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Having come back from suspension, Rogers continues his grand tour success by winning stage 16 of the Tour de France, emerging as the strongest from a breakaway; Nibali defends yellow on a day when van Garderen and Bardet crack

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MICHAEL ROGERS

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THOMAS VOECKLER

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VASIL KIRYENKA

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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22.07.2014 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than two months after winning two stages of the Giro d’Italia, Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) has continued his recent grand tour success by winning the first Pyrenean stage of the Tour de France. The Australian emerged as the strongest and smartest from a big 21-rider breakaway while the GC riders battled hard on the Port de Bales, with Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) both losing considerable time. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) showed his first signs of weakness but lost no time and defended the yellow jersey.

 

A few months ago Michael Rogers didn’t know whether he would ever be lining up at a professional bike race again after a positive test for clenbuterol at the Japan Cup had put his career in danger. After things were sorted out in his favour, the Australian has had a better comeback than anyone could have imagined, winning two stages of the Giro d’Italia.

 

He lined up at the Tour de France with the intention of supporting Alberto Contador but when the Spaniard crashed out of the race, his role changed. Today he continued the great comeback for both himself and his team when he won the first stage in the Pyrenees.

 

Rogers already proved his strength in the early part of the stage when he fought hard to join a big 21-rider group that emerged after almost 100km of brutal war. Like his fellow escapees, he saved energy for the next 100km until he hit the bottom of the Port de Bales.

 

Riding hard on the front, he tried to drop his rivals but he couldn’t get rid of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) but he refused to give up. Despite repeated attempts on the descent, he still found himself in the front trio as they neared the bottom of the descent and things only got more complicated when Voeckler’s teammate Cyril Gautier and Vasil Kiriyenka (Sky) rejoined them.

 

Gautier launched a brave attack and for a moment he seemed to be riding away with the win. However, Rogers set off in pursuit and when he had closed the gap, he made an immediate counterattack.

 

Gautier fought with all he had to stay with the strong Australian but there was nothing to be done. Rogers got a small gap and from there he went into time trial mode and held off his chasers to take a big solo win. Voeckler narrowly held of Kiriyenka in a photo finish for second.

 

Behind, the battle for the GC was ln and it was the Movistar team that took up the gauntlet, setting abrutal pace on the climb. A massive turn by Benat Intxausti made several riders crack, including Tejay van Garderen who showed the first signs of weakness.

 

When John Gadret took over for Movistar, Romain Bardet was the next podium contender to lose contact but the group exploded to pieces when Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) launched the expected attack. Only Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) could keep up with him but as the pace went down, more riders rejoined from behind.

 

Arnold Jeannesson did a massive work for his teammate Pinot before the Frenchman took off again and this time his main rivals cracked. First Valverde fell off and moments later Peraud couldn’t keep up with him either. Finally, Nibali showed his first signs of weakness when he had to let Pinot go just over the top.

 

The four contenders rejoined each other on the descent and from there Movistar and FDJ rode hard to maximize their time gains. As a consequence, Pinot moved into third, 1.36 ahead of Bardet in 5th while van Garderen slipped to 6th, a massive 4.19 off the podium.

 

Nibali is still 4.43 ahead of Valverde as they go into the second Pyrenean stage which is a short intensive affair. In just 124.5km, the riders will go up 4 big Pyrenean passes all gathered in the second part, and it all comes to an exciting conclusion at the top of the Pla d’Adet climb.

 

The longest stage

After a well-deserved rest day, it was straight back into business for the Tour de France peloton as they took on the longest stage of the Tour that brought them into the Pyrenees. The riders travelled over 237.5km from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon and after a mostly flat start with only a few minor climbs, all the excitement was saved for the finale. Having used the Col de Portet d’Aspet and the Col des Ares as warm-up, the riders tackled the mighty Port de Bales before they plunged down the technical descent to the finish.

 

The riders took the start in sunny conditions but with a temperature of just 22 degrees, it was not as hot as it had been earlier in the race. Two riders didn’t sign in this morning as world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) has been diagnosed with pneumonia and Orica-GreenEDGE decided that it was time for youngster Simon Yates to withdraw from the race.

 

An aggressive start

Everybody prepared themselves for a true war this morning as many expected a breakaway to stay away to the finish. Unsurprisingly, the stage was off to a very fast start as lots of riders tried to get clear.

 

Reto Hollenstein (IAM) went down in an early crash but managed to rejoin the peloton which was powering along at a rapid speed. After 6km of racing, Vasil Kiriyenka (Sky), Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) and Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) got a gap and they were joined by Thomas Voeckler, Yohann Gene (both Europcar), Jean-Marc Marino (Cannondale), Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) to form an 8-rider group. At the 12km mark, however, things were back together.

 

Rogers initiates a break

The attacking continued and after 20km of racing, a short-lived break with Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) and Cyril Gautier (Europcar) was neutralized. On the first climb of the day, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) managed to take the only point on offer to become the virtual leader of the mountains classification.

 

At the 28km mark, Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne), Kevin Reza (Europcar), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Albasini got clear and they were joined by Bernhard Eisel (Sky), Kwiatkowski and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r). Kiriyenka, Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) and Roger Kluge (IAM) were the next to bridge the gap and the 12 riders fought hard to build an advantage.

