Pinot Wins Stage 20 of Tour; Froome Keeps Yellow Jersey
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has redeemed his Tour de France. The Frenchman, who finished third last year, lost so much time during the Tour’s first 10 stages that his GC hopes vanished. However, the FDJ man jumped into breaks during the second and third weeks, and today his determination was rewarded. Pinot went solo on the ascent to the finish to win Stage 20, a mountainous, 110-km ride from Modane Valfrejus to L’Alpe d’Huez in 3:17:21. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished second at 0:18, and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) took third at 0:41. Chris Froome (Movistar) held off an attack by Quintana to keep the maillot jaune. He is poised to win the race when it ends in Paris tomorrow.
The hostilities began early. At the gun, Alexandre Geniez, Pinot’s teammate, attacked. By two km, Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale-Garmin), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) had joined the FDJ man. Ag2r-La Mondiale chased to protect Romain Bardet’s King of the Mountains jersey. The escapees’ advantage maxed out at four minutes.
At 50 km, on the hors categorie Col de la Croix de Fer, Geniez dropped his companions. Behind, Movistar attacked the yellow jersey. Alejandro Valverde, who was in third place overall, made his move at 53 km, and Quintana followed his teammate one km later. The pair joined forces just before the summit. Froome chased and caught his nearest competitors at the top of the climb.
On the descent, Pinot, Hesjedal, Winner Anacona (Movistar), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), and Ruben Plaza and Jose Serpa (both from Lampre-Merida) jumped clear. At the base of the Alpe, Geniez led Pinot, Hesjedal, Edet, Navardauskas, Anacona, Rolland, Bak, Plaza, and Serpa by two minutes and the yellow jersey group by four minutes.
With nine km remaining, Pinot bridged up to Geniez, and Hesjedal joined the pair. Behind, Valverde and Quintana resumed their attacks. With 11 km to go, Quintana caught teammate Anacona, who paced him for a few km. With six km left, Pinot dropped Hesjedal and attempted a solo win.
With five km remaining, Quintana led Froome by 0:30. The Colombian put in another effort. Froome, with only one teammate remaining (Richie Porte), was unable to close the gap. Two km later, the Movistar man trailed Pinot by 0:35 but led Froome by 1:37. He set out after Pinot but came up short. Froome recovered enough to chase Quintana, limit his losses, and keep his yellow jersey.
The strain of defending the yellow jersey for two weeks took its toll today. "There were so many things going through my mind going up that last climb,” Froome said. “There were moments where I thought, 'Hold on a second I could be in danger here.’ But then always having my teammates with me and having Wout [Poels] and Richie there all the way until the end. Especially after the job all the guys had done today. I thought of all the sacrifices and the weeks of training camps. Time away from my wife and my family. Everything starts going through your head and I was on my limit there. I was hurting going up that last climb. But I just had to find something else just to keep pushing and get through today.
"It was only 110km but it felt like it was 300! It was such a hard stage!"
In the overall, Froome leads Quintana by 1:12 and Valverde by 5:25. Stage 21, the final stage of this year’s Tour, will be a procession for Froome, The flat, 109-km run from Sevres to Paris will begin with hijinks and congratulations and will culminate in 10 crossings of the finish line with a bunch sprint to end the stage. Some sprinters want the most prestigious sprint victory of them all, while others have underperformed at the Tour and hope to redeem themselves on the Champs Elysses. Still others need a victory to secure their futures. Who will win? Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)? Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)? Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!