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Emerging as the strongest from a 13-rider breakaway, De Gendt won the Mont Ventoux stage at the Tour de France; Porte and Froome rode into a TV motorcycle while on the attack but a jury decision means that Froome retains the lead

Photo: A.S.O.

CHRIS FROOME

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DANIEL NAVARRO GARCIA

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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SERGE PAUWELS

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THOMAS DE GENDT

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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14.07.2016 @ 18:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) took the biggest win of his career in the shortened Mont Ventoux stage at the Tour de France but what will be remembered is the huge scandal that happened further down the climb. While on the attack, Richie Porte (BMC) and Chris Froome (Sky) rode into a TV motorcycle that had been stopped by spectators and as Froome’s bike was broken, he lost 1.40 to Bauke Mollema (Trek) who was the best GC rider. Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) stayed in the peloton and originally looked like he would take the overall lead with a 9-second advantage over Mollema but as the jury decided to give Porte and Froome the same as Mollema, the Brit retains the yellow jersey with a 47-second advantage over Yates.

 

Thomas De Gendt is known for being unstoppable when he has his best days. In that way he has taken stage wins at Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse and the Volta a Catalunya and most notably he claimed a memorable solo win on the Stelvio in the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

 

However, until today he had never won a stage in the Tour de France but right from the start of this year’s race, it has been evident that he is close to his best level. The Belgian has been a constant presence in attacks and got close to victory in stage 5 where he was second behind Greg Van Avermaet.

 

Today things finally came together for De Gendt as he won one of the most important stages of the entire race. Having joined a 13-rider breakaway at the start of the race, he proved his excellent form and was clearly the strongest rider on the final climb which had been shortened by 5.7km due to strong winds.

 

However, De Gendt’s win was overshadowed by the huge drama that unfolded further down the climb. After repeated attacks from Nairo Quintana (Movistar), the Colombian showed his first signs of weakness in the race as he was unable to follow Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema (Trek). While the Colombian relied on Alejandro Valverde to try to limit the damage, the trio rode away and Froome was about to consolidate his lead significantly.

 

That’s when disaster struck for the Brit. A spectator forced a TV motorcycle to stop and Froome and Porte rode straight into it. While Mollema got around, Froome and Porte both had to change bikes and suddenly Froome was seen running up the climb. The bike from neutral service was unusable as the pedals didn’t match his shoes so it took  a long time for him before he was finally riding again. While Mollema pressed on to win the GC battle and finish 10th on the stage, Froome lost 1.40 to the Dutchman and slipped to sixth in the overall standings.

 

The drama started at the bottom of the final 9.8km climb. At that point, a breakaway with Bert-Jan Lindeman, Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Stef Clement (IAM Cycling), Serge Pauwels, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Chris Anker Sørensen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Iljo Keisse (Team Quick Step), Cyril Lemoine and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) had an advantage of 7.15 and the elimination started immediately. Sørensen was the first to get distanced, then Lemoine and Vanmarcke got dropped and Clement and Chavanel also lost contact. It was De Gendt doing the damage and he also sent Teklehaimanot out the back door, leaving just Lindeman, Navarro and Pauwles on his rear wheel.

 

Sky hit the front of the peloton with Vasil Kiryienka and he didn’t respond when Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) accelerated. He got a small advantage but it was hard to ride away as Kiryienka set a fast pace and made the peloton explode. He quickly reeled the Frenchman in.

 

Lindeman was the next to get dropped from the peloton and he was quickly passed by Chavanel who was time trialling his way up the climb. The Direct Energie rider made contact with 7.5km to go but when De Gendt accelerated again, he fell back again.

 

Pauwels attacked hard and only Navarro could follow the strong Belgian but the Spaniard refused to contribute to the pace-setting. Meanwhile Kiryienka led the peloton onto the climb 6.55 behind the leaders before he swung off and left it to Mikel Landa to set the pace for Sky.

 

While Landa sent several good climbers like Alexis Vuillermoz, Frank Schleck, Haimar Zubeldia, Jan Bakelants out the back door and whittled the group down to around 15 riders, Pauwels desperately tried to get rid of Navarro who responded to all the accelerations.

 

The GC battle started early when Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) attacked but it was Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who forced Sky to react. The Spaniard sprinted past the Colombian who was quickly reeled in by Landa. At the same time, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve (Sky), Rolland and Pantano are dropped.

 

Landa reeled Valverde in and then Quintana made his move. Landa swung off and instead Poels took over the pace-setting. With a bit of help from Sergio Henao, he easily reeled the Colombian in. The pace was too much for Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ) who were dropped.

 

Poels continued to ride on the front of the group which consisted of Yates, Bardet, Meintjes, Aru, Quintana, Valverde, Poels, Henao, Froome, Mollema, Rodriguez, Porte and van Garderen. He responded immediately when Quintana tried again while Bargul made it back to the main group.

 

While Martin found himself with Daniel Moreno (Movistar) and continued to lose ground, Poels continued to ride hard in the peloton. Nonetheless, De Gendt, Navarro and Pauwels retained an advantage of 6.30 with 4km to go.

