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EuroTrash Mandela Monday!

The last four stages have been packed with Tour excitement and we have all the reports, rider quotes, results, video and photos from France. The highlight has to be Stephen Cumming’s stage win on Mandela Day. Other cycling news from Marcel Kittel, LottoNL-Jumbo, Gert Steegmans and are the BMC riders superstitious? Bring on the Alps!

Just like last week there are a lot of ‘Top Stories’ to choose from, there is a choice of three from Chris Froome alone. We could go with ‘Piss Gate’ the case of a spectator throwing a cup of urine over Froome on stage 14 and shouting ‘dopee’ at the yellow jersey. Or it could be the video of Froome climbing the Ventoux in 2013 and the overlay of his Watts and pulse etc. Some people say that it is evidence, but how accurate is the pulse monitor and was the power meter calibrated properly? Just these two variables can change the whole thing, plus the ‘specialist’ who put it together is far from reliable. Or it could be Froome’s justifiable complaint that some members of the press at the Tour are only there to cast suspicion on the peloton and Froome in particular. The race leader said at the press conference: “Those individuals know who they are. I am not going into specifics details here but those people know who they are and have been extremely irresponsible on the way they have reported on the race.” If there is a story it will come out, but we have to be careful, this is a man’s reputations we are talking about, if they mess up, then it’s open season, but until then…

The other ‘Top Stories’ could be the theft of €500 and a pair of Oakley glasses from the hotel room of Vincenzo Nibali or the one day suspension of Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Sean Yates after his mechanic, Faustino Muñoz, threw a water bottle at the TV Moto after it got in the way of a bike change for green jersey, Peter Sagan. There has been no mention of any action being taken against the camera team.

No, none of these are the ‘Top Story’ for today. It has to be Stephen Cummings winning stage 14 on the climb of the Côte de la Croix Neuve in Mende. Cummings knew he wasn’t the best climber in the group and said he knew he wasn’t the strongest, but he held back and rode the finalé at his pace, keeping the leading French pain of Pinot and Bardet in sight and then delivering the final coup de Grâce by passing them and holding them off to the line. And all on Mandela day and Cummings riding for the African MTN-Qhubeka team, a dream come true. Personally it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I interviewed him when he was at BMC, a one-to-one, after we had been talking for a while and the interview was probably over, the girl press officer wanted to wrap things up and said “are we all done here?” Stephen politely answered: “no, we are having a good chat here,” which we were. A great bloke and a gentleman who deserves a lot more wins.

Read the interview HERE.

Stephen Cummings wins stage 14, one for Nelson:
Tour de France 2015 - stage 14

Tour de France 2015
Joaquim (Purito) Rodriguez (Katusha) claimed his second stage win at the 102nd Tour de France after the Mur de Huy as he soloed to victory with 7.5km to go on the ascent to Plateau de Beille. Under a deluge, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) made the top three while the yellow jersey group crossed the line with a deficit of 6:46. Despite a few attacks, Chris Froome and the Sky team kept the race under control and held the overall lead.

Lotto Soudal set the pace to prevent any attacks before the intermediate sprint won by André Greipel at Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (20km). But there was no green jersey as birthday gift for the German sprinter as Peter Sagan took third place and maintained his advantage of two seconds in the points classification. Right after the sprint; Lieuwe Westra, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Matthieu Ladagnous, Jérémy Roy (FDJ.fr), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quick-Step), Romain Bardet, Mickaël Chérel & Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Bryan Coquard & Romain Sicard (Europcar), Kristjian Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Sylvain Chavanel & Jérôme Coppel (IAM Cycling), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Frédéric Brun & Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Preidler was first over the Col du Portet d’Aspet, Durasek took the Col de la Core and the bunch were at 8:30 with 93 kilometers to go. Kwiatkowski, Preidler and Vanmarcke rode away with 76km to go in the valley just after the descent of the Col de la Core. Preidler was dropped after the Port de Lers and Bardet, Rodriguez, Fuglsang, Sicard, Izagirre and Meintjes started to chase. The peloton were at 12:30.

