Although Alberto Contador (TST) has long been saying that second or tenth is no different to him, there were plenty of riders who were willing to battle fiercely for their GC spots today. With less than 1 minute separating 2nd and 5th there were podium places to be had. With few points between the KOM competitors there was the polka dot jersey to be settled. And for those who’ve had a tough tour, whether due to poor luck – the the case of Alejandro Valverde, poor form – in the case of Cadel Evans (BMC), Teejay Vangarderen (BMC), Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Andy Schleck (RLT) etc, financially poor teams – Navarro (COF), Nieve and Anton(EUS), Rolland (EUR), DeGendt (VAC) etc., or poor reluctance to allow 41 to be more than a number – Jens! (RLT) you wouldn’t need effort to see a peloton brimming with men full of ambition.
Nairo Quintana (MOV) came away with the spoils winning the 20th stage of the Tour de France, claiming the polka dot jersey, climbing his way up to 2nd on the podium, and securing the white jersey for being the ripe age of 22. I literally could hear Jens legs mumble “asshole” as the GC selection bounded past him on the final climb.
The day began with a crushing pace and a massive break. I won’t list all the riders but read that above list of names of guys with pride on the line and half of them were in it. Behind Team Movistar was driving the pace setting, sharing duties with Katusha, both teams who had little problem showing their ambition. Speaking of ambition, up the road, of course, at the head of the race was Jens, who was looking for a little magic in likely his last Tour. If he doesn’t attack tomorrow on the Champs… even for a short turn, I’d be surprised. Behind him was Igor Anton, trying desperately to gobble up mountain points for Mikel Nieve. No, he can’t pass them on, but Rolland was behind edging out his lead in the jersey.
At the base of the final climb up the Col du Semnoz, Sky had taken the pace setting and were quickly tearing the group to bits. Movistars Rui Costa then shoved his way to the front and kept hammering hard, almost looking too strong for everyone behind as his was really burying himself to create gaps. As he called Valverde to the front (who almost appeared unable to match Costa’s wicked pace) the group was dwindling to 8 riders. Costa blew pretty quick and Valverde turned himself inside out to take the front wheel and keep things going full gas, but he was struggling with the very steep slopes of the climb and Richie Porte took over and got the group down to 6 – Himself, Froome, J-Rod, Quintana, Valverde and Contador as Kreuziger blew under the stress.
Sensing opportunity, Joaquim attacked to be followed only by Quintana while the others faltered. Then skeletor pushed his rocket cart, err… Froome launched an attack, bridged the gap and passed the others easily. Valverde couldn’t go. Contador, who appeared to have found his legs for a couple of stages lost them again and couldn’t respond. Porte dropped back and was happy to patrol wheels. With J-Rod burying himself to claw back Froome, Quintana kept his pace. A strong trio was formed who rode to the final km, mostly while J-Rod kept the pace high to overtake Contador in the overall. Roman Kreuziger battled back up to his faltering leader and helped him up the mountain, while Valverde was between the groups, trying hard, but for what who knows? Maybe get back to Quintana, maybe claim 8th, maybe just finish.
In the final km Froome attacked and only Quintana could bridge, who shortly after countered himself to easily ride away to the win and some instant massive celebrity status in Colombia, that’s for sure. Tomorrow, is the standard procession into Paris with the sprint remaining to be decided. The top ten is as secure as it gets, and it’s an interesting one. Look back to 2012, the only rider back in the top ten from last year is Froome. The only ones in both Top Twenties are Froome (1st, 2nd), Monfort (14th, 16th) and Valverde (8th, 20th who just can’t seem to avoid disasters, can he?). That’s an amazing turn over! I wonder if, or how, the race would have changed had Nibali been here? Had Van Den Broeck and Brajkovic not crashed out? Had BMC not had a meltdown? Had the Frenchmen not disappeared?
Stage 20 Top Ten
1. Nairo Quintana (MOV)_______3h39’04”
2. Chris Froome (SKY)_________+18″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)____+29″
4. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)___+1’42”
5. Richie Porte (SKY)_________+2’17”
6. Andrew Talansky (GRM)______+2’27”
7. Alberto Contador (TST)_____+2’28”
8. John Gadret (ALM)__________+2’48”
9. Jesus Hernandez (TST)______+2’55”
10. Roman Kreuziger (TST)_____s.t.
Overall Classification after 20 stages
1. Chris Froome (SKY)________80h49’33″
2. Nairo Quintana (MOV)______+5’03″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)___+5’47″
4. Alberto Contador (TST)______+7’10″
5. Roman Kreuziger (TST)_____+8’10″
6. Bauke Mollema (BEL)_______+12’25″
7. Jacob Fuglsang (AST)______+13’00″
8. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)___+16’09″
9. Daniel Navarro (COF)_____+16’35″
10. Andrew Talansky (GRM)_____+18’22”
11. Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQ)__+19’42″
12. Mikel Nieve (EUS)_________+20’44″
13. Laurens Ten Dam (BEL)_____+22’22″
14. Maxime Monfort (RLT)_____+24’21″
15. Romain Bardet (AG2R)_____+27’25″
16. Michael Rogers (TST)______+27’34″
17. Daniel Moreno (KAT)______+33’17″
18. Jan Bakelants (RLT)_______+36’34″
19. Richie Porte (SKY)_______+39’41″
20. Andy Schleck (RLT)________+42’29″