SAN DIEGO, July 20, 2014 – In a thrilling race to the finish, two breakaway riders who had the lead for 135 miles were caught in the last 100 yards by a rush of sprinters, with Norweigian Alexander Kristoff of Team Katusha getting his second stage win in Nimes at the 2014 Tour de France.
Until the very end, it wasn’t clear whether or not the peloton would catch New Zealand’s Jack Bauer of Garmin Sharp and Switzerland’s Martin Elmiger of IAM. A storm hitting the course with 30 miles to go threw a wrench into the pelton’s ability to catch up, and the road into the finishing city of Nimes was filled with tricky turns and roundabouts.
Although the sun came out in time to provide dry roads for the finish, the sprinter’s teams didn’t seem to know quite what to do. Bauer seemed in position to hold off the field, but at the very end, he and Elmiger may have hesitated in a bit of gamesmanship, and the victory was lost as he was passed with just a few feet to go.
Bauer was in tears and inconsolable by Garmin Sharp teammates after the stage.
“It’s just bitter, bitter disappointment,” said Bauer. “It’s a childhood dream to win a stage of the Tour and for a domestique, like myself, I’m normally working for others. This was my first chance to be up the road and with the chance in the wind and the weather, me and Martin realized we had a chance for the win.
“With five K to go, I really started playing the game. Maybe I played it a little too much Looking backward with one K, we had a decent gap. Martin tried his move, I was on his wheel straight away and tried my hand with 400 (meters) to go, and I came up a little bit short.
“For any team, you win a stage at the Tour and it’s been a success. It’s not over yet, but a stage win would have gone a long way towards rectifying what has been a difficult last five days with the loss of Andrew and the reshuffle of our goals and ambitions. I gave it everything. It was a dream that didn’t quite happen, but I’m sure I’ll get chances again in the future,” said a rueful Bauer.
Kristoff was elated with his victory, but the 27-year-old said don’t expect him to win the Tour just yet. “After I won [stage 12] the other day, (fellow Norweigian) Thor Hushovd sent me a text message saying ‘nine to go’ [Hushovd has won ten stages of the Tour de France in total], so now it’s eight to go… Normally I’m not the fastest sprinter on the flat against André Greipel and Marcel Kittel but I’m lighter than them. Possibly that turned to my advantage today.
“I didn’t have the situation under control. I was just happy to see the two breakaway riders caught. They made a huge effort. I feel sorry for them. What they did was impressive,” said Kristoff.
In the race’s overall classification, no changes at the top. Vicenzo Nibali wears the leader’s yellow jersey, with Alejandro Valverde of Movistar in second place, Romain Bardet in third, Thibaud Pinot in fourth, and American Tejay Van Garderen in fifth place. Van Garderen will need to make his move in the Pyrenees this week if he aspires to a podium finish. See the entire classification here.
“As an Italian, I’m proud to become part of the history of the Tour like prestigious champions in the past,” said Nibali. “Two years ago, I already felt so when I was battling against Wiggins and Froome. But I’m probably too focused on my race now to put my performances into perspective and realize what it means.”
Joaquim Rodriguez is the current King of the Mountains but Nibali is right on his tail and the pair will fight it out during the coming mountain stages. Bardet kept the best young rider’s white jersey in what has become a tight contest with Pinot. Peter Sagan retains the green sprinter’s jersey. Martin Elmiger of IAM won the most combative rider, although it should have been Jack Bauer.
Monday is a much needed rest day for the peloton. On Tuesday, Stage 16 hits the Pyrenees, the final test for the top contenders. This is the longest stage of the Tour, mercifully right after the second rest day. It important for the Tour’s GC leaders to hold off their challengers on today’s climbs. This is the stage where Andy Schleck of Luxembourg lost his yellow jersey on the 2010 Tour when the chain slipped on his bike and his foe Alberto Contador took advantage and attacked, rather than extend good sportsmanship and wait for him. An infamous legacy. Will bad karma make an appearance again?
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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