Between the Port de Lers and Plateau de Beille a hail storm hit the race as Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke forged on. As they cresting the Port de Lers they only had five seconds lead, but as they started the last climb f the day they had 1:50 over Bardet, Chérel, Rodriguez, Fuglsang, Sicard, Izagirre, Barta and Meintjes. Kwiatkowski went solo with 13.5km to go. After getting rid of Bardet and Fuglsang, Rodriguez caught and passed Kwiatkowski 7.5km out. Back in the yellow jersey group; Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) tried to escape from the yellow jersey group, but Sky pulled them back for Chris Froome. also in the group of GC hopeful was: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas (Sky), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Bauke Mollema (Trek). Rodriguez held onto his lead and took his second stage.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 12

Stage winner, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha): “After my bad last two days with hunger and a crash, to go in the break appeared to be a good move. First I thought it would be a bad move as we had only four minutes for quite awhile because there was no ideal cooperation in our group but then that got better. On Plateau de Beille I felt fantastic. I saw soon that Fuglsang would be the hardest competition but when I attacked and I saw his face I knew everything. I decided to go 3 km at 200 percent to permanently drop him. I came here for the GC but now I’ve won two stages. I think for the team this is just as important. And also I’m starting to like this more than fighting for a 5th or 6th place in GC. This is one of my best Tours ever. And the Tour is not over yet. Mende is also a stage I like, as I won there 5 years ago. I also don’t exclude the mountains jersey but it is hard to predict something for that. I am also so happy to win just on the day that our team owner Igor Makarov arrived in the Tour. This is the best present I could give him.”

5th on the stage, Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka): I really wanted to get into the breakaway today, it was the plan for the team. Edvald really helped me to get into the breakaway. We were pushing it all race and the pressure was on, on the descents and unfortunately I took a bit too much of a risk and came down but got back to the group pretty quickly. On the final climb I just didn’t have the legs to go with the front guys.”

2nd on the stage, Tejay van Garderen (BMC): “I knew Sky had a really strong team and they were going to try to neutralize any of the attacks of all the dangerous guys, so when they were jumping, I just sat behind Sky to make sure they pulled them back. Hopefully, those guys will keep doing that so they waste a few of their bullets. Then, in the third week they might pay the price. There were two guys who I needed to mark, guys who I was close to on time, I feel like I did a good job of staying close to them and staying within my limits. It is all going according to plan.”

3rd overall, Nairo Quintana (Movistar): “It was a good work from everyone in the team. A difficult day, with really demanding climbs and, above all, serious temperature changes and rain in the finale. It took even more energy from us, but we stood it and attacked the leader several times. Sky managed to control all of them, as well ours as the ones from Alberto, Vincenzo… they dominated the situation pretty well and have shown to be strong, as well Froome as his team-mates. We’ll keep dreaming and trying; there’s still a long way to go and everything won’t be decided until the final mountain stage. I feel well at the moment, we’re as strong as in previous days; I think my level shouldn’t go down in what’s left in this Tour, and should I keep it like today, I think we can try some good things until Paris. There’s much to cover, we lost some ground already, but there’s some good condition we’ll use to keep fighting till next Sunday.”

6th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “The team worked well, I launched an attack, but nobody wanted to cooperate with me so I decided not to go alone. Sky was strong but still my condition today was much better. We’ll see how the race will go and if it’s possible to take a step up in the GC. It was a difficult day. The first part of the stage was very hot and then it rained. But little by little I felt better. We were all at the same level today. Everybody attacked. So did I, but it didn’t work. You must try again everyday and I hope that my sensations will return in the last week.”

7th overall, Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo): “Today went quite well, although it sucked that I had a puncture at the foot of the Plateau de Beille, it was a bad moment. I took another bike, I started riding to the top as if it was a time trial. Thanks to the adrenaline, I almost made it back to the yellow jersey group. I could see them all the way up, but unfortunately I couldn’t close the gap. I was really strong, it was another good day. It was a shame that I punctured.”

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo): “It was a very tough day today and I also suffered a bit after yesterday with my long breakaway. I think a lot of riders suffered – also because of the conditions. I tried to do my best for Alberto, surely he was feeling much better today and attacked. The final climb was really hard and together with Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger we pushed hard and tried to set a hard tempo early on the climb and we definitely rode this climb really fast. It’s still a long Tour, Alberto feels better and we still try to do our maximum”

Break rider, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quick-Step): “It’s a pity I couldn’t handle the power necessary to stay away on the last climb, it was really steep after a long day out front. Being caught 7.6 kilometers from the finish is too bad, but for me it was a bit unexpected to be in that breakaway in the first place. It was many guys and a lot of strong climbers. I think Sep and I did a great move to stay away from the pure climbers. I think it was smart to be aggressive on the descent before the last climb and build the gap. We worked together well and I’m thankful to him. We played the best tactic possible for our skills. It was too bad we didn’t have enough of a gap to stay away. I couldn’t have done any better than what I did. The rain was even nice to cool off from the heat we dealt with all day, especially with the high temperatures we’ve also been dealing with in the last stages. I tried to fight until the end. It wasn’t enough to win a stage, but I’m happy my performance is getting better and better each day. Congratulations to Rodriguez as he deserved the victory today. He was super strong and he is one of the best climbers in the peloton. I am happy I tried to go for the stage win. I have to be satisfied because you can’t win if you don’t try. It’s a wonderful feeling to do something like this and honor the rainbow jersey in a Tour de France stage. I’m proud to wear it and hope people can appreciate my effort today. There’s still a long way to go to Paris. I’m motivated, the team is motivated, and for sure we’ll try again when there is an opportunity for Etixx – Quick-Step.”

