Tour de France 18: Heart-fully

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Poor Mikel Nieve who found Vincenzo Nibali on his way to Hautacam...!  The Shark came from behind, his pace was different, his eyes already shining with joy and tears, with deep determination. "I wanted to win this stage" he said, finally emotional "Because a victory on the Pyrennes is epic".
But Nieve was on a special mission for Team Sky in his native land, Euskal Herria: he had gone in the break-away, then with Blel Kadri, finally solo. He had crossed the Tourmalet and devoured the descent till the start of the final climb. Riding hard, the heart on his jersey. Riding to get a stage victory for his unlucky team.
Embedded image permalinkIn the peloton Team Astana was controlling. Such a big advantage for Nibali on the overall contenders... no need to attack, almost no need to respond. Indead he didn't when Alejandro Valverde threw himself down the Tourmalet. No need to chase. The Spaniard got easily caught at the start of the last climb, in spite he had found two mates on his way. Then dropped. 
All was still. A time bomb. Chris Horner attacked first, Nibali jumped on his wheel and then ahead. Solo. For glory. For all the glory. Nothing left for anybody. Not for Nieve: joined, passed, dropped. Nibali speeded up in front of him to avoid the Basque to get his wheel. Not for Rafal Majka, furiously chasing to keep his Polka. Not for Pinot and Peraud fighting for the podium.
Embedded image permalinkSolo, Nibali kept pushing and sprinting till the last meter, till the finish and over. A strong feeling on his face. A finger to point his heart. Almost in tears. "That's for the team, for my mates, all." That's passion. That's love.
But Mikel Nieve, arriving way later, wasn't feeling the same? he wanted a victory, got a Red Number at least for Team Sky. A poor prize but still heart-fully sought.

Mikal Nieve
“It was the last day to try something because I’m a climber and this was the last mountain stage. I’ve had some health problems in the last few days but I’m better now so it was my last chance.
I had good legs today. I think without the illness I would have been able to have a better Tour de France but I tried and gave it my best. Nibali was very strong when he attacked. He was really above everyone and he wanted to gain time on GC so it was impossible to follow him. But I'm still happy with my Tour."

Tejay van Garderen:
"Yesterday was a pity, it was an off day. You can't change that. You can only look ahead. Podium? Anything is possible. If you would have asked me a couple days ago I would have said, it is really possible. Now, yes it is possible. But it will be hard.  I tried doing a little attack today but they are looking really strong. Obviously, if one of them has a bad day, I need to take advantage of it."

Bjarne Riis about Rafal Majka:
“Rafal did another great stage today and he’s now only a few steps away from the podium in Paris but we still have to do three more stages before we can finally celebrate. He’s done a sensational Tour de France and is probably considered the surprise of the race but I’ve known his potential for quite a while and now it’s unfolding for everyone to see."

Bauke Mollema:
“Today’s course lent itself for an attack. It was a short and explosive stage. I gave everything I had, I just had to try something. I kept a close eye on which teams tried to escape. With the battle for the mountain jersey in mind, you just know that Rodriguez and Majka are going to give it a try. If they bring some team-mates and form a larger group then you know that the tempo will remain high. It’s nice that I was able to show myself and that I moved up in the overall. It’s great that I’m back in seventh now. I knew it was going to be hard to win the stage. This whole Tour, I lacked that acceleration to go into the red zone and keep going, although I’m able to keep pedalling. Besides that, the breakaway was very strong.”

Laurens ten Dam
“The last climb was a kind of time trial for me, from top to bottom. Luckily, I was able to benefit from the Movistar men. I tried to drop Valverde, but when I saw one of his team-mates waiting for him, I thought it would be better to take advantage from their efforts and just sit in their wheel. After a while, I started to struggle and just before the top Valverde even dropped me. That shows his class. I was just as good as yesterday and I’m quite happy with this result.”



1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 4:04:17
2 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:01:10
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:12
4 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:15
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:53
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:57
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp - Endura
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:01:59
10 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
11 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 12 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:30 13 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 14 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 15 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:04:24 16 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:28 17 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:04:30 18 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:04:33 19 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre - Merida 0:04:40 20 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 80:45:45
2 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:07:10 3 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:07:23 4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:07:25 5 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:09:27 6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:11:34 7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:13:56 8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:14:15 9 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:14:37 10 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:16:25 11 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:17:48 12 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:21:33 13 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:29:58 14 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:32:30 15 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:34:30 16 Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne - Seche Environnement 0:37:37 17 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre - Merida 0:39:28 18 Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:41:34 19 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team 0:41:41 20 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:50:01





Mikel Nieve

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