Joaquim Rodriguez, the veteran rider from Katusha soled the final 7.5kms on the ascent to Plateau de Beille to claim his second stage win in this year’s tour. Chris Froome and his team fended off various attacks by Movistar and Tinkoff Saxo, as he maintained his advantage in the Yellow jersey as the Tour de France’s journey through the Pyrenees Mountains comes to an end.
Stage 12 is the final but toughest of the 3 stages in the Pyrenees. At 195 km long it started from Lannemezan and ended atop the Plateau de Beille. The Sprinters would have their job done early as the intermediate sprint is just 20kms into the stage. 4 climbs, all of them tough. A Category 2 Climb, Two Category 1 climbs followed by a Hors Category Climb up to the finish. With Chris Froome keeping an eye on his rivals, the favourites rode a quiet ride. Conserving energy for today, the riders will be pushing themselves to gain time on the climbs, especially the last 2.
With Sagan and Greipel trading the Green Jersey’s over the last couple of days, Greipel was looking forward to winn it back today on his birthday. However, despite taking maximum points, Sagan’s third place finish ensured he will be in Green. After the sprint, a large break away of 22 riders were formed as they pushed ahead. Notable riders in this group included Stage winner Rodriguez, Jakob Fuglsang (who finished second on the stage), Romain Bardet (finished third on the stage), Michal Kwiatkowski, Bryan Coquard and Sylvain Chavanel.
The first 2 climbs of the day saw Team Giant-Alpecin’s Georg Preidler get the most points in the mountain climbing classification. 76 kms to the finish, Sep Vanmarcke, Preidler and Kwiatkowski rode on, but Preidler was unable to keep up with knee pains. Bardet, Rodriguez, Fuglsang, Sicard, Izagirre and Meintjes formed the main chasing group as Team Sky began to control the pace of the Peloton in a bid to reduce the gap between the leaders (it stood at 12’30”). From then on the Weather took a turn with rain pouring down the last parts of the course.
The climb up to Plateau de Beille was 16 kms. 13.5 kms to the finish, Kwiatkowski soloed. Rodriguez decided to take matters into his own hand, leaving his “buddies” in the chasing group. 7.5kms to the finish, Kwiatkowski was pretty much out of steam as Rodriguez took the lead. He finished more than 70 seconds ahead of Fuglsang who came second and Bardet, another 40 seconds down. The attention turned to the group of Froome which included all the favourites of the Tour. Nibali, Contador and Quintana launched numerous attacks to get away, but thanks to Geraint Thomas of Sky, they were always reeled back in. 4.5 kms to the finish, Froome decided to attack but to no effect. The result was a status quo among the leaders who will now look to recover over the next few stages in preparation for the Alps.
For Rodriguez it was a massive day of celebrations. It was his 3rd Stage win at the Tour and his first on top of a mountain. The Spanish rider might now be considering to win The King of the Mountains Classification and move up into the top 10 of the General Classification, having gained neared 6’40”+ on the leaders. Another proud moment for him, the stage finished not too far from his hometown of Barcelona. His family were able to cross the border and watch him step onto the Podium.
The General Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
The King of the Mountains Top 20
The next 4 stages consist of 3 medium mountain and 1 hilly stage before a second rest day. There should not be any tough fighting for the General Classifications that will be for the Alps. However, expect the Green Jersey contenders to really try and gain something out of the stages if possible.
Also on the side note, despite the past, Lance Armstrong who rode the Stage 13 route a day ahead of the main cyclists, received a warm applause as he and Geoff Thomas look to raise money for Leukemia. We wish them all the best