Green jersey, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo): “I had a bit of recovery on the last part of the stage and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. It could be an important stage but I’ll have to see how I feel. We are in a very hard part of the Tour with many mountain stages but it’s true that the fight for the green jersey is really close right now. I want to keep trying and fight for this jersey. Today was a very hard stage and I’m very happy to finish but I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow. The most important thing is to rest right now.”

Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo): “With the team, we had agreed that I would attack so that I could help Robert in the final. It went pretty good, it wasn’t until the final climb that I was caught. I secretly hoped for a top ten, but the climb was too steep for someone with my weight. The last ten kilometers were hard. I’m glad it’s over now, although I amused myself today. I needed this, after last week’s bad luck.”

Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling): “We managed to limit the damage that Mathias suffered though the conditions were made even more difficult by the heat, rain and sometimes hail. The breakaway escaped pretty quickly, but that did not make our jobs any easier. Sky did maintain a steady pace, and the sun literally cooked us until the rain came and dropped the temperature by 20 degrees. On the climb to the Plateau de Beille, I did my best to help Mathias, and then I rode at my own pace along with Castroviejo. I felt good, and I hope that this feeling will continue to get better and better. The Tour is far from over, and we can still dream of a top-10. I was neither worse nor better than on Wednesday, but I just cracked. I was unable to raise my level in order to follow the pace set by Sky.”

Tour de France Stage 12 Result:
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 5:40:14
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 1:12
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1:49
4. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 4:34
5. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka at 4:38
6. Jan Barta (Cze) Bora-Argon 18 at 5:47
7. Romain Sicard (Fra) Europcar at 6:03
8. Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 6:28
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 6:46
10. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 6:47.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 12:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 46:50:32
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 2:52
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:09
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 3:58
5. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 4:03
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4:04
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 5:32
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 7:32
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 7:47
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 8:02.

Stage 12:

Summary – Stage 12 (Lannemezan > Plateau de… por tourdefrance_en

Greg van Avermaet (BMC) took an exciting Stage 13 finalé ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), 3 seconds ahead of Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) brought the bunch in 7 seconds later.

The break of the day was started by: Alexandre Geniez (FDJ.fr), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo). They were joined by Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement). Giant-Alpecin controled the peloton and only allowed them a maximum lead of 4:45. André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) won the intermediate sprint in Laboutarié after 92.5 kilometers. This put the German back into the lead in the points competition, but only till the end of the stage, but Sagan’s 2nd place put him back on top.

The hilly final kilometers and the speed from the Tinkoff-Saxo team caused some splits. Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) managed to fall on his own and lose a lot of skin from his left side, he managed to rejoin the bunch after 15 kilometers of chasing.

Haas attacked the break with 24 kilometers to go, but was caught 6 kilometers later, this set up Kelderman, Gautier and De Gendt to make their bid for glory which so nearly worked, but they were caught with only 300 meters to go on the uphill finish. Greg van Avermaet attacked with Sagan on his wheel, but the green jersey couldn’t get past the Belgian. The main GC men all crossed the line in the top places with Chris Froome (Sky) sixth, holding the yellow jersey.


Stage winner, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC): “It was really close, I went really early because in Le Havre (on Stage 6), everyone was waiting. So I tried to go from the bottom. It was really long the last 100 meters and I saw there was somebody in my wheel, so I just kept on sprinting. I was just hoping that he didn’t come over me. I saw a wheel, but I didn’t know who was there,” Van Avermaet said. “I just kept on going to the line. I knew it would be hard. Once you are there, you just have to keep on going. It was a good finish for me.”

2nd on the stage and green jersey holder, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo): “It was my mistake because I was waiting for too long and when we came near the top I was in the wheel of Van Avermaet but I should have continued to push out of the saddle. I could have won but I should have continued past him, when I came to his wheel. I want to thank all my teammates for the effort they put today for me. It was a very hard finish and I waited too long as I started a bit down but then I came to the wheel of Greg and I stayed there. I should have continued and in the final meters I didn’t have the power. I took points for the green jersey but I really want to win a stage for the team, my teammates and myself.”

