SAN DIEGO, July 12, 2014 – Blel Kadri blasted out of the peloton early and held on to win the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France for a French cyclist on a stormy day in the hills.
Any stage win for a French rider is significant, but especially on Bastille Day weekend. Kadri said he was ready for it.
“It’s something crazy to win a stage at the Tour de France,” said an elated Kadri. “I was convinced that I’d do it one day like Christophe Riblon at l’Alpe d’Huez last year. Our goal as a team was to win a stage. The polka dot jersey is the ice on the cake. I’m really happy.”
The weather was miserable with fierce storms pounding riders during the three climbs at the end of the stage, causing many riders trouble.
Vincenzo Nibali of Astana didn’t think he would hold onto the overall leader’s yellow jersey, but he stood up to a challenge from rival Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo and stayed with the Spaniard to retain the lead. Contador’s attack gained three seconds back on Nibali in sixth place overall, two minutes and 34 seconds behind.
The race to the top by Nibali and Contador sorted out the rest of the top contenders. Australian Richie Porte of Sky Racing showed himself worthy of becoming his team’s leader after 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome withdrew, riding well enough to take third place overall, one minute and 58 seconds behind Nibali.
After Saturday’s stage, Nibali said he expected Contador to accelerate and test him. “The last climb suited him more than me. It was very difficult and explosive… He’s ready to gain time wherever he can. I’ve tried to control till the very end. I’ve resisted to all of his attacks.
“The race is not a duel though,” said Nibali. “It’s more than that. Richie Porte is up there. He was supposed to be the last man for Froome. He’s not here by coincidence. I’ve also seen Valverde riding at ease even if he lost a bit at the end. There have been great riders in action today. I feel good despite the rain. I try to remain calm in all occasions.”
Contador said, “I wanted to see how Nibali was doing and I was surprised he kept so close… The team was extraordinary and the legs responded well. We’ll have to see day by day. Nibali is a great rider like all the great riders ahead of me. I must keep hoping and try to take time with each stage.”
Nibali’s Astana team manager, Tour veteran and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Alexandre Vinokourov thinks if Nibali can retain his lead after Monday’s stage at La Planche des Belles Filles over the field, he will win the Tour this year.
“After this first week, I think that many riders have heavy legs, but Vincenzo is ready,” said Vinokourov. “He looks comfortable. He follows the favorites easily. The team is ready and motivated for the mountain,” he said.
American cyclist Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC did his best to stay within reach of the leaders, losing just a few seconds on the day and staying upright after five crashes in three days. He is currently in 13th place, three minutes and 34 seconds behind Nibali.
Fellow American Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp suffered another untimely crash, losing time he can’t afford to give up. According medical reports, Talansky “suffers from multiple contusions.” He now sits in 16th place, four minutes and 22 seconds behind leader Nibali. But the Tour is a long race, anything can happen in the next two weeks giving Talansky the chance to bounce back.
The oldest cyclist in the Tour, 42-year-old American Chris Horner of Team Lampre, said he felt “fresh” after the day’s stage. He sits in 21st place just over six minutes behind. A Top 10 finish for Horner would be a major accomplishment.
Alejandro Valverde is 2:27 back in fifth; Rui Costa is 2:52 back in eighth. See the entire classification here.
In the jersey race, Tour leader Nibali stays in yellow. Peter Sagan retains the green sprinter’s jersey and also the best young rider’s white jersey. Blel Kadri gets the king of the mountains polka dot jersey for his outstanding ride Saturday. He was also named most combative rider.
Riders are clinging to the hope of the upcoming rest day on Tuesday, but they have two more northern mountain stages to deal with. Sunday’s Stage 8 route from Gerardmer to Mulhouse includes six categorized climbs, including one Stage 1 climb. They are long rather than steep. The stage finishes with a 20 mile descent to the finish. Aggressive riders looking to gain time may need to throw caution to the wind here.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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