 

With 3.5km to go, De Gendt made a big attack and no one could match his pace. Pauwels gave chase while Navarro slowly got distanced. The Dimension Data slowly paced himself back to his compatriot.

 

Martin and Moreno caught Kreuziger and Reichenbach before Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Valverde attacked. However, Henao shut it down immediately before Poels went back to work. However, the acceleration was too much for Barguil who was dropped.

 

Pauwels was again dropped but then made it back to De Gendt who just continued at a steady pace. The Dimension Data rider even tried to attack but De Gendt responded immediately.

 

Greipel and Lemoine were brought back as Poels emptied himself. That was the signal for Froome to make his attack. Only Quintana and Porte could follow but the Colombian soon cracked and was reeled in by the peloton which was led by Aru.

 

Mollema attacked from the peloton and even though he tried to follow, Quintana was unable to match the Dutchman. Impressively, the Trek captain quickly bridged the gap to Porte and Froome and the trio started to work together.

 

While Valverde sacrificed himself completely for Quintana, Navarro made contact with Pauwels and De Gendt just 600m from the top. However, that didn’t stop De Gendt who just kept riding on the front.

 

The Lotto Soudal rider upped the pace with 200m to go and Navarro fell behind immediately. It looked like a very long sprint but the brutally strong De Gendt simply rode Pauwels off his wheel and so took the biggest win of his career. Pauwels took second, Navarro third and Clement and Chavanel arrived 40 seconds later to complete the top 5.

 

Mollema, Froome and Porte increased the advantage to more than 20 seconds before Valverde swung off and left it to Quintana to set the pace. That’s when disaster struck. Porte and Froome rode into the motorbike and the entire trio went down. Only Mollema could get on his bike immediately but Porte and Froome were both forced to change their bikes.

 

Porte was the first to be riding again while Froome was seen running for a while. He couldn’t use the bike he got from neutral service and had been passed by lots of riders when he finally could ride again.

 

While Froome and Porte both chased desperately, Mollema reached the finih in 10th position before Yates, Bardet, Meintjes, Rodriguez and Aru arrived. Quintana was dropped in the finale and was paced to the finish by Valverde. Later first Porte and finally Froome reached the finish, both shaking their head in frustration.

 

At first, it looked like Adam Yates had taken the race lead with a 9-second advantage over Froome but the podium ceremony was delayed while the jury made a decision. They finally decided to give Froome and Porte the same time as Mollema. Hence, he now leads Yates by 47 seconds while Mollema is 56 seconds behind in third.

 

Froome now faces what is maybe an even bigger test tomorrow when the first time trial will be held. It’s a tough test of 37.5km that includes two climb, one right from the beginning and one at the end. The middle section is made up of flat roads so it’s a mixed course which has a bit of everything and will create huge differences in the battle for the overall win.

 

A shortened mountain stage

After yesterday’s windy drama, it was time for the next big climbing test which was originally set to bring the riders over 184km from Montpellier to the top of the mythical Mont Ventoux. However, strong winds forced the organizers to skip the final 5.7km of the climb and so the stage ended at Chalet Reynard after 10km of climbing at an average gradient of 10%. Before then, the riders tackled a completely flat first section before they got to a category 4 and a category 3 climb that served as a warm-up for the final ascent. Then it was a lumpy run-in to the bottom of the legendary mountain.

 

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha) who broke his shoulder yesterday, was the only non-starter when the peloton gatahred under a cloudless sky. As expected, it was extremely windy when the riders passed through the exceptionally long neutral zone after which the flag was dropped for a very aggressive and animated start.

 

A big group gets clear

Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) was the first to attack, and later a nine-rider group was formed with a lead of 25 seconds. It quickly grew to 14 riders, and as the peloton slowed down surpriseingly early, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Stef Clement (IAM Cycling), Serge Pauwels, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Paul Voss (Bora - Argon 18), André Greipel, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Bryan Coquard, Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Chris Anker Sørensen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Iljo Keisse (Team Quick Step), Cyril Lemoine and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) managed to increase the gap to 1.35. Alberto Losada (Katusha) tried to bridge across, but he never succeeded.

 

Instead, a chase group with Diego Rosa (Astana), Cyril Gautier (AG2R - La Mondiale), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) was formed, and they managed to reduce the gap to only 35 seconds. However, the quickly started to lose ground and was soon a minute behind. At this point, the peloton had already lost 5.10.

 

Voss punctures out of the break

Voss was unlucky to puncture out of the group and fell back to their chasers, who had dropped Breen. The Norwegian sat up and waited for the peloton which was led by Katusha. The Russian team quickly gave up and when Sky took over, the pace dropped considerably.

 

After 30km of racing, the gap had gone out to 8 minutes while their chasers were distanced by three minutes. The front group continued to increase the gaps which reached 11.50 and 25.04 respectively before Movistar, BMC and Sky decided to slowly increase speed after a first hour in which 47.8 kilometers had been covered.