5th on the stage, Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo): “For me, this is a good result, I had to take it easy in the sprint because Robert Gesink was on my wheel and therefore couldn’t jump into every hole, but I’m happy with this result and the fact that Robert finished in a good position.”

8th on the stage and 6th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “In these stages it’s important that the team works well. Today it was a good day for us. In the finale, the team did a good job. Peter stayed near the front and had to ride exposed to the wind. Still, he was so close at the finish line. Maybe he didn’t win but he took some points. He has been fighting from the start of the Tour and I hope, or better said I’m sure the well-deserved victory will come another day. Of course it’s frustrating that we didn’t win but we also spent energy in the intermediate sprint. Peter cannot do more than he’s already doing, he is incredible and he also works hard for me. It’s going to be hard to beat Froome, head to head it will be hard, but we need to see what will happen if the other teams also attack from a long distance. If we wait until the last climb, it will be too difficult to make up time. But in this moment, I need to go day by day and recover after these many hot days and I will see what my legs can do in the Alps”.

10th on the stage and 2nd overall, Tejay van Garderen (BMC): “The plan was to watch dangerous breaks and to stay safe and then Greg had a free role in the sprint, it’s incredible. We are really on a roll this Tour with the team time trial win and Rohan Dennis winning the individual time trial and now Greg taking our third stage. I think we are on our way to a successful tour.”

Most combative rider, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal): “It was the plan to have a rider of our team in the breakaway. The beginning of the stage took place on narrow roads and the road went up and down all the time, it wasn’t easy to get away. I could escape the peloton and with the six of us we worked well together. At first it was only Giant – Alpecin that pulled in the peloton. We had agreed not to go full until the intermediate sprint, so they would think they had the situation under control. Then we would raise the tempo. I believed in it till the last twenty kilometers. It cost some energy to respond to the attack of Kelderman. I had hoped the three of us would battle for the stage win, but just like in Paris-Nice this year it was over with only a few hundred meters to go, that’s a pity. It’s nice to get the award of most combative rider. When I was in the break during the cobblestone stage I already hoped to get it, today it certainly had to be for one of the escapees. I would have loved to win the stage of course, but it’s fantastic for Greg after all his attempts; it’s well-deserved. Maybe I attack later in the Tour again. I came to the Tour with a very good condition, without my rib injury I could have already shown myself more, but I’m glad with today’s performance.”

21st on the stage, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo): “Very sad, I was so close. On the road, I did not believe that I would fight for the win. The peloton kept the gap small. When we accelerated and they didn’t really close in on us, I started to believe in my chances. On the final climb, I gave all I had and didn’t look back. With only 500 meters to go, I thought about a victory, but when they caught us, I was done.”

Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka): It was a really hot day but our team was working really well, especially in the end. After always keeping me in the front, Steve and Daniel helped to chase down the break. When it came to the last climb my legs were empty. It was too warm and the lactic acid was too much so I couldn’t do anything on the climb which was a pity, but the team was excellent.

Tour de France Stage 13 Result:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 4:43:42
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
3. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:03
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin at 0:07
5. Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-Jumbo
6. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
10. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 13:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 51:34:21
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 2:52
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:09
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 3:58
5. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 4:03
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4:04
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 5:32
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 7:32
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 7:47
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 8:02.

Stage 13:

Summary – Stage 13 (Muret > Rodez) – Tour de… por tourdefrance_en

MTN-Qhubeka celebrated Mandela Day with orange helmets on Stage 14 and their British rider Stephen Cummings crossed the line first to add to the celebrations. French duelists Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and Romain Bardet (AG2R-LaMondiale) had escaped on the uphill finale, but Cummings deprived the host country of the victory on the day French Republic President; François Hollande was at the race. Chris Froome (Sky) increased his overall lead by 1 second from Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and more on everyone else.

A crash after 5 kilometers involving Thibaut Pinot and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) also took Steve Morabito (FDJ,fr) out of the race. Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) were among the most active riders at the very beginning of the race. A breakaway was formed at 18 kilometer by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Gianpaolo Caruso (Katusha), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18). 19 riders joined them at the front, including Jarlinson Pantano whose IAM Cycling team seriously chased at the head of the peloton. From that group of 24, Andriy Grivko (Astana), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ.fr), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) rode away at the 45 kilometer mark. Talansky was ousted because of a flat tyre after counter-attackers reinforced the leading group.

