Riblon the Tour's most combative rider
Tour de France shorts: Fuglsang cements Tour top-10 finish
Each day the Tour de France hands out a red bib number to the rider who has put the boots to the peloton the hardest with the combativity prize. On the penultimate stage, one rider is chosen above all others for riding above and beyond, and this year's winner of the super-combativity award is none other than Alpe d'Huez stage winner Christophe Riblon of AG2R La Mondiale.
"That's great! I was not selected in 2009 and I think this year I deserved it. I was present in the breakaways on all the major mountain stages, including Ax-3 Domaines and Ventoux, and I was at the front today again," Riblon said.
The Frenchman has been a fixture in the breakaways in the Tour de France over the past few years, and it has so far netted him a stage win on Ax 3 Domaines in 2010 and one day with the red dossard in 2009.
"Being designated as the super-combative rider of the 100th Tour de France really means something. This is a great reward for me. I always dreamed of this image, alone on the podium on the Champs-Elysées with the Arc de Triomphe in the background! I really enjoyed this Tour de France and there is still all day tomorrow to enjoy it."
No penalty for Rolland
The race jury decided not to penalize French rider Pierre Rolland (Europcar) for his actions at the fourth ranked climb of the 19th stage. The fight for the few mountain points nearly got physical on the category 3 Col des Pries.
Rolland came into the stage only one point down on KOM Chris Froome. He was the first to attack and took the points at the first climb. Igor Anton (Euskaltel) was also in the mix for the polka-dot jersey, and joined the lead group to claim the second climb. Rolland again won the third climb.
At the fourth climb, however, the two came to the summit together with AG2R's Christophe Riblon. Anton sprinted and so did Rolland, cutting off the the Basque rider and slamming into him. Riblon took the top points, as Anton protested to Rolland at being denied his opportunity.
Most observers thought the objections were justified, but not the officials. Tour director Jean-Francois Pescheux claimed not to have seen the sprint. The race jury said only, “We noted no irregularities.”
It was all for nothing, anyway. The King of the Mountain jersey went to Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who as stage winner took the points atop the HC mountaintop finish.
BMC all or nothing
The BMC racing team is one of the very few who have not won a stage or worn a jersey during the Tour de France, but they were not going to give up without a try on stage 20. Marcus Burghardt entered into the day's breakaway, and as the gap started to plummet between the breakaway and the field, world champion Philippe Gilbert launched out of the peloton dragging last year's best young rider Tejay van Garderen across to the move with him.
The two only managed to make it up to a chasing group behind solo attacker Jens Voigt (RadioShack), but no further.
"We wanted to race and not just follow," van Garderen said after the stage. "That was sort of a last-ditch thing, we had a slim chance, but it was our last chance so we had to take it."
The team's pre-race GC hopeful Cadel Evans is on the eve of completing a disappointing race, and has learned that racing the Giro d'Italia as preparation for the Tour can backfire.
"I came here with big ambitions – that's how I go for the Tour and that's what has gotten me good results in the past," Evans said. "This year we made a choice about the program leading into the Tour. We always knew it could work but it could also backfire and not work. Obviously the result here was to say it didn't work for the Tour."
Albasini extends with Orica-GreenEdge
Michael Albasini has an extra reason to celebrate in Paris at the end of the Tour de France, after signing a new contract with the Orica-GreenEdge team for 2014 and 2015.
The experienced Swiss rider went close to winning stage 14 to Lyon, losing a close sprint to Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) but helped the Australian team to victory in the Nice team time trial.
"I know I could have had options with other teams, but when it came time to sign, I realised that I don't want to leave this one," said Albasini in an announcement from the team as the riders headed to Paris.
"As our music video shows, we have a really good team spirit here. It's nice to work where you can also
Directeur sportif Matt White described him as one of the stalwarts of the team.
"He is a very reliable rider in nearly every terrain. He's a winner, but he's also a super teammate. We've seen that here at the Tour, and we've seen that at every race he starts. He gives as much to his teammates as he does to his personal goals," he said.
Orica-GreenEdge announced last Wednesday that Cameron Meyer has also extended his contract with the team and further announcements are expected as the transfer season kicks off in August.