Rodriguez Descends to Victory in Stage 14 of Tour de France
Following yesterday’s Bastille Day celebrations, the Tour de France organizers invited the Tour peloton to compete in an epic battle that included no less than five climbs. Stage 14 was contested in the Haute-Savoie department on a 151.8-kilometer route from Annemasse to Morzine les Portes du Soleil.
Stage 14 of the Tour de France 2023 included five categorized mountains - the Col de Saxel (Category 3; 4.4 km; 4.6% incline), Col de Cou (Category 1; 7.1 km; 7.4%), Col du Feu (Category 1; 5.9 km; 7.7%), Col de la Ramaz (Category 1; 13.9 km; 6.9%), and not least the Col de Joux Plane (Outside Category/Hors Categorie; 11.7 km; 8.5%) featuring incline percentages of up to 11.4.
The stage featured dangerous descents and race organizer A.S.O. had arranged for extra safety features following last month’s tragic death of Bahrain-Victorious’ Gino Mäder in the Tour de Suisse. Tarmac had been renewed, extra barriers had been installed, audible warning signals were placed in turns, and catch nets had been installed.
Stage 14 was expected to have a decisive influence on the final classification of Tour de France 2023 and while an intense battle was anticipated between GC favorites such as Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), severe action was also expected from expert climbers who were expected to join long breakaways in order to compete for the stage victory. Ineos-Grenadier’s Michal Kwiatkowski had won yesterday’s stage from a breakaway, so his impressive result had given birth to a great appetite for success amongst the breakaway experts.
After just a few kilometers the racing was paused because of a major crash in the peloton. The crash happened in the middle of the peloton and involved more than thirty riders. The neutralized phase took some time while doctors treated riders and mechanics repaired bikes. Louis Meintjes (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar Team) abandoned this year’s Tour because of injuries sustained in the crash.
The race was restarted, and new breakaway attempts were launched.
Several attacks were launched and riders from multiple teams tried to establish a viable breakaway. Soudal-QuickStep’s Julian Alaphilippe was very active at the front – perhaps hoping to please his team boss Patrick Lefevre who is allegedly very displeased with his mediocre performances. Recently Lefevre described Soudal-QuickStep’s performance in this year’s Tour de France as “embarrassing.”
Esteban Chaves (EF Education-EasyPost) was the third rider to abandon the race as a result of the major crash in the peloton.
A small front group was established on the descent from the Col de Saxel. The group featured Alaphilippe, Daniel Felipe Martinez (Ineos-Grenadiers), Lars van den Berg (Team DSM), Krists Neilands (Israel-PremierTech), and Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko. Berlin-resident Simon Geschke (Cofidis) tried to join the fun. Several riders were chasing to join the breakaway.
Romain Bardet (Team DSM) crashed on the descent and later abandoned. EF Education-EasyPost youngster James Shaw, who – contrary to his teammates - delivered an impressive performance yesterday, crashed too and sadly had to abandon this year’s Tour de France.
The front of the race was reshuffled on the Col de Cou. Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) won the sprint at the top of the climb and gained points for the best climber classification. Neilson Powless followed closely behind Ciccone.
Meanwhile, the Jumbo-Visma were setting a fast pace at the front of the main peloton featuring the general classification favorites. Jumbo-Visma were trying to make the race as hard as possible to wear down Pogacar and his UAE Team Emirates.
The front group entered the Col de Feu with approximately 110 kilometers left of the stage and riders were immediately dropped. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Mikel Landa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Ciccone, Alex Aranburu (Movistar) and Michael Woods formed a smaller front group. Powless was chasing. With lack of support from teammates, his chances of preserving his lead in the best climber classification looked slim. Shortly thereafter he was dropped.
Ciccone once again banked valuable points for the best climber classification when he was first to reach the top of Col de Feu. Woods was second across the top and Landa third. The front group now had a one-minute advantage over the main peloton led by Jumbo-Visma. Powless’ advantage in the best climber classification was now reduced to twelve points.
The front group now featured Pinot, Landa, Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), Ciccone, Aranburu, and Woods. Twenty seconds behind was a chase group featuring twelve riders including Martinez, Powless, Geschke, Lawson Craddock (Jayco-Alula), and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis).
The breakaway hopefuls reached the Col de la Ramaz with 64 kilometers left of today’s challenging mountain stage. At this point they had a forty second lead over the main peloton where Jumbo-Visma were still controlling the pace. Everything was going according to Vingegaard’s instructions, so he would have no valid excuses if he failed in the stage finale.
Ciccone and Woods accelerated on the Col de la Ramaz while a seven-man group were chasing behind them. More riders were dropped from the front group on the hard climb, while the main peloton was closing in on the breakaway riders. Soon only Ciccone and Woods remained in front and their lead was down to a mere ten seconds.
Woods was dropped while Ciccone tried to hold on. He was caught with 58 kilometers left.
With 52 kilometers left the front peloton group had been reduced to 21 riders. Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates each had five riders in the group. Ineos-Grenadiers three. Bora-Hansgrohe’s Hindley only had support from Emanuel Buchmann.
Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert moved to the front and set a grueling pace hoping it would drain any energy left in Vingegaard’s competitors. Van Aert was first across the top of Col de la Ramaz followed by teammate Wilco Kelderman.
While Team Movistar’s Ruben Guerreiro abandoned the race, the reduced peloton was now approaching the final and most challenging climb of the day – the Col de Joux Plane (Hors Categorie; 11.7 km; 8.5 incline percentage). Twelve riders were in the group.
Sixteen riders entered the Col de Jouz Plane together. Rafal Majka moved to the front to increase the speed. Van Aert replaced Majka at the front.
Sepp Kuss, Vingegaard, Pogacar, Adam Yates, Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos-Grenadiers), Hindley and Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen) were in the front group. Seven kilometers of the climb remained – followed by a dangerous descent. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) and Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula) were chasing 40 seconds behind the favorites group.
Hindley was dropped from the front group. Kuss increased the pace to set up a planned attack for Vingegaard. Adam Yates moved to the front and now only Yates, Vingegaard and Pogacar remained in front. Four kilometers of the climb remained.
Pogacar attacked and Vingegaard was dropped. Pogacar opened a gap of five seconds.
Pogacar attacked with five hundred meters left of the climb, but a motorcycle got in the way and the attack was neutralized.
Vingegaard attacked with few meters left of the climb, but Pogacar countered, and the two riders crossed the top of the climb together. A fast descent awaited the favorite duo.
Vingegaard earned eight bonus seconds by being first across the Col de Joux Plane. Pogacar had to settle for five seconds.
Rodriguez and Adam Yates tried to catch the front duo, but – once again – camera motorcycles – got in the way of the cyclists and they had to push and shove to get past. Eventually they succeeded and a quartet was formed for the descent.
Rodriguez attacked on the dangerous descent and took chances. He was clearly aiming for a memorable stage victory.
Rodriguez crossed the finish line as winner of stage 14 of Tour de France. Pogacar was next across the finish line, five seconds behind the stage winner. Vingegaard completed the stage podium, while Adam Yates followed in fourth and Kuss finished fifth. Hindley crossed the finish line 01:46 behind the stage winner, but this was after a crash earlier in the stage.
In the general classification Vingegaard is ten seconds ahead of Pogacar. Hindley lost his third place and was replaced by stage winner Rodriguez who is 04:43 behind Vingegaard. Hindley is one second behind Rodriguez.
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