Right after Peter Sagan won the intermediate sprint under the Millau viaduct (78K) and made a decisive jump in the quest of his fourth green jersey, twenty riders regrouped at the front: Andriy Grivko (Astana), Romain Bardet & Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot, Matthieu Ladagnous and Jérémy Roy (FDJ.fr), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Koen de Kort (Giant-Alpecin), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), Michal Golas & Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Bob Jungels (Trek), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Kristjian Koren (Cannondale-Garmin), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka). After the sprint, they had a maximum lead of 8:15, but Sky stabilized the time gap at around 7 minutes.

Michal Golas was the first rider to attack from the breakaway group with 27 kilometers to go. Kristjian Koren joined him 11km before the finish. FDJ outnumbered the other teams and did most of the work at the front to bring Thibaut Pinot into a favorable position at the bottom of the Côte de la Croix-Neuve. With only nine seconds lead with 5km to go, Golas and Koren had little chance to make it to the finish. Bardet caught them with 3.8km to go. A French duo was formed when Pinot came across to Bardet at 1.8km out. It looked like the passionate duel of the new generation, but Stephen Cummings caught them after the top of climb and rode them off before the last corner to claim a well deserved and very tactical victory. Five minutes behind the breakaway riders, the fight of the “Big Five” confirmed Chris Froome’s superiority. Only Nairo Quintana finished with him and passed Tejay van Garderen (BMC) to move up to second in the overall ranking.


Stage winner, Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka): “I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our lead group. I had to play the waiting game today as FDJ were looking to set up Pinot for the win. I waited and waited and eventually the last climb arrived which I rode at my own pace. Pinot and Bardet were just ahead and I used them as the carrot dangling in front of me for motivation. Everyone went bananas at the start of the climb but the key was to remain calm and take my opportunity when it arrived. I made contact with the two Frenchman at the top of the climb and knew they might hesitate to chase me if I got the jump on them on the flat part before the finish. I threw caution to wind and just went for it. It paid off and I won the stage. This is an incredible day for me and the team, with it being Mandela Day the team was motivated more than usual but I don’t think we can quite believe what has just happened. It may take a while to sink in.”

2nd overall, Nairo Quintana (Movistar): “I’m really happy with having climbed onto second. We knew that patience would bring this place to us, but our real goal, the one we’re focused on, is taking place number one. We have worked hard with the team through all these days, we found a chance to gain time today and we’re staying confident and determined to try some attacks when the big mountains are back, maybe still being able to go after that yellow dream. We didn’t have this stage and climb marked down for an attack, but I felt strong today and we thought that, after the fast pace in the last few days, wear and tear would be more evident. That’s why we wanted to try – we saw we can keep attacking and fighting for our goal. I was really amazed to see so many Colombians again today at the finish; they must be really excited about this, as much as I am to see them, and this brings passion and huge support to me in order to keep pushing.”

3rd overall, Tejay van Garderen (BMC): “I just tried to stay within myself and limit the time loss, it is a pity to move down a place on GC, but the podium is still very much a realistic goal. It was a difficult climb. On those gradients, that is where I tend to struggle the most. The Alps are better suited to my characteristics. I am still looking forward and I am still feeling good. Even though I lost time on a couple of guys, I still gained time on Robert Gesink and Geraint Thomas and a few other guys close on GC, so it was not entirely an unsuccessful day. I kind of knew this day was going to be one I had to get through. Now the Alps present more opportunities and more chances to take back some time.”

5th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “Despite the fact that I lost time, I’m satisfied because I have a different sensation while I’m riding, I can go out of the saddle, I can plan attacks and I feel more confident. However it’s a fact that we lost time today but although Paris seems to be near, the Tour is a long way from being over. And we still hope to achieve nice things in the following days. I was focused on Froome and Valverde and I knew that they were going to accelerate because Quintana was coming from behind. I knew that if I could get a bit of air, I would catch them again, but in the end their last acceleration was too fast for me and I decided to keep my own rhythm. I could have attacked or followed, when Nibali and Quintana made a move, but I decided to play my cards by sitting on the wheel of Froome. You never know which strategy will be the right one, today I played that card, maybe another day I will play a different card. That will depend on how my legs feel. Today we were supposed to have thunderstorms but in the end it didn’t rain. Rain is an important factor that has a strong influence on the performance of each rider and each rider is affected in a different way. Maybe we have rainy weather in the following days and we can take advantage of that.”

