A new record time on Mont Ventoux?
The performance of Chris Froome and his overall rivals will be closely scrutinized today with people calculating their VAM, power output and performance.
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford and others have dismissed the use of the calculation to suggest or imply if a rider may be doping, but the time the riders take to conquer Mont Ventoux will surely spark debate.
For the record, Lance Armstrong set the fastest time of 48:33 for the final 15km of Mont Ventoux in 2002. Alberto Contador set the second fastest time of 48:57 in 2009, while Marco Pantani and Armstrong stopped the clock in 48:59. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories and doubts about those fast times remain.
The final 15km includes 1368m of elevation at an average gradient of 8.7%. The often strong winds are also a major factor in the racing and in the times set on Mont Ventoux.
Tweeting about Ventoux
Most of the riders were not really looking forward to today's closing climbs, and tweeted their feelings about it. Especially the sprinters showed a certain lack of enthusiasm.
Mark Cavendish, Omega Pharma-QuickStep: “Bastille Day means big French motivation. Mont Ventoux means big climber motivation. All these things mean a grim day for sprinters.”
Gert Steegmans, Omega Pharma-QuickStep: “Maybe we should make a echelon in the crosswinds before the Ventoux :-) could give some good television #tdf #OPQS”
Greg Henderson, Lotto Belisol: “How do you say "give me a push mate" in French?”
Peter Kennaugh, Sky: “Big big day tomoro, let's hope the first 2 hrs are a little easier than today but who know it is the tour after all..”
Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano): “Big day ahead, 242km + finish on top of Mt.Ventoux. Looking forward to the crowds on one side. Know that my legs will hurt on the other.”
Rojas has not given up hope
Movistar's José Joaquín Rojas tried to fight back during stage 14, after the team's bitter blow the day before when Alejandro Valverde dropped out of contention for the overall and the squad lost the lead in the team classification. Rojas was a dangerous addition to the 18-man breakaway which succeeded all the way to Lyon, with the Spaniard eventually finishing fourth for the stage. Teammate Imanol Erviti also made the move and finished 15th.
"After all, what we wanted today is tell everyone that, despite what happened yesterday, we have not lost all hope in this year's Tour - we're willing, we have the courage to keep fighting and shining," Rojas explained. "It was my turn to contest the win today, but I couldn't take it. The break companions knew I was the fastest guy and, as expected, they forced me to go after several moves in the finale, especially in the last kilometer, when Albasini attacked."
The Spanish team finished on top for the stage due to the gaps on the road, and moved from fifth to second-place in the team classification, 2:26 behind leaders Saxo-Tinkoff.
Cavendish shares the joy
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) was more than happy for Matteo Trentin to add to the sprinter's two stage victories for this Tour de France with the Italian's win on Sunday. We've seen Cavendish himself get emotional on the podium, but the Manxman was particularly proud of the performance of his teammate on Stage 14.
"Been lucky to witness some amazing teammates wins in my career, but today was the 1st that brought tears to my eyes," he said via his twitter feed.
Mollema attempts to do some homework
Second overall on GC, Bauke Mollema (Belkin) did his best to keep an eye on his rivals ahead of Sunday's key stage up Mont Ventoux while back in the bunch on stage 13.
"Today was easy, at least the final," said Mollema. "The start was hard, though. It went full gas in the peloton until the escape went. I saw my rivals riding today, but you can't get an idea of how they're feeling. They were always in the front, but since it was an easy day, you can't gauge them. After yesterday, I felt that I recovered well. It was nice to have an easier final today ahead of Mont Ventoux."
Mollema is 2:28 behind maillot jaune Chris Froome (Sky) with teammate Laurens ten Dam fifth overall at 3:01. Ten Dam reported encouraging signs ahead of Ventoux.
"It was not easy today with the climbs at the start of the stage and almost every team fighting to make it in the escape," he explained. "Once the escape went, the race settled down for us. My legs are feeling great and I hope to do well tomorrow on Mont Ventoux."