Tour de France 2013 Stage 15
Givors to Mont Ventoux 242.5km


With Stage Fifteen, the 242.5km (151.6mi) ride from Givors to the summit of Mount Ventoux, there was a confluence of factors insuring a brutally hard day of racing. To begin with, it was Bastille Day, which guaranteed hard racing from French stage hunters. It was the Queen Stage; the longest day of the race, guaranteeing the headbangers would be out for an early escape. It was also the last stage before a rest day, so few had any reason to hold back. And the stage finished with  20.8km (13mi)  of climbing at an average gradient of 7.5%, meaning that all the general classification riders and all the climbers would be out in force.

The early attacks went a few kilometers after the start, but with so many riders wanting in on the escape, they were caught after less than 30km.
Peter Sagan and Cannondale Pro Cycling, expected by many to sit back and save energy thanks to his commanding lead in the Points competition, surprised the experts by being among the early aggressors. Shortly after the early break was caught 30km (19mi) in, a group of ten hit out, including Sagan, and French stage-hunters Sylvain Chavanel of Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Pierrick Fedrigo of FdJ.

Even with good representation amongst teams, the field didn't want to give anything away.  After an hour of racing, the break's average speed was 49.5kph  (30.9mph) and the field was one minute behind and not falling back. After the second hour, the field gave the escapees a break. While the leaders had an average speed of almost 50kph (31.25mph), the field was slowing down, and the gap was up to 4:30.

Coming into Malaucene, the site of the day's intermediate sprint, and 34.5km (21.6mi) left to race, the field had chipped off over a minute of the lead. Sagan easily dispatched the sprint with Chavanel taking second. Lotto-Belisol's Andre Greipel took tenth-place points ahead of Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Mark Cavendish. Sagan's lead in his defense of the Maillot Vert is now 99 points.

With his objective of the day taken, Sagan could have just sat up and waited for the field. But he kept going with the eight remaining escapees. Chavanel, an excellent time trialist and the freshest legs of the bunch, decided it was time to pick up the pace and see if he could take the stage win.

While Chavanel squeezed what he could out of his tired legs, the rest of the breakaway faded. Chavanel reached Bedoin, the beginning of the climb, alone. The Sagan chase group made it there ahead of the pack as well. A few kilometers into the climb Sagan, just about reabsorbed by the pack being led by race leader Chris Froome's Sky team, decided to have a little fun and gave us all a reminder that riding a bike is fun. He popped a wheelie, and rode it one-handed until the group was on him.

With Sagan caught, the elite chase group, containing all of the contenders, had an 1:38 deficit on Chavanel. Under Sky's pace making, Chavanel's lead was erased with 13km (8.1mi)  remaining as Mikel Nieve of Euskatel reached him first.

Then it was time for Froome to face the day's test. Movistar's Nairo Quintana, attacked out of the field to catch Nieve. With Froome's teammates putting the screws to the rest of the elite, those able to match the Yellow Jersey's pace dwindled to one, Saxo-Tinkoff's Alberto Contador. And just as Froome's last teammate started to fade, Froome attacked hard, dropping Contador and quickly passing Nieve en route to Quintana. He attacked Quintana, but Quintana was able to parry the efforts of Froome. The others were left gasping, and saw their chances evaporating.

At 1.3km (.8mi) Froome finally shook Quintana, and rode across the summit alone, for an impressive win, not only was he solo, with his competition crumbling, but the 41.7 kph (26mph) average speed was over 20 minutes ahead of the fastest predicted time. Quintana came in second 29 seconds down, Nieve third 1:23 down.

Froome extended his lead to 4:14 over Belkin's Bauke Mollema. Contador remains in third eleven seconds behind Mollema. Froome also took over the polka-dot jersey of best climber. As he can only wear one jersey, it won't go to second in that competition, the leader of the best young rider competition, Quintana. It will shift to Nieve, third in that race.

The Green Jersey is now almost completely secured on the back of Sagan. Wresting it from him nearly impossible. "I'm happy when I take some points for the green jersey. I was hoping we'd have more of a lead starting the final climb, but three minutes wasn't enough for Ventoux."  Sagan had designs on a good finish atop Ventoux, but when he realized it was impossible, he faded back. The wheelie?  "It was fun for the people. Maybe I'll do some more tricks later." 

Tomorrow is a rest day, the second and final break in racing before the push to Paris. The riders will sleep in, eat well, ride easy for a few hours and test out all their recovery strategies. Racing resumes on Tuesday, July 16, with a 168km (105mi) mid-mountain stage from Vaison-La-Romaine to Gap. There are two second-category climbs early, with the intermediate sprint in Veynes 45km (28.1mi) from the finish. Considering his incredible energy and race-reading skills, it wouldn't be surprising to see Cannondale Pro Cycling to set Peter Sagan up to get points both at the intermediate sprint and finish. With a time trial on Wednesday, he has little to lose.


Tour de France 2013
Stage 15: Givors to Mont Ventoux 242.5km


Stage Results

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                   in  5:48:45             
2. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team  at  0:00:29             
3. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                     0:01:23             
4. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha                           same time
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff                      0:01:40           


Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling

101. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          0:27:36
107. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                      same time
130. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                            0:28:28             
131. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       same time
139. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                             0:29:48                         
140. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        same time
161. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                    0:32:36
164. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        same time


General Classification

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                        61:11:43           
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team                0:04:14             
3. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff          0:04:25             
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff                      0:04:28             
5. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team            0:04:54           


General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling

68. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                              1:21:26           
97. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        1:40:54           
105. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       1:48:13           
109. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                             1:49:57             
110. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        1:50:03           
118. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          1:59:57           
124. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        2:03:45           
165.Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                     2:30:48           


Points Competition

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling                 377  pts
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step           278       
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol                                       223       
4. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano                          177       
5.Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha                                       157