7th overall, Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo): “The little crash I was involved in was nothing serious, I only had to chase for twenty kilometers to return to the peloton afterwards. Besides that, I was feeling fine. That last climb was an annoying one. It was hectic, but I started climbing in a good position at the front of the group. In the end, I finished in a group with my main competitors and I was setting the pace.”

4th on the stage, Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step): “Golas and I entered the breakaway at the beginning. I knew the final climb would be the decisive one. When Bardet went I stayed with Pinot as best I could. I had good legs, but not enough to stay with them, and Cummings coming from behind. I fought and really tried to go for the victory, but it wasn’t possible today. Anyway, the stage gave me a lot of motivation for the next stages, especially the ones in the Alps. I will continue to try and go for a stage victory. As a team we are in the actions every day. It would be nice to get another win in the upcoming days.”

5th on the stage and green jersey, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo): “It was really hard because the finale was so tough with a three-kilometer climb of more than 10 percent. I took 20 points in the intermediate sprint and at that point it was really hectic, everybody wanted to break away but I managed to secure the points. It was overall a good day, but the battle for the green jersey is not over. We have seven stages left and we have to pay attention every day. Today, I said to myself that I would try to go as fast as I could on the final climb and I’m okay with the result. The climbers in the group accelerated at the bottom and I thought that I should keep my own pace and perhaps there would be a slight chance that I could catch them at the top. Of course, I would like to win, but it’s not easy for me on a climb like this”, says Peter Sagan before adding about tomorrow’s stage to Valence. Today I was thinking about tomorrow’s stage and I really hadn’t planned to go in the breakaway. But I aimed for the intermediate sprint and suddenly I was in the there and then I stayed, which also meant that I took extra points for the green jersey on the finish line. Maybe I can try again tomorrow but I’m not Superman. So we will see how I feel and for sure we’re going to do our best again, maybe I’m tired and maybe I’m not.”

7th on the stage, Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida): “It has been a very intense stage since the start and the heat made everything even harder. I made an attack attempt in the very early kilometer and some riders joined me, but the peloton neutralized our action. I remained in the head positions of the bunch and when a large group of riders escaped, I was ready to attack and to be in the main breakaway, in which most of the teams were represented. I had good feelings during the stage, even if I was aware that the final hill, with 10% of degree, would have suit better other attackers such as Bardet, Pinot or Uran. When we approach the final climb, I did not react to the series of attacks and I pedaled on a regular pace which allowed me to obtain a result in the top ten.”

16th on the stage, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC): “I did not want to be in the break but I ended up in it because there were about 20 guys away and they closed the roads just after me. So I just went on. I tried to save as much energy as possible. But this kind of finish was pretty hard and I could not make it with the sprinters. It was too steep in the end and too long.”

18th on the stage, Michal Golas (Etixx – Quick-Step): “It was very intense from the start, we tried to be in every big attack. After 20 kilometers I already saw a lot of riders on their knees, with groups everywhere. So, for me, it meant that everybody is tired and for sure a bigger group would go. First Rigo was in a nice breakaway, but IAM decided to chase them down. I knew in the next descent we should be in the front just to have a chance to go in the counter attack. Finally I got into the breakaway. We didn’t really work well at the front. There were some riders trying to save energy. The plan was to bring Rigo to the final in the most comfortable position, without losing energy himself. For me, the only chance was to attack early and make a gap. I said to our sport director Davide Bramati that I would like to try. I hoped more riders would go on the offensive with me. But no one went with me. So, I tried to make the biggest gap possible by myself for the climb, to have some advantage. This would also give Rigo some shelter from having to go into the wind. This would keep him comfortable. So, OK, the plan was two-fold. I think the plan worked out until the end. We missed some legs in the finale. But we showed the aggressive style of racing that Etixx – Quick-Step is known for, which I think people love in cycling. You are extremely tired, but at the end you are happy. You see all this crowd cheering for you. It’s Le Tour de France. It’s always nice to be in the front like this and be part of the big actions of the race. I think we showed once again that we try every day to win a stage. We don’t ride for 2nd place in stages. That’s a nice thing and part of the team spirit.”

Break rider, Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling): “I tried my luck, but it did not work out in the end on that last wall of a climb. But that is also part of cycling. I have not lost hope. I am ready to try my luck again. There are still some great opportunities, and my sensations are good. We have a strong team and Mathias Frank is likely to finish in the top-10. As a result, we are very motivated to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Laurens ten Dam (LottoNL-Jumbo): “It was a double setback for me today, I started the day with antibiotics because I had some respiratory problems. Afterwards, I fell two times and in that second crash those old scars began to bleed again. I hope that my lungs recover quickly and fully because my legs are feeling strong.”

