The Tour Take | Tour de France Stage 12
1st – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
2nd – Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) @ 0:02
3rd – Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) @ 0:03
For the third day in a row, the peloton was in the Alps, and it was the biggest day of the three. In the 175km stage they covered four climbs; one epic in stature, one epic in beauty, and two that were just epic climbs.
The peloton started in La Bourg-Saint-Maurice, at the foot of La Rosiere, yesterday’s finishing climb. First up was the Col de la Madeleine, 25.3km at 6.2%, a long climb that reached 2000 metres for the first time in this tour. Next, the Lacets de Montvernier, which is probably the most beautiful climb in cycling, zigzagging up the side of a cliff face. Only category 2, the climb was 3km long, but averaged 8.2%. The penultimate climb of the day was the Col de la Croix de Fer. The longest climb of the day, and the Tour, rose at an average of 5.2% for 29km. That average is slightly misleading, given the few small descents in the middle of the climb, but it had sections topping 10%.
Finally, the peloton finished atop the Alpe d’Huez, Cycling’s most famous climb. Averaging 8.1% for 14km, the hellish gradient never lets up around the 21 hairpins that take the riders to the ski village of Huez.
Yellow – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Green – Peter Sagan (Bora – hansgrohe)
Polka Dot – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)
White – Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
The GC Men
1st Overall- Geraint Thomas
2nd - Chris Froome @ 1:39
3rd - Tom Dumoulin @ 1:50
4th - Vincenzo NIbali @ 2:37
5th - Primoz Roglic @ 2:46
6th - Romain Bardet @ 3:07
7th - Mikel Landa @ 3:13
8th - Steven Kruiswijk @ 3:43
9th - Nairo Quintana @ 4:13
10th - Dan Martin @ 5:11
On the slightly downhill 25km run to the foot of the Madeleine, no break was able to establish itself, despite the best efforts of Sylvain Chavanel who seemed determined to make it in, marking every move. In fact, it took the first 5km of the day’s first climb for a break to go away.
It was a 20-strong group that did find a gap, the best placed rider being the 6th placed Steven Kruiswijk, who was 2:40 back from Geraint Thomas’ overall lead. Movistar were aggressive too, slipping Andrey Amador and faux-leader Alejandro Valvderde into the group. Other big names included Serge Pauwels who was on his third consecutive day in the break; Pierre Rolland, free from his duties protecting the now-retired Rigoberto Uran; Polka Dot wearer Julian Alaphilippe; White Jersey wearer Pierre Latour; Robert Gesink; Warren Barguil, Bauke Molemma; and Mikel Nieve
Over the Lacets the gap continued to grow out to 3:30, before Kruiswijk hit out over the Croix de Fer. The Dutchman simply ramped up the pace and dropped everyone, rather than a launching a full-blown attack. His pace was pretty quick it turned out, as he continued to stretch the gap to 6:00 by the top of the climb.
Keeping a huge gear turning, Kruiswijk flew up the brutally long climb, as the peloton behind became noticeably concerned. AG2R La Mondiale and Movistar chipped in with the pacemaking, but they weren’t making any significant inroads.
A 15km valley preceded the Alpe d’Huez climb, and Kruiswijk lost some time in it. However he still reached the bottom with a 4:00 gap over the peloton, which looked to be enough to stay ahead.
With 12km to go, there was only Bernal left to support Froome and Thomas, but the young Colombian stood up in his moment of truth. He was strong for his experienced leaders, bringing back brief attacks by Nibali and Quintana, but another by Bardet was too much for him.
Over the next few kilometres, Kruiswijk’s advantage was whittled down to nil, the Dutchman’s heroic attack finally coming to an end. The front group of favourites was whittled down too; by the final 1km, it was only Froome, Thomas, Bardet, Landa and Dumoulin left at the front, with Roglic and Nibali in pursuit. Froome and Bardet had been the main aggressors, but nobody had been able to blow the group open for good
Landa attacked with 700m to go, but couldn’t find a gap. Thomas held his wheel, and opened the sprint as they rounded the final corner. The Welshman won his second stage in a row, this time by the length of the Flemington straight. It was a special win on cycling’s most famous climb in it’s most prestigious jersey, and he continued to extend his overall lead.
The Movers And Shakers
Thomas was incredible today, particularly due to the fact he was totally committed to working for Froome when he needed to be. Froome was good too, but you can see he’s not at his sharpest. Thomas is sticking to the script when interviewed about the team’s goals, but this situation is delicious, simply because Thomas is better than Froome right now.
Bardet and Tommy D will remain big threats here; Dumoulin moreso because he won’t lose time in TT. They’ve inserted themselves into a big four with the two Sky riders, and you can trust that both will fight until the very end. Both were good today, and aggressive in the final kilometres.
Steven Kruiswijk deserved so much more than he got today; he took the race on, and the final climb was just 5km too long for him. Thankfully, tomorrow is an easier day, so he should recover from today’s efforts, and he didn’t slip out of the top 10.
Save a thought for Vincenzo Nibali, the Italian was knocked off his bike with around 3km to go when he hit a race motorbike. Thankfully, he only lost 13 seconds to Thomas in the end. That wasn’t the only example of outside influences affecting the race; another fan tried to punch Chris Froome.
It’s hard to know what to make of the MovieStars. Yesterday, Quintana was up, and Landa was down. Today, Quintana was down, and Landa was up. Valverde has attacked two days in a row now but done little with it. To be honest, they’re probably all just a bit average.
The Next Stage
After an exhausting triad of stages in the Alps, the peloton will briefly exhale in what was initially thought to be a sprint stage. It’s certainly got the profile of one, with only a Category 4 and Category 3 climb coming on the 170km day from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence.
Funny thing is though, there aren’t any sprinters left. Cavendish and Kittel were eliminated for finishing outside the time limit on stage 11. Greipel, Gaviria, and Groenewegen all abandoned on stage 12. Peter Sagan is the only A Grade sprinter left; will Bora- Hansgrohe want to do the whole chase on their own? There’s the chance Cofidis and Trek might chip in, sensing the rare chance for Laporte or Degenkolb to win a sprint, but everyone’s going to be pretty tired after the alpine tests. Breakaway artists, you ready?
This is a breakaway win, and there’s one name that comes to mind when you think break…Thomas De Gendt. The pro-conti boys will join him, and maybe someone like Darryl Impey, but nobody does breakaways better.
See you back at the social club,