Cavendish Wins Stage 13 of Tour de France; Standings Shaken
Stage 13 was supposed to be an uneventful transition stage that the sprinters would decide. The cycling gods, however, decreed otherwise. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took a sprint from Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) to win the flat, 173-km run from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond in 3:40:08, but Cavendish’s victory paled in importance next to the elimination of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as a GC threat and the rise of Mollema and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff). Chris Froome (Sky) remains the maillot jaune, but his lead has been reduced and he and his team have been shown to be vulnerable.
(Astana); Cavendish, Sylvain Chavanel, and Niki Terpstra (all from Omega Pharma-Quick Step); and Sagan and Maciej Bodnar (both from Cannondale). The group did not make an immediate impression, as it led the yellow jersey group by only 0:10 with 28 km left.
BMC and Sky led the second group’s pursuit, but BMC fell off of the pace, and Sky lacked the horsepower to chase. With 20 km left, the lead group had 0:30 on the yellow jersey group. At this point, the Valverde group was five minutes behind the leaders and would not catch them.
With 15 km left, the first group led the second group by 0:45. Katusha and Sky joined forces and shaved a few seconds off of the lead, but the first group accelerated again. With 10 km to go, the gap had returned to 0:45, and when Ag2r-La Mondiale took over at the front, it approached one minute. Omega Pharma-Quick Step took command, and the front group’s lead surpassed one minute.
With 1.3 km left, Terpstra jumped into the lead. Bodnar took his wheel, while Chavanel led out Cavendish, who had Sagan on his wheel. Sagan took the lead in the last km, but Cavendish jumped the Slovak with 200 m to go for the win. Valverde finished 9:40 down and plummeted from second to 16 th overall.
According to Cavendish, none of what happened today was surprising. "It was incredible, we talked about it this morning as we knew the wind was strong," Cavendish said. "Gert Steegmans wanted to go, this was after 60km, and Tony Martin said to wait a little longer. Next thing, Gert goes and it just kicked off from there. It wasn't quite strong enough to break it open completely, but then Saxo-Tinkoff went again later. It was incredible. I am so happy and proud of the guys. They rode out of their skin today, like, every one of them. It is just incredible to get a win like that.
"We're a Belgian team used to riding in the crosswinds," Cavendish said. "We've got guys who are experienced at it. They're strong at it, so along with Belkin it was a strong combination to get the move going and split the peloton to begin with."
In the overall, Froome leads Mollema by 2:28 and Contador by 2:45. Stage 14 is a better candidate for shaking up the standings than most thought that Stage 12 would be. The 191-km ride from Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioulle to Lyon has seven categorized climbs, with two Category 3s in the middle third of the stage being the toughest ascents. It is a stage that a breakaway could take, although a bunch sprint is more likely. After today, however, anything is possible. Will breakaways ride away with the victory? Will the sprinters’ teams reel in the break? Will the GC squads put the squeeze on Sky again? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!