Tour de France Stage 14 Result:
1. Stephen Cummings (GB) MTN-Qhubeka in 4:23:43
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:02
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:03
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:20
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:29
6. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar at 0:32
7. Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Lampre-Merida
8. Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek
9. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar
10. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:33.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 14:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 56:02:19
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:10
3. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 3:32
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 4:02
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4:23
6. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 4:54
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo at 6:23
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 8:17
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 8:23
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 8:53.

Stage 14:

Summary – Stage 14 (Rodez > Mende) – Tour de… por tourdefrance_en

Germany’s André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) claimed his third stage victory of the 2015 Tour de France as he out-sprinted his compatriot John Degenkolb in a bunch gallop in Valence. Stage 15 was again animated by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) who increased his lead in the points classification and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.FR) who confirmed his return to form the day after finishing second in Mende. Chris Froome retained the yellow jersey.

Inspired by the victory of his team-mate Stephen Cummings on Mandela Day, Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) was the first attacker after the start. Lieuwe Westra (Astana) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) inspired a move of 16 riders who rode away in the Côte de Badaroux where Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick Step) lost contact with the peloton. 27 riders gathered in the lead due to the regrouping of several counter-attackers: Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Michael Rogers & Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Winner Anacona & José Herrada (Movistar), Lars Bak & Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez (Katusha), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin & Rigo Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step), Cyril Gautier & Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Bob Jungels (Trek), Kristjian Durasek & Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal & Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) and Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka).

Katusha took charge of the chase straight away and continued to pull even when the breakaway group split. After 35 kilometers, 9 of the 27 leading riders formed a new front group at the initiative of Peter Sagan who rode very aggressively again, the day after his exploit in Mende (5th). The nine escapees were: Pinot, Rogers, Sagan, Bak, Geschke, A. Yates, Hesjedal, Kwiatkowski and Trentin. Katusha gave up with 108km to go while the time difference was 2:20. Sky took over but the maximum time gap was 3 minutes with 80km to go, just before Michael Rogers had a flat tyre, which slowed the front group as his companions waited for him. Rogers led Sagan out for another intermediate sprint victory in Aubenas. Katusha returned to the command of the bunch to bring the deficit down while the group of stragglers including Cavendish and Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) was timed more than eight minutes behind the escapees.

50km before the finish, Matteo Trentin rode away to be eventually joined by Ryder Hesjedal, but they were caught with 30km to go by the peloton led by Europcar. Three teams were working for their sprinters: Lotto Soudal for André Greipel, Katusha for Alexander Kristoff and Europcar for Bryan Coquard. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) tried to repeat his audacious finale of stage 6 with an attack at 3.5km to go but was reeled in under the flamme rouge. Rushing to the line with full confidence after winning stage 2 and stage 5, Greipel proved once again to be the strongest this year while Cavendish was absent. The German “gorilla” from Rostock claimed his ninth stage win at the Tour de France.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 15

Stage winner, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal): “The first 18.5 kilometers were very important for me. If I could survive in the beginning of the stage, I knew that I could sprint for the victory. The biggest task was to stay in the peloton during these tough first kilometers, I really suffered. Afterwards there was a plateau and then there was a downhill. The only obstacle left on the course was a climb of the second category. Lars was in the breakaway. He didn’t help in the front group and because of the great work of Katusha in the peloton, the breakaway didn’t get much space. Also the teammates did an excellent job and surrounded me very well. Tim Wellens kept me out of the wind and they nicely guided me to the sprint. It was a different sprint today because Greg Henderson and Marcel Sieberg weren’t there, but Jens Debusschere and the others really did a great effort. I can only be thankful for their work. I suffered the whole day and I had some problems with my knee. But with the finish line in sight, I can always give that extra push. I knew that in the final 250 meters, there was a headwind. My timing was just good enough, although Degenkolb and Kristoff came close. At first, we came to the Tour de France for one victory, the fact that we won three stages now is just a dream. This sprint was the toughest of all sprint stages. The last chance will be on the Champs-Elysées, but first we’ll have to deal with the Alps. We will see what Paris brings.”

3rd on the stage,Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “It was a bit of a headwind at the end. Greipel had a really good jump and I always struggle a bit when it’s like that so at the end I had good top speed but I just wasn’t fast enough. Today Greipel and Degenkolb were just stronger. I was planning to go at the same time at 250m but Greipel was just stronger and when he started his sprint I could not answer. Really there is only one chance left for the sprinters on the Champs Élysées but if Greipel continues to sprint like this, it will be difficult to beat him. We were at the front a little early and the speed dropped just a bit and I came into the last corner in second position. I wanted to win the sprint and the team did a great job for me. It’s a pity I could not deliver. When the speeds drop off at the end and then I have to pick back up, I always have trouble with that kind of acceleration.”

