Daryl Impey sprinted to fifth in Le Cap d’Agde from a group of 43 riders. Crosswinds and the category three Mont Saint-Clair climb provoked the formation of a select front group ahead of the mass finish. The South African has now posted three top-ten finishes in his first Tour de France.
“The plan today was to give the guys every opportunity to take the win,” said Sports Director Matt White. “We had a few different options, and when we realized Matt Goss couldn’t pass the climb with the bunch, there was a chance for Michael Albasini, Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey to do something.”
A five rider break formed immediately from the stage 13 start in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. The promising move swelled to include eight riders inside the opening 20 kilometers, and the eight gained a maximum advantage of nine minutes during the second hour of racing. ORICA-GreenEDGE assumed responsibility for the chase with Sebastian Langeveld, Stuart O’Grady, Pieter Weening and Brett Lancaster featuring prominently on the front.
“We led the chase because no one else took responsibility,” said White. “The boys were on a mission today. They wanted a result after the disappointment of yesterday. They knew it would be a hard day, but they were really going for it.”
Sixty kilometers from the finish, the fierce tempo set by the team pegged the breakaway back to two minutes. Sensing an imminent catch, Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank) attacked the escape group and forged ahead alone.
As the peloton hit the coast, BMC and Sky Procycling came to fore to protect their team leaders from potential splits in the field due to crosswinds. Although no major splits materialized, small gaps began to appear as the bunch powered towards Mont Saint-Clair.
While the winds left the peloton mostly intact, the category three climb wreaked havoc.
The field set a blistering pace up the ascent as they passed remnants of the original break before reabsorbing Morkov as well.
“We knew the climb would be hard and had the potential to break the race apart,” explained White. “What made it even more difficult was that everyone hit the climb fatigued from the crosswinds and the chase. That’s why such a small group got over the climb together.”
Albasini, Gerrans and Impey were part of the selection that formed on the descent. Albasini launched one of the first attacks as the composition of the group was still taking shape, but he was unable to get away on his first attempt. Sixteen kilometers from the finish, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) blasted up the road, and Albasini set off after him.
“Lotto was forced to use four riders to bring back Alba’s move,” noted White. “They only caught them a bit more than two kilometers from the finish.”
With Albasini back in the bunch, Impey prepared for the finish. Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) opened the sprint for Edvald Boasson Hagen (Cycling) who faded to third. André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) beat Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) in a photo finish for the stage victory.
“The rider who finished fourth in the sprint, Sébastien Hinault (AG2R La Mondiale) deviated from his line,” said White. “Daryl clearly had to move out of the way to avoid colliding with him. The inconsistency is frustrating. The commissaries have not been consistent in making decisions and enforcing rules.”
“Sprint decisions aside, I’m happy with Daryl,” White continued. “He was always going to pass the climb, and he’s a very, very fast guy. His results at the Tour haven’t been surprising – especially not today. He’s strong. We’re always happy to give him a chance to ride for himself.”
The Tour leaves the flat roads behind tomomrrow as the race hits the first of four days in the Pyrénées.