Words & Photo: A.S.O. / CYCLING NEWS
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) claimed his second stage win in Nîmes after the peloton caught the two courageous breakaway riders in a thrilling finale. Near the antique Arenas, the Norwegian triumphed like a gladiator as the outcome was cruel for Jack Bauer and Martin Elmiger who escaped from the start of the 222-km long stage and got caught in the last 50 metres!
Elmiger and Bauer, a long day in the wind
Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) was the first attacker of the day, right after the flag off and closely watched by four-time Dakar winner and WRC champion Ari Vatanen from the car of Tour director Christian Prudhomme. Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) joined him quickly at the front. The duo took a maximum advantage of 8.50 at km 26. Three teams took control of the peloton: Giant-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol and Katusha, representing sprint winners Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff respectively. They maintained a deficit of approximately six minutes until the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team put the hammer down with 70km to go while a big storm was in sight at Cavaillon.
No luck for echelon makers
Successively, AG2R-La Mondiale and BMC also tried to create echelons. None of them succeeded. At the intermediate sprint of La Galina, with 46.5km to go, the deficit of the peloton was reduced to 1.30. Rain and wind led the GC contenders to ride safely and avoid potential hiccups. Despite the pouring rain, sprinters’ teams were back in action with 30km to go after passing the Rhône river between Tarascon and Beaucaire when the gap was superior to two minutes again.
Kristoff surges in extremis
Until the very end, it wasn’t clear whether or not the peloton would catch Bauer and Elmiger. The chase wasn’t perfectly organized, so the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski, Tony Martin and Jan Bakelants rode away from the peloton. Jack Bauer was very close to winning. The New Zealander went into tears at the finish as the sprinters passed him with 25 metres to go. Alexander Kristoff was the fastest again after taking his first Tour de France victory in Saint-Etienne at the end of stage 12. Vincenzo Nibali retained the yellow jersey with no worries.