Words & Photo: A.S.O. / CYCLING NEWS
Alexander Kristoff won the gallop near the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne where green jersey wearer Peter Sagan lamented one more loss. This is the first Tour de France stage win for the Norwegian with initials AK who claimed Milan-San Remo earlier this year.
Five riders in the lead
At the initiative of the Dutch champion, a group of five riders was formed after ten kilometers of racing, including Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp), Gregory Rast (Trek), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), David De La Cruz (NetApp-Endura) and Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement). Astana and Giant-Shimano were prompt to occupy the first positions of the peloton in order to keep the race together behind the leading quintet. As they cruised in between the wonders of the Beaujolais, with vineyards and castles looking great under hot and sunny conditions, they got a maximum lead of 4.50 at Fleurie, km 43. After 50km of racing, Giant-Shimano’s Chinese rider – and lanterne rouge – Ji Cheng seized the reins of the peloton. He was faithful to his – now famous – nickname: “breakaway killer”.
Heavy fall takes De La Cruz out
At km 90, De La Cruz heavily crashed in a curve in Le Bois-d’Oingt. The Catalan rider was experiencing his first Tour de France and he was keen to challenge son compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez in the King of the Mountains competition but he was forced to quit the Tour with a broken collarbone. Langeveld went down as well but managed to get back on. At km 95, as everyone slowed down, the difference between Clarke, De La Cruz, Vachon and Langeveld at the front had five minutes over the peloton. At half way into the race, Europcar came to the front of the bunch to help Giant-Shimano. The time gap was reduced to 2.15 with 50km to go. The long climb to col des Brosses prevented Vachon and Rast from following the two strongest riders of the front group: Clarke and Langeveld. The two former team-mates at Orica-GreenEdge united their efforts until the Australian rode away solo with 26km to go while Perrig Quémeneur and Cyril Gautier (Europcar) had gone clear off the peloton.
Cannondale leads out, Kristoff concludes
After the last climb on the route, Quémeneur and Gautier reinforced Clarke at the front with 20km to go. Gautier and Clarke surrendered 5km away from the finishing line. It was bunched up before entering Saint-Etienne. Cannondale had kept all their strength for the finish this time but it was still not enough for Peter Sagan to win a bunch sprint as Alexander Kristoff, the only Norwegian in the race, dominated the sprint from far out. The 27 year old from Stavanger put an end to three years of a Norwegian draught at the Tour since Edvald Boasson Hagen won stage 17 to Pinerolo in 2011.