After yesterday's disappointment, Team Sky tried to bounce back in today's big mountain stage of the Tour de France when both Geraint Thomas and Mikel Nieve made the break. After a failed mission, the former regretted the fact that it had been left mostly to the Sky duo to drive the group forwards.
Geraint Thomas and Mikel Nieve both made the break on the 14th stage of the Tour de France and produced valiant rides before being swept up on the final climb of the day.
Thomas and Nieve infiltrated a 17-man move that sprung clear after just 16km and proved instrumental in driving it forwards on the most mountainous stage of the race.
Thomas worked hard to ensure the move was over five minutes ahead as they topped the first of two massive climbs, and Nieve crested the Tour’s highest pass in third position before the escapees dropped back down to tackle one last drag to the finish.
It was on the final ascent to Risoul where the duo were ultimately pegged back, with Thomas falling off the pace before Nieve was caught 7.5km from home. By then, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) had made his stage-winning move by attacking from the break in the last 9.5km and then soloing to victory after dropping Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) with 8.5km to go. It was the Polish rider’s first professional triumph and he achieved it with 24 seconds to spare.
Vincenzo Nibali crossed the line in second position and tightened his grip on the yellow jersey even further by distancing his main rivals one again. The Astana rider kicked 4km from the summit and only Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R) could respond as the other contenders dallied behind.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) did eventually mount a chase to limit their losses, but Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) struggled in the closing stages and lost one minute on the imperious yellow jersey holder.
Those results saw Nibali’s advantage grow to 4min 37sec at the top of the overall standings, with Valverde now only 13 seconds ahead of Bardet in second place, and Pinot only 16 seconds further off the Spaniard.
Thomas crossed the line in 29th position, two places behind team-mate Richie Porte, and admitted circumstances had contrived against himself and Nieve on a tough day in the saddle.
He told ITV4: “We wanted to get stuck in today and try and get Nieve in the break. It was a hard start and I managed to make the move with him, but it was just unfortunate we never really got a big advantage.
“NetApp started chasing in the peloton and not many of the other guys really wanted to work with us. They were all thinking about the finish, but you’ve got to get there first with a decent amount of time to actually race it out. That was a bit frustrating at times, but at the top of the Col d’Izoard we rode on the front to try and keep the advantage.
"There was no point being out there if we weren’t going try, and unfortunately it didn’t come off. It was nice to get in the break, though, and be in the race, and we’ve got one more week to go now before Paris.
“I want to recuperate a bit over the next few days and then try and do something again in the Pyrenees. I don’t know if I’ll have the legs because I’m feeling pretty tired right now, but hopefully I can hide in the wheels tomorrow before three more big days in the mountains.”
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