Monday, June 17, 2024

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 20: Annecy > Annecy – Semnoz, 125km. The Bigs Battle It Out

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Le Tour de France

Whilst we did muse over the possibility as we supped our McDonald’s coffee this morning, I was unprepared for it actually happening. What I’m talking about is the setting of Alberto Contador’s sun – both Quintana and Rodriguez distanced him on the very last climb of the 2013 Tour de France to Semnoz to elbow him off the podium.

I thought he’d resist Rodriguez, at least.

But no, both of them combined to push Alberto off the podium – his natural habitat for the last decade.

The end of an era.

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Bert slipped of the podium today – have we seen the end of an era? Photo©Martin Williamson

He was the best stage race rider of his generation and one of just a handful of riders to win all three Grand Tours – joining Anquetil, Gimondi, Merckx and Hinault.

Enough said.

If Froome can maintain the raging fire of desire inside him then he’s set to take over Contador’s crown.

But that’s a big ‘if’ – last season Bradley Wiggins was unstoppable.

However that was last year and, ‘the force was strong’ – it’s apparent that his motivation just isn’t the same for 2013.

Froome is a very different character to Wiggins and it’s not difficult to imagine him wanting to win five Tours to join the Greats.

But if he takes that route then it’s unlikely he can ever win a Giro or Vuelta – unless he gives le Tour a ‘by.’

If any further proof was needed that the Giro/Tour or Tour/Vuelta ‘double’ is no longer a viable proposition then check out Cadel Evans position on the GC.

The two Giro and Tour have very different characters but share the fact that the main protagonists have built their whole year around those 23 days.

There simply isn’t time to recover, build up and peak between the Giro/Tour or Tour/Vuelta.

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Rodriguez rode hard to ensure his place on the Tour podium. Photo©Ed Hood

Albeit, if you have strong motivation, the Giro/Vuelta ‘double’ is possible – ask Rodriguez.

Quintana is the sensation of the race, a stage, second on GC, best young rider and king of the mountains – wow!

But it’s too early to announce him as the second coming – does the name Andy Schleck ring some bells?

Second in the Giro at an early age, a Tour win at the expense of Contador and since then?

Nada.

Being the left field player coming in with no weight of expectation is one thing.

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Romain Kreuziger seems to perform better without the expectation that comes with being the team leader. Photo©Martin Williamson

Dealing with that weight of expectation from the Media and sponsors going in to a Grand Tour is another.

And Rodriguez demands respect, determinedly edging his way back up the standings to make him one of a very few riders to make the podium in all three Grand Tours.

Valverde was strong again, today – there’s little doubt that had he not been caught out in the day of the cross winds then he’d have been a challenger.

And take note of Andrew Talansky’s name – it’s not so long ago he was riding as an amateur for the California Giant team in the USA.

He was right there, today and it would be no surprise to see him on a Grand Tour podium, next year.

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Andrew Talansky has been prominent in this race. Photo©Martin Williamson

And all of France owes a ‘merci‘ to Christophe Riblon for his splendid win on l’Alpe.

Had it not been for the AG2R man then it would have been a disastrous Tour for the home nation.

Tommy Voeckler just hasn’t been himself; Thibaut Pinot bailed out; Brice Feillu is anonymous; Chava isn’t the Chava of old and whilst Rolland tried hard yesterday, he’s not the same rider he was in 2009.

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Tommy Voeckler doesn’t like not being at the front, and adopts something akin to a pout. Photo©Martin Williamson

It felt surreal to be on the Semnoz watching the second ‘Englishman’ in two years en route to winning the biggest race on the planet – hard to take in.

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Chris Froome, second British winner in two years. Wonder if we’ll see a Scottish winner in our lifetime? Photo©Ed Hood

I can remember talking to Chris Froome in his Barloworld days back in 2009 when he was fourth in the British elite road race championships in Abergavenny behind Kristian House, Dan Lloyd and Peter Kennaugh.

Martin and I were hugely impressed with his aggression, relentlessly attacking the break because he knew if it came to the sprint then he had no chance.

It was apparent that he was a rider of quality – but never for a moment did we imagine we were watching a Tour de France winner.

He first showed his true class in the 2011 Vuelta, with many believing he could have beaten Juan Jose Cobo had Sky put their arsenal behind him instead of Wiggo.

But in fairness to David Brailsford he had a dilemma; back a man who had finished fourth in the Tour or a man who may just have been having a bit of a purple patch?

And then there was last year; there’s little doubt that Froome’s ‘accidentally’ dropping Wiggo was a wee illustration that he could be off on his own up those cols whenever he felt like it.

A friend of ours who’s close to Sky DS Sean Yates told us that Sean’s words to Christopher over the radio were; ‘Froomey, what the f**k are you doing? Get back here!

The motivation behind Froome’s riding the Vuelta last year seemed pure and simply that he was desperate to win a Grand Tour and couldn’t wait another year.

But even Froome couldn’t recover in time to compete with three highly motivated Spanish stars all rested and peaking for the race.

This year saw his stage race campaign unroll flawlessly – bar Tirreno where Nibali showed his class – and from the start there was little doubt that Froome would win this Tour.

And spare a thought for his team – not just Porte who’s usually with him or close behind him by the time we see the finale of the stage – but Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Peter Kennaugh, David Lopez and Kantstantin Siutsou.

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Richie Porte still looks okay, and has been one of the strongest riders in the race. Photo©Martin Williamson

They ride past looking like ghosts, way down the field, a thousand yard stare in their eyes – of course we haven’t them seen them do the early ‘dirty work’ riding tempo for hours, fetching bottles and gels; carrying capes and arm warmers back and forward from the car…

Well, it’s time to leave our glamorous Premier Class hotel/sauna – it was like an oven last night – and head for Paris.

And tomorrow, as Mr. Chapman always says; ‘your credentials will be no good to you, now!

A horrible thought.

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Alessandro De Marchi wipes the sweat away – or thanks his stars that the climbing is going to be over in 4km’s time. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Our pal from the time trial, French Champion Arthur VIchot looks like he’s not enjoying the climb at Semnoz. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Maxime Monfort wonders why I’m lying on my back to take his photo. Photo©Martin Williamson
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The pain and suffering neatly summarised on Daniel Navarro’s face. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Heading for 30th place on the day, Igor Anton. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Nico Roche will finish 41st in Paris after three works of working for Contador. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Philippe Gilbert is prominent in the race, but mostly due to his rainbow bands rather than his performance. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Jérôme Pineau thinks about turning round and going back to help Cavendish, before realising that Cav’s just around the next bend. Photo©Martin Williamson
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Yesterday’s winner Rui Costa. Photo©Martin Williamson