Preview — 2016 Tour de France, stage 11
The objective for stage 11 is clear: to put a smile back on the sprinters’ faces. The pure fast men won’t want to let this flat run slip through their grasp. If Cavendish, Kittel, Kristoff, or Greipel wants to have a chance of winning the green jersey, they’ll have to score points on this stage, and score a lot more than Sagan, who may have already made his mark in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, Limoges, and maybe even in Revel, if he can stay with the pace on the Envalira.
It was pandemonium in the Tour de France peloton on a relatively short stage 11 that was expected to be a simple sprinters’ day. Crosswinds thrashed the bunch on Wednesday, and Peter Sagan rode away with Chris Froome in a group of four to win the day in Montpellier.
“Something crazy was happened. I didn’t believe the attack could go,” said Sagan. “And then Froomey and Geraint Thomas went with us, and I said, ‘They are too strong. They are never gonna catch us.’ It’s unbelievable.”
With about 10km to go, the world champion launched an audacious attack, and Froome was quick to follow. Sagan had his Tinkoff teammate Maciej Bodnar to ride support, and Froome relied on his Sky lieutenant Geraint Thomas. At one point, the foursome’s lead was 22 seconds over the peloton. Although the advantage was whittled down to six seconds at the finish, they stayed away — Sagan won; Froome clawed 12 seconds out of his rivals with a second-place result and time bonus. Bodnar was third after 165.5km of racing.
Stage 11, top 10
- 1. Peter SAGAN, TINKOFF, in 3:26:23
- 2. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, at :00
- 3. Maciej BODNAR, TINKOFF, at :00
- 4. Alexander KRISTOFF, TEAM KATUSHA, at :06
- 5. Christophe LAPORTE, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :06
- 6. Jasper STUYVEN, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :06
- 7. Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, DIMENSION DATA, at :06
- 8. André GREIPEL, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :06
- 9. Sondre HOLST ENGER, IAM CYCLING, at :06
- 1. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, in 52:34:37
- 2. Adam YATES, OBE, at :28
- 3. Daniel MARTIN, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :31
- 4. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :35
- 5. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :56
- 6. Romain BARDET, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :56
- 7. Sergio Luis HENAO MONTOYA, TEAM SKY, at :56
- 8. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 1:13
- 9. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC RACING TEAM, at 1:13
- 10. Roman KREUZIGER, TINKOFF, at 1:28
The breakaway formed in the opening kilometers when Arthur Vichot of FDJ broke away. He was joined shortly after by IAM Cycling’s Leigh Howard.
Just 25km into the stage, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and others were involved in a crash on a wide-open country road. A handful of riders went down a little more than halfway back in the peloton, mostly riding off the road into a ditch. A few other riders crashed in the early windy kilometers as they tried to rejoin the front half of the peloton: George Bennett (LottoNL – Jumbo), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Lawson Craddock (Cannondale – Drapac), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre – Merida), Edward Theuns (Trek – Segafredo), and Alex Howes (Cannondale – Drapac).
The wind forced Sky and the other teams with GC hopefuls to stay at the front of the main group, trying to keep their leaders out of trouble and put the pressure on the second group, which was around 30 seconds behind. Going into the final 20 kilometers, the rear bunch bridged the gap.
As the route wound its way toward Montpellier, the peloton was alternately buffeted by crosswinds and headwinds, depending on the road direction.
As the riders reached a crosswind section, with about 12km to go, Sagan made his move. Froome was attentive and right on the front. The yellow jersey put his head down and hopped onto Bodnar’s wheel, and Thomas was able to go as well, just barely bridging the gap.
“It’s unbelievable,” Sagan added. “To go in breakaway with green jersey, yellow, and guys like Bodnar and Thomas — you cannot plan that. It just happened.”
The four worked well together in the crosswinds, and were aided by a lack of organization among the sprinters’ teams.
Bodnar led out the sprint in the final kilometer, and Sagan handily beat Froome, but the Briton was still able to grab six bonus seconds with his second-place finish.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Froome. “I definitely didn’t think I would be coming second today sprinting with Peter Sagan.”
Froome’s main rival in the Tour overall, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana was not too concerned by the time lost, but he had some harsh words for Tour organizers. “It really was tense. Sometimes organizers don’t think about the cyclists — they want a spectacle but they don’t realize they’re putting us in very dangerous situations,” he said.
On Thursday, the peloton faces one of the race’s most fearsome mountains, Mont Ventoux. The 184km stage 11 hinges on the hors categorie summit finish but also includes a category 4 and a category 3 climb before Bédoin. However, there is some concern that the finish climb will be shortened due to wind.