Stage 11 – Gallopin Wins on Bastille Day
After a rest day the 2014 Tour de France cycling was back in force, as the peloton travelled from Besancon to Oyonnax. The 187.5km route tested the riders on Bastille Day, as Tony Gallopin raced away with the yellow jersey to claim his first stage victory on this year’s Tour. He sealed the win after attacking twice in the last 5km of the stage. It was not enough to wrestle away the overall lead from Vincenzo Nibali, who continued to hold his grip on this year’s event.
Sagan Left Trailing Again at the Last
Gallopin made his first initial effort over the final climb of Stage 11 with 13km remaining; over a section of the race that was distinctively tougher than the race programme implied. As it came to the descent, he was joined by 3 riders – including Peter Sagan. The remains of the peloton closed on the four as Oyonnax approached, but Gallopin eased clear to leave Sagan as the nearly man in a similar way to how the Stage 2 finish in Sheffield unfolded.
Stage 12 – Kristoff Holds Off Sagan Challenge
The twelfth stage – 185.5km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint Etienne – was won by Alexander Kristoff; who pushed furthest ahead at the finish near the Geoffory-Guichard stadium in Saint Etienne. It was the Norwegian’s first Tour de France stage victory. The day saw TNE rider David De la Cruz break his collarbone and subsequently have to withdraw from this year’s event. The rider from Catalonia was experiencing his first Tour de France before his forced exit.
Nibali Still Leading
Stage 12 represented yet more stage victory disappointment for Peter Sagan as he recorded another second place finish. The Green Jersey leader heads the points standings by a mile; but after the stage the Slovak was still yet to record an outright stage win. In a thrilling sprint finish – fought without influential German’s Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel – Kristoff held off the charge of Sagan. Italian Nibali continued to lead the overall classification.
Stage 13 – Nibali Claims Third Stage Victory
It was time for Vincenzo Nibali to claim his third stage victory of this year’s Tour. The 197.5km route from Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse tested the peloton in the Alps; but the Italian continued to look to make this year’s event a formality in the general classification. Nibali reamined the last of the big favorites remaining in the race – following the earlier stage withdrawals of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador – and after Stage 13 it was hard to argue against him emerging victorious.
Day of Struggle for Team Sky
After the stage Nibali found himself with only 3 other riders within 5 minutes of his overall time – Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot. They, and the rest of the peloton, were left hoping for a significant slip up from Nibali. The Italkian attacked with 7km to go and rode ahead solo for the victory from 3.3km to the finish line to seal a vital victory. It was a day of struggle for Team Sky and Richie Porte; as their rider was replaced in second place in the overall standings by Alejandro Valverde; and on the podium by Romain Bardet.
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Stage 14 Majka Holds on For Memorable First Stage Win
On Saturday 19th July, Tinkoff-Saxo Polish rider Rafal Majka broke away to secure a first stage victory – on his Tour debut. The 177km journey from Grenoble to Risoul saw Majka emerge victorious; presenting some good news to his team after the earlier loss of Alberto Contador to injury. In what represented the biggest win of his career to date by some distance, Majka impressively hung on to the lead despite the threat of being caught by his closest rivals behind.
Nibali Finishes Second and Extends Overall Lead by a Minute
One of those men the 24-year-old held off the challenge of was leader Vincenzo Nibali, who finished second – just 24 seconds behind Majka. As such, Niblai further extended his growing lead in the overall classification. Alejandro Valverde lost a minute to the Italian, meaning that as the stage finished he was now 4 minutes and 37 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger. Two great climbs – the Col du Lautaret; and the Col d’Izoard – provided a particular highlight of Stage 14.
Stage 15 – Kristoff Claims Double at Expense of Bauer and Elmiger
Alexander Kristoff followed up his Stage twelfth victory to make it a double; as he emerged victorious over the 22km journey from Tallard to Nimes. Stage 15 presented the third longest challenge on the 2014 Tour, and it was a grueling day for the riders. The finale of the stage was simply thrilling, with the peloton catching the two breakaway riders – Jack Bauer and Martin Elmiger – right at the death. The two riders had let from the start of the stage, and it was a painful end to all their efforts.
Elation and Despair
Elmiger and Bauer took a maximum lead of 8.50 at 26km, as they raced clear from the off. Bauer had left Elmiger in his wake as he sprinted for the finish line with just 100m to go; but was somewhat understandably left in tears as Kristoff and the peloton came careering past right at the finish. It would have been New Zealand’s first ever individual Tour stage win; and the climax represented the elation and despair of the Tour in the last few seconds of the day.
Stage 16 – Tinkoff-Saxo Continue Recovery With Rogers Win
After a well deserved rest day, it was time for the peloton to return to the action – with the 237.5km route from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon. The day represented the longest stage on this year’s Tour; and was won by Michael Rogers of the Tinkoff-Saxo team. It continued the team’s impressive recovery following the injury to Alberto Contador, and they were understandably delighted with their victory. The victory for Australia’s Rogers followed up two stage wins at the Giro d’Italia earlier this month.
Nibali and Valverde Continue to Dominate
Vincenzo Niabli continued to hold on to the yellow jersey; with Alejandro Valverde likewise remaining in second. The two riders crossed the line together; about 9 minutes down from the stage leaders; to retain the top two overall classification positions. Behind them, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot jumped into third place, with compatriots Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet in fourth and fifth respectively.