Tour de France Report: Stages 14-15
Up and down the Alps, then a flat stage to close out the weekend
By Larysa Pachulski,
11:04AM, Mon. Jul. 21, 2014
The 101st Tour de France continues through July 27. Click through to read our report of Stages 14-15.
Location: Grenoble to Risoul
Duration: 177km/ 109.9mi
Terrain: Mountain Stage (two category 1 climbs and one HC [uncategorizable climb])
Weather: 26C/ 78.8F
Why you should care: Another day in the Alps before Sunday's flat stage,, and another chance for a win by the climbing specialists. Friday’s stage in the Alps saw a lot of new talent and powerful legs; Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) can’t win two stages in a row, so who will take stage 14?
Clearly hungry for a stage win, Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) tried again for a breakaway on today’s stage, but he may have expended all of his extra energy the day before as the most aggressive rider of that stage. (Yep, there's actually something called the Combativity Award.)
On the other hand Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) seemed unfazed by the previous day’s efforts (he came in second). The 24-year-old rider attacked De Marchi himself in the breakaway and managed to shake off both De Marchi and Joaquim Purito Rodriguez (Katusha), who is runner up in the King of the Mountains competition.
Majka was able to sustain his breakaway from the most aggressive rider and the King of the Mountains in his first ever Tour de France stage win on the summit of Risoul.
Surprisingly, Nibali did seem to have his legs on stage 14. While he wasn’t going to risk going for the stage win again, he did attack a couple of times on the way to the summit in Risoul. He was caught, but with only a couple of meters to the finish line, he pulled away from Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R) to lock down second place.
It should be noted, however, that silent rival Teejay Van Garderen – the American rider for team BMC who currently sits in fifth place overall – also attacked the remaining group after Nibali crossed the finish line. Teej finished only 17 seconds after Nibali did, so it would seem he still has the legs to fight. He's been lucky enough, like Nibali, not to have injured himself yet this Tour – a feat in and of itself.
Location: Tallard to Nîmes
Duration: 222km/ 137.94mi
Terrain: Flat stage (Nncategory climbs)
Weather: Cooler temperatures today with a mix of pouring rain and sunshine.
Why you should care: Now that they have all been dragged up and down the mountains, it's time to see who the real champion sprinters are. Could Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finally break his streak of coming second place? Would Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) have the legs that he had in the first week of the Tour before the mountains. And would Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) be looking to make up for Stage 12's contentious crash with Sylvain Chavanel?
It was a very surprising day on this flat stage, perhaps in testament to the exhaustion of the riders. The breakaway ,which formed right at the beginning of the stage, was only caught within the last couple of meters to the finish line. Normally on a sprint stage the breakaway is caught by the peloton, at around 15 to 20k to the finish line, giving ample time to organize a lead out train for the team’s designated sprinters.
Today was different. Even the famous Tour de France commentators Phil and Paul could not seem to get a handle on why the peloton could not catch the two breakaway riders, Martin Elmiger (IAM) and Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp).
Dispiritingly for the two breakaway riders, just when it seemed that they were going to get away with their lead on the overall group, they were caught with only meters left to the finish line after a full day in the break, unable to crack even the top 5 over the finish line.
The honor of the stage win went to Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), which was not altogether surprising. What was surprising was the lack of enthusiasm for the sprint by Kittel and Greipel. Sagan had been drafting the wheel of his rivals as a launching off point for his sprint, but Kittel and Greipel never attacked. “I was behind Kittel, and Greipel was just in front of him… and they haven't sprinted! I don't know why. Then it was too late for me to catch the other sprinters,” Sagan said of the harried finish. Getting behind the wrong wheel in the finish seems to be an ongoing problem for Sagan at this year’s Tour…
The sprinters had their respite from the mountains and their chance to stretch their legs, but it’s back to the mountains after today’s rest day. There isn’t another flat stage until stage 19.
Who do you think will win the next stage? Sound off in the comments board below.