Keukeleire and Albasini try their luck in stage 16 breakTue 22 Jul 2014
ORICA-GreenEDGE duo Michael Albasini and Jens Keukeleire have featured in the main break on stage 16 of the Tour de France.
Straight off the second rest day and into the longest stage of the three-week Tour, an active peloton exchanged blows in the first 80km before a significant 21-man escape group formed to take control of the stage.
The breakaway, with Keukeleire and Albasini amongst them, was allowed the biggest gap of this year’s Tour; 12minutes 35seconds with 40km left to ride as the peloton determined them of no threat to general classification.
As they reached the final HC category climb the attacks began and the pair were unable to hold on to the superior ascenders. Australian Michael Rogers (TCS) went on to win the stage whilst Keukeleire held on for 22nd position.
“I felt really recovered after the second week, especially the Alps,” Keukeleire said.
“It took a really long time and you saw a lot of people wanted to go in the break so I was really happy to be in there.
“Then the last climb was a little harder and maybe I made the mistake of trying to stay in the front group as long as possible. The first part was really steep and I blew myself a little bit. From there I just had to find my own pace to get over the top.”
The team had planned to feature in the day’s break, but found themselves amongst some strong company sport director Matt White explained.
“The plan was to put someone in the breakaway and Michael Albasini had a lot of the early breaks covered,” White said.
“It took more than 75km for the break to stick and then Michael was joined by more riders including Jens.
“We would have obviously liked a smaller break with not as many world class climbers in it, but the boys gave it their all and in the end were just outclassed on the final climb.”
In other news, stage 16 will be the last stage of the 2014 Tour de France for Australian champion Simon Gerrans.
Gerrans, who crashed heavily with Mark Cavendish on stage one, has been chasing victory for the team despite not being at 100%. The 34-year-old Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion will return home for his final recovery and to prepare for the second half of the season.
“Obviously it’s disappointing not to complete the Tour de France and make it to Paris,” Gerrans said.
“But with the injuries I have from stage one I think the best decision is actually to stop now and completely recover.
“I know I haven’t been 100% right since my crash but I was hoping to improve throughout the race. That hasn’t really been the case so I have been putting on a brave face and doing what I can each day.
“I have some big goals in the second half of the season and if I am going to perform to meet these objectives I really need to make sure my health is 100% right.”
Agreeing, White commended the fighting efforts of Gerrans but conceded that the Tour was not the best place for his recovery to occur.
“Obviously everyone is aware that Simon injured himself quite badly on stage one,” White said.
“He has done very well to get this far in the Tour and give it his all on numerous days for the team to try and get some results, but he is clearly not at 100%.
“The only way he is going to regain his full fitness, his full health, is to go home and have a rest. He is not going to recover finishing off these last few days."