Q&A With Sport Director Matt White on Tour de France Stage 18Thu 18 Jul 2013
France finally got their stage win at the Tour de France. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) took a spectacular solo win atop Alpe d’Huez after he twice ascended the legendary mountain. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) who led much of the final ascent with a slim advantage over Riblon, faded back to second in the final two kilometres while Moreno Moser (Cannondale) surprised with third place.
The battle for the overall was fierce. Race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) showed signs of struggles, losing time to Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) while putting time into Alberto Contador (Movistar) and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff). Richie Porte (Team Sky) played the faithful lieutenant to a T, looking after his team leader and friend as Froome was repeatedly attacked from every direction.
While the overall contenders and stage win hopefuls treated spectators and television viewers to the sort of race that reminds cycling fans of the beauty of this sport, the ORICA-GreenEDGE riders concentrated on finding a group that would take them safely to the finish. Simon Clarke and Michael Albasini finished alongside one another in a big bunch of riders that crossed the line, 25’10 behind Riblon. The rest of the team finished in the grupetto at 30’03.
Below, Sport Director Matt White answer questions about the iconic 18th stage of the Tour.
Q: What was our approach to the stage?
Q: If we were in survival mode, why the early race attacks?
Because you never know. We have Cam [Meyer] and Clarkey [Simon Clarke] for the hillier stages, and we gave them the option to attack early. We didn’t have television at the start, so I’m actually not sure who attacked and when but I can say that they had our okay to attack if they wanted without any pressure to get into the moves.
Q: There was a lot of talk about the time cuts before today’s stage. Did the entire team make the time cut?
Yes – and there was never any danger that they would miss it. The time limit today was 49 minutes. They made it by nearly 20 minutes. We knew if they made it to the bottom of the Alpe d’Huez the first time with a group, they wouldn’t have any problem.
Q: What about the weather? It rained all night but seemed dry during the entire race.
We were very, very lucky with the weather. I think the riders that raced for the stage win and the yellow jersey group had only dry roads. The group I followed had about five minutes in the rain. It was on a very dangerous section on the descent, and it reminded us just how treacherous today could have been in the wet.
Q: What’s it like driving a car up the Alpe d’Huez?
It’s pretty crazy. Dutch corner is the craziest but in a good way. They’re banging on the cars and squirting us with beer or water or whatever is it they have. They have noise makers. It’s like driving through a tunnel of noise and bodies. It feels a little claustrophobic for awhile until you adjust to it. I managed not to run over anyone, so that’s a job well done.
Q: What is it about Alpe d’Huez that’s so mythical?
It’s certainly not that hard of a climb. The guys go over much harder climbs every year at the Tour. It's history. This climb is legendary, and I think it’s built up even more over the last few years.
Part of the appeal of this climb is the situation it presents for fans. They can come close to the bottom and see a few different stages. They can also get to it fairly easily. It works well for fans logistically whereas the climbs in the Pyrenees or other climbs in the Alps might not.