Nieve agonisingly close as Yates drops time on stage 11 of the Tour de France

Wed 18 Jul 2018

Giro d’Italia stage winner Mikel Nieve came agonisingly close to another Grand Tour stage victory in his debut season with Mitchelton-SCOTT only to be caught in the final 200metres on stage 11 of the Tour de France.

The 34-year-old was part of a large breakaway that formed in the opening kilometres and led the race solo for the majority of the final 10kilometres. The road proved a few hundred metres too far and Nieve had to settle for fifth place behind Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) who claimed the stage to move into the race lead. 

Meanwhile, team leader Adam Yates suffered a bad moment as his rivals ramped up the attacks on the final climb and finished the day more than four-minutes down to drop to 16th overall. 

So close but so far:
After an active start, a number breakaway groups joined together to make a large move of 40riders with Nieve and Damien Howson in there for Mitchelton-SCOTT. 

When the group began to split, Howson was called back to the bunch as Nieve persisted.

The Spaniard reached the bottom of the final climb with four riders for company before he attacked solo with 8.7km to go and remained at the front of the race until his dream was shattered in the final metres. 

Big selections in the GC game:
At one point the stage looked as if there wasn’t going to be any big moves by the overall contenders as Team Sky patrolled the front of the main bunch with a steady tempo again.

But Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde was the first to move before he caught up with a teammate and started putting time into his rivals.  Bahrain-Merida took over the front of the bunch before Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) made a similar move to Valverde with a teammate of his own. 

The final climb had a bit of everything and as Yates lost touch with nine kilometres to go those remaining repeatedly attacked each other. 

Thomas and Team Sky were the big winners of the day, with teammate Chris Froome and Dumoulin crossing the line 20seconds behind and everyone else spread further down the road.

Looking forward:
Battling to the end, Yates rolled across the line four-minutes 42seconds behind the winning time of Thomas and dropped to 16th overall; two-minutes 35seconds outside the top ten and four-minutes seven-seconds off the podium. 

With no warning ahead of his difficulty on the final climb, the 25-year-old and Mitchelton-SCOTT will play their cards on the final day in the Alps tomorrow before making decision on the objectives for the remainder of the Tour de France.

Mikel Nieve:
“It was a shame not to win because there was very little left to the finish line, but with three kilometres to go I knew the gap was small.

“I gave it everything but it’s like this, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We will try again.

“I did all day in the breakaway and I was on my limit. I could not do anymore.” 

Matt White – Sport Director:
“It was a disappointing day for the team on two fronts. Mikel came so close to winning his first stage of the Tour de France and then Adam has had a bad period on the final climb and went from being in a very good place to really struggling when the pressure went down.

“It was the plan to have someone in the breakaway, and when it split we called Damien back to the bunch. I don’t think anyone predicted it to kick off how it did and for there to be such a selection on the final climb.

“There was a chance for stage win and Adam was comfortable in the group but without any indication it was coming, he didn’t have anything left.

“The next 24hours is going to tell us what we’re chasing.  If Adam pulls up well tomorrow can be competitive on the final day in the Alps then the GC is still on the cards, if not we will re-assess and refocus our objectives.”

Tour de France – Stage 11 Results:
1. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 3:29:36
2. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +0:20
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +0:20
5. Mikel Nieve (Mitcheton-SCOTT) +0:22

Tour de France – General Classification after Stage 11:
1. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 44:06:16
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +1:25
3. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +1:44
14. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +5:21

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.