Tour de France Report: Stage 11
The 101st Tour de France continues through July 27. Click through to read our report of Stages 11.
Location: Besanc,on to Oyonnax
Duration: 187.5km/ 116.5mi
Terrain: A lower category mountain stage (one category 4 climb, three category 3 climbs)
Weather: 28C/ 82.4F – 10km/hr Winds
Why you should care: Stage 11 begins with two veteran riders and favorites of many Tour fans – Alberto Contador and now Fabian Cancellara (Trek) – out of the Tour. However, the idea that this Tour is “over” or somehow not worth watching is an insult to the riders who have survived and kept riding.
While many of this Tour’s abandons have been by GC Contenders, decimating most predictions for the final outcome, the Tour is not over. With Andy Schleck (Trek), Chris Froome (Sky), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) out of the race, their teammates – and particularly their domestiques – have the opportunity to put themselves out there and win stages instead of hanging back to protect their team leaders. The race has not ended, but it has changed.
When Alexis Vuillermoz of team AG2R was asked how he felt going into today’s stage route (a route he regularly uses to train for the Tour), his report was ominous: “Three of the four climbs have been classified in third category, but I find the [Tour] organizers very optimistic! I know those climbs really well,” he said. “They’re harder than that…I can guarantee that many riders will be surprised by how hard it is.”
Sage words from the AG2R rider, but no one could have predicted the outcome of the day. There were several punctured wheels on the stage today, including the wheel of Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), the leader of his team. He managed to get back on his bike, but this stage was going to be a cruel one for the American rider. Later on in the stage, after a natural break, Talansky lost track of the peloton. He wasn’t able to ride the wheel of anyone back to the pack and ended struggling alone off the back of the pack. Anyone who has paid any attention to this Tour so far felt it coming – yet another abandon by a race leader. And that is exactly what race radio reported.
Talansky was in tears as he spoke to his Director Sportif, Robbie Hunter (himself a cyclist who has won a stage of the Tour de France); the scene looked all too familiar. And then suddenly, Talansky was back on his bike! It quickly became evident through buzzing social media sites that Hunter had convinced Talansky to finish the stage.
Back at the front of the pack, the breakaway riders could not catch a break. The peloton, headed largely by teams Orica-Greenedge and Cannodale, was not letting anyone get away from the back. Several riders looked like they had the legs to win, but the legs of the peloton were stronger.
Perhaps still buoyed from his Bastille Day in yellow, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) tried for a breakaway twice. After attempting a breakaway on the final descent of the day and being reeled in like everyone else, Gallopin distinguished himself from the herd. With 2.5km left in the stage, Gallopin sped away from the peloton and kept up his breakaway to the stage’s end.
While crowds were cheering up ahead as the Tour crossed the finish line, a lone rider was fighting his own will power. Talansky rode on with the encouragement of Robbie Hunter and, for the first time this Tour, a fallen cyclist got back on his bike and rode on. He finished the stage alone, just within the allotted time limit, about 25 minutes behind the peloton to massive cheers from the crowd who stayed to see him.
Tomorrow we will encounter another lower category mountain stage, complete with a flat finish. Will we have a new breakaway star, or a sprint finish? Here’s a hint…
Who do you think will win the next stage? Sound off in the comments board below.