from the breakaway and didn't give us room. The final climb? Really hard, I'm happy to rest and recover tomorrow. The third week will be really hard."

    While Sagan usually reserves a wheelie for when he crosses the finish line, as he did when he won Gent-Wevelgem earlier this season, he saw an opportunity on Sunday that couldn't be missed. Sagan lifted his front wheel just as he was caught by the peloton and saluted to the television camera.

    "I always said that cycling...

  • Chavanel rewarded for Bastille Day heroics

    Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) went on a solo romp, but was caught
    Article published:
    July 15, 2013, 5:33 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Frenchman most combative rider as Kwiatkowski loses white jersey

    Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) gave the French something to cheer about at the Tour de France on Bastille Day's stage 15, earning the day's award for the most combative rider with a last-ditch attack from the breakaway, surviving part-way up Mont Ventoux.

    The French are still without a stage win this Tour, an unfortunate drought considering that a French rider has won at least one stage in every Grande Boucle since the turn of the century. At present, the best-placed Frenchman is Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R-LaMondiale) who is ninth overall, 7:47 behind race leader Chris Froome (Sky).

    Chavanel has been continually aggressive this Tour, with three top-10 performances to his name over the past fortnight of racing. The 34-year-old left his nine breakaway companions behind before the start of the 20.8km, 7.5% HC climb at the end of the stage, while Euskaltel Euskadi and Sky set about a determined chase. With 15km to go, Chavanel had built a lead of around 30 seconds before being caught by stage runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel Euskadi) with a little over 12km remaining.

    "I'm happy because I was the most aggressive rider on Bastille Day," Chavanel said. "In the first two hours we were riding really at a high pace. We had a good gap, but not enough to try to go for the win. We needed to have seven or eight minutes at the foot of the Mont Ventoux to arrive. It's a pity because I think I was one of the strongest guys in the front group."

    Chavanel eventually finished 15:29 off the pace in 53rd.

    "But today I rode also for the public and for the spectacle," he continued. "It was unbelievable to hear all the supporters on the road cheering for me and for the riders in general. I hope to have given them...

  • Bakelants lights up Ventoux as Schleck struggles

    Andy Schleck (Radioshack) took a good beating on Mont Ventoux, finishing over 10 minutes down on Froome
    Article published:
    July 15, 2013, 8:03 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Schleck still hopeful of a stage victory

    Former maillot jaune Jan Bakelants and Maxime Monfort were the shining lights for RadioShack Leopard, with the former launching an attack on Mont Ventoux while Andy Schleck failed to live up to internal predictions of a stage 15 win, finishing close to 11 minutes off the pace.

    Schleck has shown brief moments of promise so far during the Tour and heading into Sunday's stage, was 15th overall, enough for the team's general manager Luca Guercilena to suggest that the Luxembourger could win from a late attack. Schleck however, was never in line for such a move, being dropped with about 15km left to race on the 242.5km stage.

    "I don't know what went wrong; I just wasn't good enough to go with the best today," he explained. "I thought I would be a lot better and actually it's a stage that suits me well. I took care all day to conserve energy but in the end clearly I was not on a good day."

    At the completion of the stage, Schleck is 18th overall 19:14 down on the lead of Sky's Chris Froome. The 28-year-old however remained optimistic of a stand-out performance in the final week of the Tour.

    "When one door closes another opens, so perhaps I will be good on Alpe d'Huez," Schleck mused. "I am far enough down now that I should be let go in a breakaway. Now it is like this. I am disappointed but I won't hang my head. I will keep my head up and fight for victory in another stage."

    The plan, with teammate Markel Irizar in the 10-man...