With two of the four jerseys essentially wrapped up (Green
for Sagan and White for Van Garderen) and RADIOSHACK NISSAN
TREK with a healthy 17 minute lead in the Teams
Classification, the battle today was really down to just a
few riders in search of Polka Dots, Yellow, and stage win
victory. That's the nature of a Grand Tour, there comes a
tipping point where most riders decide that they are
content with their result and will ride more to defend that
position than be concerned about moving up.
But for a few men in the race, there was still some glory
to be had. Voeckler and Kessiakoff were dueling for
the King of the Mountains competition, and Nibali and his
Liquigas teammates knew that this was essentially their
last day to either win the Tour or at the very least go for
the stage win. And yes, if Froome and Wiggins were
having a horrible day - admittedly not very likely - then
even Van Den Broeck and RADIOSHACK NISSAN TREK's Zubeldia
had an outside shot at the final podium in Paris.
Despite a valiant attempt, Kessiakoff could not overcome
the intrepid Frenchman, and Voeckler should be the final
King of the Mountains come Sunday, so Chapeau! to him.
Nibali and crew had no secrets about their plan, the
Italian initially going with the day's break but then
realizing Sky would never let that group get away.
Instead they stayed on the front of the yellow jersey group
and kept the break close by in the process, never letting
it get much more than 2m30s away. This upped the
pressure on Sky, and also placed Nibali in position to
launch and go for the stage win if possible later on.
On the front of the race it was Valverde becoming the day's
target as he attacked solo from 35km out on the second to
last climb. The Spaniard looked very strong and despite the
intense effort by Liquigas he was keeping his gap steady.
As the main chase group headed up the final climb, Wiggins
and Sky were basically being given a free ride up, and with
every turn of the pedals the chance for Nibali to attack
and gain any significant time was ebbing (Nibali was 2m23s
from Wiggins, but only 18s from Froome).
At the end of the day it wasn't Nibali making the move to
shake things up, despite all the work of his team.
Rather it was the man behind him 4th overall, Van Den
Broeck, and that decimated the pack leaving only 8 riders
to chase Valverde 90 seconds away, including RADIOSHACK
NISSAN TREK's veteran rider Chris Horner. In the
final 3km Froome once again showed what a solid teammate he
is, stomping to the front to dispatch Nibali and then
waiting for Wiggins to pace him up to the finish. The
duo refused to separate and worked completely together as
Valverde took a well earned stage win, and they came in 2nd
and 3rd on the day.
And so - barring the obligatory "drama not withstanding"
caveat - I think we've seen how the final placings will
shake out along the Champs Elysees come this weekend.
The 2012 Tour de France has been a solid showcase of
teamwork, from Sky working for Wiggins, Liquigas for
Nibali, BMC's effort for Evans, and of course RADIOSHACK
NISSAN TREK for the overall teams classification. And
now it's time for me to join my team, Team LIVESTRONG, as I
head to Iowa with them for the 40th edition of RAGBRAI (and
put that on your cycling bucket list!). I've really
enjoyed covering the Tour for the team and hope that you
liked what you've read. Until the next time, ciao for
now, and thanks for checking in! - Cb…
Chris Brewer (@livestrongcb) has
been covering the Tour de France since 1999, and works in
Strategic Partnerships for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
This includes Team LIVESTRONG, an unstoppable force of
athletes of all levels leading the fight against cancer.
Anyone affected by cancer or inspired to join the fight can
take a place at the starting line.www.teamlivestrong.org!