Crosswinds Split Peloton on Tour de France Stage 13Fri 12 Jul 2013
It looked like a straightforward sprint stage on paper. It proved to be anything but. A wind-battered peloton crossed the finish line in Saint-Amand-Montrond in five distinct groups after Omega Pharma-Quick-Step blew the race apart during the second hour of racing on stage 13 of the Tour de France.
“The terrain was very similar to yesterday,” said Sport Director Matt White. “The weather was, too. There was a lot of cross-tailwind. The only major difference was that today was a bit more exposed. Fifty kilometres into the stage, Omega Pharma-QuickStep decided to put the race in the gutter. The field split into three groups. At the time, there were a lot of guys coming back for bottles and nature breaks. The tactic caused chaos.”
Daryl Impey and Simon Gerrans were amongst the riders that made front group selection. Matt Goss, Stuart O’Grady, Michael Albasini, Brett Lancaster, and Svein Tuft were in group two. Simon Clarke and Cam Meyer found themselves in group three. The splits caught out Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), while most of the other overall contenders and sprinters were in first group on the road.
“It was pretty tight there for a while,” said White. “There were about 30” between each of the groups, and the team cars weren’t allowed in the gaps. Then, [Alejandro] Valverde (Movistar) punctured.”
Valverde’s rear wheel puncture proved devastating to his general classification ambitions. Without team cars in the gaps, Valverde was forced to do a wheel change with a teammate. Movistar team time trialed their leader up to the group two and worked with the sprint teams in an attempt to close the gap.
“Lots of GC teams could see the benefit of putting time into Valverde, so they started to work in the first group,” White explained. “The gap between the first two groups stretched out even more after that.”
Having distanced Valverde, who started the day in second overall, Saxo-Tinkoff further took advantage of the race scenario that had unfolded. Around 30km from the finish, they forced yet another split. Alberto Contador, Nicolas Roche, Mick Rogers, Daniele Bennati, Matteo Tosatto (all Saxo-Tinkoff), Mark Cavendish, Niki Terpstra, Sylvain Chavanel (all Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), Laurens Ten Dam, Bauke Mollema (both Belkin), Peter Sagan, Maciej Bodnar (both Cannondale) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) traded pulls in an attempt to distance yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky), who had missed the selection.
By stage end, the new lead group had put 1’09 into Froome. Valverde tumbled well outside the top ten, losing 9’54. Cavendish outsmarted Sagan in the run-in towards the finish to notch his second stage win of the centaury Tour de France.
“After today, I definitely think tomorrow is going to be a day for the breakaway,” said White. “There are a lot of tired boys out there after the way they raced today. I can see a break going to the line tomorrow – and obviously, we’d like to be in that move.”