Kwiatkowski most aggressive on stage 12 to Plateau de Beille
World champion Michal Kwiatkowski earned stage 12's most aggressive rider award at the Tour de France on Thursday. He was rewarded for being in the day's breakaway and then attacking on the final climb to Plateau de Beille in a bid to win the stage.
"I am happy I tried to go for the stage win," Kwiatkowski said in a press release from Etixx-QuickStep. "I have to be satisfied because you can’t win if you don’t try. It’s a wonderful feeling to do something like this and honour the rainbow jersey in a Tour de France stage. I’m proud to wear it and hope people can appreciate my effort today. There’s still a long way to go to Paris. I’m motivated, the team is motivated, and for sure we’ll try again when there is an opportunity for Etixx-QuickStep.”
The 22-rider breakaway escaped from the main field early in the 195km stage. Kwiatkowski made a move from the group with Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) with 75km to go. When Preidler lost contact with 52km to go, the remaining pair went on together. Near the bottom of the final 15km climb, however, Kwiatkowski attacked and continued up the climb on his own.
"I think Sep and I did a great move to stay away from the pure climbers. I think it was smart to be aggressive on the descent before the last climb and build the gap. We worked together well and I’m thankful to him. We played the best tactic possible for our skills. It was too bad we didn’t have enough of a gap to stay away. I couldn’t have done any better than what I did."
Kwiatkowski's lead wasn't enough to stop some of the original breakaway riders from catching him with 7km to go. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) took the stage win by over a minute ahead of runner-up Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and third-placed Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale). He was also passed by the select group of overall contenders, including yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky), and he finished 27th on the day.
“It’s a pity I couldn’t handle the power necessary to stay away on the last climb,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was really steep after a long day out front. Being caught 7.6km from the finish is too bad, but for me it was a bit unexpected to be in that breakaway in the first place. It was many guys and a lot of strong climbers.
"I tried to fight until the end. It wasn’t enough to win a stage, but I’m happy my performance is getting better and better each day. Congratulations to Rodriguez as he deserved the victory today. He was super strong and he is one of the best climbers in the peloton."
Meintjes finishes fifth on Plateau de Beille
Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) rode into fifth place on stage 12's tough third day in the Pyrenees on Thursday. He was a part of the day's decisive breakaway that disintegrated over the final 15km ascent to Plateau de Beille. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) eventually won the stage with a solo move in the closing kilometres.
Despite crashing part way through the stage, Meintjes and his breakaway companions caught and passed two escapees, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quickstep) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), on the climb with 8km to go. Attacks among the front group saw Rodriguez solo to the stage win ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), while Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) sprinted around Meintjes to take fourth.
"I really wanted to get into the breakaway today, it was the plan for the team," Meintjes said in a press release. "Edvald [Boasson Hagen] really helped me to get into the breakaway. We were pushing it all race and the pressure was on, on the descents and unfortunately I took a bit too much of a risk and came down but got back to the group pretty quickly. On the final climb I just didn't have the legs to go with the front guys."
Kittel to return at the Tour de Pologne
The seven-stage race, from August 2-8, consists of six stages and a closing individual time trial, with plenty of opportunities for the fast men to stretch their legs. After that, the German will work towards the Vattenfal Cyclassics and GP Ouest France-Plouay one-day races at the end of August.
The 27-year-old has made waves in the sprinting world over the past couple of years and has won the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs Élysées two years in a row. Many predicted his success to continue into 2015 and the Tour but he has endured a troubling season in which he has failed to rack up much race time, let alone victories.
His lack of form ultimately caused him to miss out on his team's Tour de France selection and the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Mark Cavendish and André Greipel.
“I am looking forward to racing again after a good period of training at home,” Kittel said in a statement from Giant-Alpecin. “The Tour de Pologne is a nice race to get back into racing and gain rhythm. As a team, we will be aiming to win sprint stages in Poland.”
Alex Dowsett abandons the Tour de France
Movistar's Alex Dowsett was forced to pull out of his debut Tour de France partway through the mountainous stage 12 to Plateau de Beille. The Movistar rider was in trouble from the start of the stage, having already endured two tough days in the Pyrenees and just making the time cut on stage 11.
Dowsett's troubles stem from a crash on stage 4, when he was caught up on a slippery stretch of road in the run-up to one of the latter cobbled sectors. He required stitching on his elbow and his injuries have since seen him struggle to provide the support he'd have liked to have offered Nairo Quintana.
Dowsett was never going to be very strong in the mountains but he'll be disappointed to pull out of his debut Tour having worked so hard to get here. There was the hope he might get through stage 12, as he did the previous day, with some time to regather his strengths on the following transition stages.