 

The peloton splits

The elastic seemed to have snapped when the group was 1.35 ahead at the 50km mark but Garmin-Sharp was not pleased with the situation. The American team accelerated hard and their fast pace caused the peloton split.

 

A 50-rider group with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Mikel Nieve (Sky), Richie Porte (Sky), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), André Greipel (Lotto Belisol), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was tailed off and over the next kilometres, the race was a fierce pursuit between the three different groups. Garmin got assistance from Belkin and Giant-Shimano and at the 70km mark, the peloton had the break in sight as the gap was down to just 14 seconds.

 

More riders bridge across

Montaguti attacked on his own and won the second KOM sprint while Jan Bakelants (OPQS), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Cyril Gautier, Thomas Voeckler (both Europcar), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Florian Vachon (Bretagne) bridged the gap. While Montaguti was brought back to form a 21-rider group, the peloton finally slowed down and allowed the Sagan group to rejoin them.

 

The gap now started to grow rapidly and after 92km of racing, it was already 4.10. The upward trend continued and with 105km to go, they were 7.05 ahead.

 

Voeckler scores points

Kluge beat Van Avermaet in the intermediate sprint but the rest of the escapees didn’t show any interest in the points. Meanwhile, Andriy Grivko, Alessandro Vanotti, Dmitriy Gruzdev and Maxim Iglinskiy set a steady pace for Astana and when they hit the Col de Portet d’Aspet, the gap had grown to more than 10 minutes.

 

Voeckler led Rogers over the top and he repeated the feat when he beat Serpa in the sprint at the top of the Col des Ares. Everybody was now in waiting mode, preparing themselves for the finale.

 

The break splits up

The gap reached a maximum of 12.30 but Astana accelerated a bit in the run-in to the Port de Bales and at the bottom it was again down to less than 12 minutes. Roy tried to attack a few kilometres before the climb and he made another fruitless attempt on the lower slopes.

 

Kluge was the first rider to get dropped and soon after Albasini, Delaplace, Kiriyenka and Vachon also lost contact. Reza was setting a brutal pace but Kiriyenka time trialled his way back to the front where he continued to whittle down the group.

 

Movistar drops the hammer

Roy, Keukeleire and Reza couldn’t keep up with the Belarusian. Slagter also lost contact but all fourt managed to briefly rejoin the group a little later.

 

In the peloton, Movistar had put down the hammer with Jesus Herrada taking the first turn. Moments later, Giovanni Visconti took over and he made the group explode to pieces.

 

Voeckler attacks

Rogers launched the next attack from the front group and only Serpa, Izagirre, Gautier, Voeckler and Van Avermaet could keep up with him. Voeckler was the next to try but Serpa shut it down.

 

Kiriyenka rejoined the group and went straight to the front before Voeckler made his next attack. Serpa bridged the gap and a little later Rogers and Gautier followed suit.

 

Rolland and Schleck are dropped

Gautier tried an immediate counterattack and he got a nice little gap. 2km from the finish, however, he was caught by Rogers, Voeckler and Serpa while Van Avermaet, Kiriyenka and Izagirre followed a little further behind.

 

In the peloton, Intxausti had now taken over the pace-setting and the peloton was down to just a few handfuls of riders. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Pierre Rolland and Frank Schleck were the first GC riders to lose contact with the group that now only was made up of Intxausti, Kangert, Nibali, Valverde, Gadret, Peraud, Pinot, Jeannesson, König, Bardet, van Garderen, Ten Dam, Zubeldia and Mollema .

 

Van Garderen cracks

Van Garderen was the next rider to lose contact while Gautier fell off the pace in the break. He managed to rejoin them for a short while but as Rogers continued to ride hard, he fell off again.

 

Van Garderen was the next rider to get dropped from the main group and when Gadret took over from Intxausti, Kangert and Mollema fell off. That was the signal for Pinot to launch his attack and only Nibali, Valverde and Peraud managed to join him.

 

Gautier and Kiriyenka rejoin the leaders

König, Gadret, Jeannesson, Zubeldia and Ten Dam were their nearest chasers and the two Frenchmen managed to bridge the gap. Jeannesson went straight to the front to set a brutal pace while Serpa beat Voeckler in the sprint for the KOM points.

 

Voeckler tried to attack on the descent but as they failed to cooperate, Gautier and Kiriyenka managed to rejoin them. Behind, Pinot had launched his next attack when Jeannesson had swung off and first Gadret and Valverde fell off.

 

Teammates drop back

Later Peraud cracked and just before the top, Nibali also lost ground. On the descent, however, Gadret, Valverde, Peraud and Nibali rejoined Pinot and they picked up Roy and Izagirre who waited for their leaders.

 

Under the impetus of Roy, Gadret and Izagirre, they continued to gain time on Bardet and van Garderen. Meanwhile, Gautier had launched an attack from the front group and he quickly got a decent gap.

 

Rogers takes the win

Rogers managed to bridge across and he went straight past the Frenchman. Gautier finally cracked and fell back to the chasers and from there Rogers time trialed his way to the finish.

 

Roy, Pinot and Peraud briefly fell off the pace on the descent but they all managed to rejoin them on the flat section to the finish. From there, Roy rode hard all the way to the line to maximize Pinot’s time gains while Bardet and van Garderen followed in separate groups several minutes later.

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