7.22.2014

Tour de France 16: Team Pride

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The start of the break-away
The long last climb, open jerseys on sweating chests, crowd, noise, colours. Vasil Kiryenka pulling a small peloton, doing the selection, setting a smashing pace that doesn't allow anybody to attack. "And when Kiryenka steps aside..." I say. "What if he doesn't?!" It wasn't the Tour, it was one of the many races where the terrific rider was doing his terrific job for Team Sky. No expression on his face, just a deep concentration. The pride to contribute to the team effort and hopefully to the team success. That's the purest essence of cycling. Then he steps aside and the team leader attacks. The race is over when he crosses the line, no matter his time. Celebrating by an imperceptible smile when the news comes on the radio.
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Rogers wins
Today Vasil Kiryenka was pulling for himself. Team Sky had lost Chris Froome in a crash and Richie Porte was far behind, struggling with a sickness since the Aremberg's stage. The team that had won the two  previous Tours was suddenly nothing: a Team built for the overall, with no sprinters and no break-away specialists, all committed to protect and support the gc leader and big favourite. Now they must invent something different. Strong riders they are but not really used to take their chances. 
Team pride. They fight for perfection not just a good result. So now Vasil Kiryenka is pulling hard a small group ahead the race, almost 10' from the Yellow Jersey, on a last long steep climb in the Pyrenes. This break-away is going to make it so one of them will grab the stage victory. Europcar has got two riders: Voeckler and Gauthier. They are dangerous not just because fast at the sprint but moreover because their changes of rythm don't suit the Sky man. He doesn't panic – can you imagine Kiryenka losing control? - he gets slightly dropped but doesn't force his pace. In front there are Serpa and Rogers. The big Australian is talking to Voeckler, almost arguing. "Wait a bit! Damn you have Gauthier behind and Kiryenka can give us a good help till the finish!" Voeckler keeps attacking, the group goes on nervously till the top of the climb, in the crowd. 
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Pinot in White
Michael Rogers is a TT World Chmapion. He's not afraid to go solo when the road is flat. He's strong built but good also on climbing, he won on the Zoncolan in the last Giro. He knows the taste of personal glory, but here he came to help Alberto Contador. The last image we have of the Spaniard riding in the mist is Rogers' hand on his shoulder: "Courage, it'll be fine". Tour over. Team's hope vanished. Victory violently ripped away. Team Tinkoff had took no time to think about: the day after there was already Roche on the attack, then – successfully – Majka, now Rogers. Team pride: show what the team is worth of. 
"It's not just me. We have got options" Richie Porte had said in the last rest day. Thomas and Nieve, now Eisel and Kiryenka. The front group is back together in the fast descent. No way to be caught only the win matters. Gauthier attacks first but it's Rogers to go. Solo. Till the finish line. Kiryenka is not a sprinter but still he sprints to get at least a 3rd behind Voeckler. A podium spot for Team Sky in such a disastrous Tour.
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A press car in the race! crazy!
Today the big fight was in the peloton, Pinot dueling against Bardet – and his ghosts – to grab the White and the first French podium since ages. The big fight was Valverde against Nibali, going to gain and getting dropped. And Majka turning Polka for just one point on Purito Rodriguez... 
I know. But Vasil Kiryenka is one of my favourite riders in the peloton. 

RESULTS
STAGE
1 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 6:07:10  
2 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:09  
3 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky  
4 José Serpa (Col) Lampre - Merida  
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar  
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13  
7 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:36  
8 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:50  
9 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin - Sharp 0:02:11  
10 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol  
11 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:03:33  
12 Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne - Seche Environnement 0:03:45  
13 Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Bretagne - Seche Environnement 0:04:47  
14 Kévin Reza (Fra) Team Europcar  
15 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky 0:08:14  
16 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:08:32  
17 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr  
18 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  
19 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
20 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team  

21 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura
GC
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:05:19  
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:37  
3 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:05:06  
4 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:08  
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:40  
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:09:25  
7 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:09:32  
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:11:12  
9 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:11:28  
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:11:33  
11 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:12:38  
12 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:13:09  
13 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:14:02  
14 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:17:37  
15 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:23:06  
16 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:23:54  
17 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:24:08  
18 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:26:06  
19 Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne - Seche Environnement 0:26:48  

20 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre - Merida 0:29:54
POINTS
Sagan
POLKA
Majka
WHITE
Pinot
TEAM
1 AG2R La Mondiale 219:28:01  
2 Belkin Pro Cycling 0:26:21  

3 Team Sky 0:39:19

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