 

Etixx-QuickStep and Sky attack in the wind

IAM tried to organize a chase, but nevertheless, the gaps continued to grow. After 50km of racing, the front group was 5.20 and 15.50 ahead, respectively. It even went out to more than 18 minutes as Sky continued to set a steady pace in the peloton.

 

It was totally calm as Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard just set a steady pace for Sky and they kept the gap at around 18.30 for several kilometres. Hence, many riders were probably caught by surprise when Sky and Etixx-QuickStep suddenly attacked in the crosswinds.

 

Barguil and Meintjes are dropped

The peloton immediately exploded to pieces, with riders like Waren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) losing contact. Even Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana both took turns on front and especially Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) was very active.

 

Most of the Giant-Alpecin team dropped back to help Bargul regain contact but it wasn’t easy as Trek and Etixx-QuickStep continued to ride hard. Especially Fabian Cancellara and Gregory Rast were active and in just five kilometres, they shaved two seconds off the lead.

 

Etixx-QuickStep ride hard

When the gap to the Barguil group had gone out to a minute, the peloton calmed down again. Meanwhil,e Greipel, Keisse, Lindeman and Coquard sprinted for the points in the intermediate sprint and it was the Belgian who beat the Dutchman and the German.

 

Trek and Etixx-QuickStep soon started to ride hard again. Jasper Stuyven, Markel Irizar, Fabian Cancellara, Gregory Rast (Trek), Tony Martin, Petr Vakov, Maximilano Richeze, Fabio Sabatini and Julian Alaphlippe (Etixx-QuickStep) all took massive turns in the nervous peloton which reached the sprint 13.30 behind the leaders. The chasers were at 6 minutes and the Barguil group had lost 1.30. Here Giant-Alpecin got help from Lampre-Merida, Bora-Argon 18 and FDJ as Louis Meintjes, Emmanuel Buchmann and Sebastien Reichenbach had been caught out

 

Puncture for Aru

Etixx-QuickStep took complete control with Sabatini, Richeze, Martin, Vermote and Vakoc and their fast pace almost cost Fabio Aru his GC. The Italian suffered a bike change but after he quickly received Jakob Fuglsang’s bike, a very strong Alexey Lutsenko paced him back to the peloton.

 

Etixx-QuickStep continued to ride hard, with a bit of help from Irizar, and even Marcel Kittel came to the fore to take turns. Meanwhile, Aru chose to change his bike and that cost him a lot of energy. The chase back to the peloton was a hard one and as he got a lot of help from the team car, the commissaires were furious. However, with some assistance from Lutsenko, he made it back. Meanwhile, Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie) abandoned.

 

BMC take control

With 50km to go, the escapees hit the first climb with an advantage of 10.45 but they were losing ground rapidly. Orica-BikeExchange and Movistar also started to work with Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews and Imanol Erviti.

 

De Gendt led the front group over the top of the climb with an advantage of 9.20 while BMC hit the front in the peloton with Marcus Burghardt, Rohan Dennis and Michael Schär and they rode so fast that Kittel, Richeze and Matthews were dropped. As they approached the top, Gerrans took over and he set a brutal pace to try to increase Yates’ advantage over Barguil, Meintjes and Kelderman, his key rivals for the white jersey.

 

Gerrans goes down

De Gendt led Greipel over the top of the second climb while Gerrans led the peloton up the ascent, sending Rast, Tony Martin, Irizar and Mathew Hayman (Orica-BikeExchange) out the back door. At the same time, he brought the chasers back.

 

Gerrans brought the gap down to 7.30 and increased the advantage ove the second group to two minutes when disaster struck 32km from the finish. The Australian slid out on the descent and brought the Sky pair of Wout Poels and Ian Stannard down in the process.

 

Froome slows the down

Most of the Sky team was held up behind the crash and so Froome stopped for a natural break to allow them to get back. Before the Sky train had rejoined the group, the gap had gone out to 8.45. Moments later, the second group also made the junction and so the hard work by Orica-BikeExchange was for nothing.

 

The gap reached 9.15 before Etixx-QuickStep again hit the front with Alaphilippe, Vermote and Vakoc. Later FDJ and Movistar took over with Anthony Roux, Arthur Vichot, Jeremy Roy and Erviti. Meanwhile, Coquard was dropped from the break after he had sacrificed himself for Chavanel.

 

Greipel takes off

Movistar took complete control with Gorka Izagirre, Nelson Oliveira and Erviti but the gap was still 9.25 with 20km to go. A group with Sagan and Pinot was four minutes further back.

 

With 14km to go, Greipel made a surprise attack and he managed to build an advantage of 15 seconds before Lemoine sacrificed himself completely for Navarro. In the peloton, there was a big fight for position as Movistar continued to chase hard. Lots of riders sat up, including Rafal Majka, Mathias Frank, Domenico Pozzovivo and Rui Costa.

 

Greipel is caught

One kilometre from the bottom of the final climb, Greipel was brought back and he was dropped immediately. Keisse was the next to get dropped. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had a mechanical and he didn’t even try to make it back to the peloton.

 

Trek hit the front with Stuyven and Cancellara as the fight for position intensified. Moments later, they hit the climb where the big drama played out.

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