Riblon Takes First Stage by Frenchman in 2013 Tour de France
Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has given France its first stage win of this year’s Tour de France, and he has taken his second career Tour stage win. The Ag2r-La Mondiale man surged past Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in the last two km to win Stage 18, a mountainous, 168.5-km ride from Gap to Alpe d’Huez, in 4:51:32. Van Garderen finished second at 0:59, and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) took third at 1:27. Chris Froome (Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. After a series of abortive sallies in the first half hour, nine riders got clear. They were Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard), Arnold Jeannesson (Francaise des Jeux), Riblon, Amadey Amador (Movistar), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Lars Boom (Belkin), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), van Garderen, and Moser. At 35 km, the escapees led by 3:00, and five km later, they led by 5:40. Behind, Nicolas Roche and Sergio Paulinho (both from Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) attacked the peloton to position themselves to assist Alberto Contador or Roman Kreuziger later in the stage. The pair trailed the break by 5:25 on the Category 3 Rampe de Motty (45 km) and led the peloton by 0:15. At the foot of the Category 2 Col d’Ornon, the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff men trailed the fugitives by the same margin, while the bunch trailed them by 8:20.
At the base of the first ascent of the Alpe, with Roche and Paulinho at 6:15 and the peloton at 7:15, van Garderen attacked. Behind, Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler (both from Europcar) attacked from the peloton. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) joined the Frenchmen, while Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) launched an attack. The Sky-led peloton shut down the American, but Andy Schleck (Radio-Shack-Leopard) bridged up to Rolland and Voeckler. One km from the summit, Moser and Riblon caught van Garderen. At the summit, the trio led Schleck, Nieve, Poels and Rolland by 7:20 and the peloton by 8:18.
On the descent of the Category 2 Col de Sarenne, van Garderen’s chain came off, and his companions pressed on. Contador and Kreuziger attacked the yellow jersey, but a chase by Movistar caused the pair to give up and rejoin the yellow jersey group. Further down, Riblon slid out on a turn and crashed. He remounted quickly and rejoined Moser. Van Garderen caught them with 17 km left.
At the base of the Alpe, the trio led Voigt by 0:45. Riblon attacked, and Moser fell back. With 12 km left, van Garderen attacked and dropped the Frenchman. Behind, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) jumped clear of the peloton.
Richie Porte (Sky) did the pacesetting, but Froome had difficulty keeping Porte’s wheel. Bauke Mollema (Belkin), who began the day in third place overall, was dropped, and teammate Laurens Ten Dam paced him up the climb. With 11 km left, Froome found the strength to join Serpa, Valverde, and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Most of the heads of state joined this group.
Froome attacked again, and Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez (both from Movistar) joined him. Quintana then attacked, and the Briton clawed his way back to the Colombian’s wheel. Valverde and Porte attacked and dropped Contador. With 10 km left and 4:20 separating the yellow jersey group from van Garderen, Rodriguez rejoined the yellow jersey group. Froome, realizing that Contador was in difficulty, attacked again.
Quintana attacked, and Rodriguez and Froome joined the Movistar man. Quintana attacked again and gapped the Sky man. Froome joined Rodriguez, and Porte joined the pair. The yellow jersey group was 3:35 behind van Garderen, who had about five km left to ride, and 3:05 behind Riblon.
Froome, who was suffering from hunger knock, raised his hand for the team car, but the car did not turn up. Quintana attacked, and the yellow jersey was unable to follow. Porte dropped back to the team car, retrieved energy gels, and took them to his captain. Quintana and Rodriguez would gain a minute on the Briton, while Froome received a 0:20 penalty for an illegal feed.
Ahead, van Garderen was weakening, and Riblon was reeling him in. With three km left, the American’s lead, which had been 0:45, was 0:22 and falling. With two km left, the Frenchman drew level with the BMC man and attacked immediately. With one km remaining, Riblon led van Garderen by 0:22. He used the final 500 m to celebrate, punching the air with both hands and kissing a medallion.
Ag2r-La Mondiale had sought to win stages and to place Jean-Christophe Peraud in the top 10. Peraud, however, crashed out of the Tour in Stage 17, and until today, the French squad had not won a stage. Riblon’s win has boosted the team’s morale. “…five kilometers from the finish line I thought it would be difficult to win, and I was focused on the 2nd place. My sports director, Julien Jurdie, moved towards me and told me that I have to continue to believe in victory, that Van Garderen was not in his best shape. He was right! At three kilometers to go, I see Tejay has the behaviour of someone who is in trouble. I told myself that this was my chance and that I must try to catch him. When I caught him…I definitely wanted to leave him behind and it went incredibly well.
"I want to pull a hat off to the Ag2r-La Mondiale team that has fought well since the start of the Tour de France. We have not had luck with two riders, including our leader, who had to withdraw because of fractures. We wanted to lift up our heads to fight and continue this Tour as well as we started it. Although the three stages on the Alps were not necessarily suited to breakaways, we had to take our chance and to make our own destiny. This is what we did today, and it is a good sign for my teammates tomorrow and after tomorrow. We have to continue to fight, we are not yet in Paris!”
In the overall, Froome leads Contador by 5:11 and Quintana by 5:32. Stage 19 will be no easier than Stage 18, and it will probably produce additional changes in the standings. The 204.5-km ride from Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand will feature two hors categorie ascents and two Category 1 climbs before the riders descend to the finish. A long break will probably take this stage as well. How will the battle for the yellow jersey turn out ? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!