4th on the stage, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo): “From the start it was a hard parcours and it all ended in a crazy sprint. I wanted to change my bike from my lighter climbing Specialized Tarmac to my fast new Venge for the sprint but a motorbike with a TV crew got in the way between me and my team car, which slowed down my bike change. Meanwhile the group was going at full speed but my teammates came down and supported me. It was very hectic in the sprint and there was a lot of movement but that’s how it is in a sprint, it’s like a lottery sometimes. I wanted to win today and I tried to go in the breakaway because it had a chance to stay away to the finish. Katusha and Europcar were pulling at the front and in the end Greipel won. But nobody from the team crashed or had bad luck so it’s okay. At the finish we had headwind and in the final corner I was too far back. We all know that Greipel is a hard man to beat. It was very hectic in the last 500 meters, where everybody came to the front and I tried to gain positions but Kristoff was in the way and I was fourth. I had hoped that today could have been better but I took some points and it was important that I didn’t crash. Now, we are looking forward to tomorrow and then we have the final rest day.”

3rd overall, Tejay van Garderen (BMC): “We knew that there were some narrow passages and a lot of roundabouts coming into the final kilometers, so we wanted to make sure we were in the front and not in trouble. Today was another really brutal day. It might not have looked like it. But it was full gas from the start and very aggressive. I am still feeling good and confident for the Alps. I think the Alps are definitely more suited to my characteristics as a rider.”

5th overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): “I feel satisfied with the way I raced in this stage, we had a day with no incidents or crashes. There is no doubt it was a hard and tiring stage, as we covered 183km in less than four hours adding up the fatigue of two weeks of racing. This could lead to a surprise in the final week. What I can assure is that I will try to do my best to create situations in the race and achieve something nice”.

9th on the stage, Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida): “The speed of the race was very high from the beginning to the end of the course. That’s why in the sprint I could not rely on a high level of energies, however I could exploit my determination to achieve a result in the top five. I received the precious support from my team which allowed me to be just behind the top sprinters in the final kilometer. I perceived that there was a strong side wind blowing, that’s why it was difficult to try to overtake the other riders on the side of the road. I prefer to make a progression which, however, was not enough to enter in the top five.”

Late attacker, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step): “I tried and didn’t win. I saw a chance at a certain moment and gave my all. Sport Director Brian Holm was saying in my ears that at 3.6 kilometers to go it was good to go by myself. I was hoping someone would join me, but this didn’t happen. Unfortunately the last 3 kilometers it was a full headwind, and just straight forward roads with no turns. It was me against the peloton. But like we’ve been saying this entire Tour, when you don’t try you’ll never win.”

Break rider, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo): “It was a tough day, I was part of a big leading group, but we didn’t get much space. I knew that it was going to be another day in the peloton at that moment. Nine riders escaped out of our leading group of 27, but Team Katusha made sure that the gap to the escape stayed very small. It wouldn’t make sense for me to try to follow those nine riders. It’s a pity because I was feeling good today.”

Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling): “We were really racing full-out all day long, and the heat was suffocating. As we didn’t have a team member in the break of 24 riders, we had to aid the attempt to bring them back with Stef Clement helping Katusha at the front. Then a second group took off, but we hovered in the middle in order to save our energy and to keep some powder dry for the final week of racing. In the end, I mostly helped Mathias Frank. It is important to keep up near the front positions without getting in the way of the sprinters as a way to avoid crashing, but also to be in a good spot if any splits in the pack occur. This worked out well for us today, and then Jarlinson mounted his own attempt to crash the sprinter’s party and try his luck.”

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka): “It was a super-fast day today with Katusha controlling the race impressively for it to come down to a bunch sprint. My legs weren’t great but once we got into the final few kilometers I was able to switch off and do a good lead-out for Edvald. In the end it was 5th place for us, which in this field is not a bad result, but something we could improve on too.”

Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step): “I was up last night with stomach problems,” Cavendish said. “In terms of the team’s tactics we prayed it would be an easy start. But we had the plan to get guys in the breakaway anyway. I felt empty at the start. It’s a shame because I was going good in the last couple of days. I had Mark Renshaw and Michal Golas with me, and we thought there was a chance we could come back. But once Katusha got on the front, and the TV cameras realize there’s a chase happening and so go to the front of the peloton, you know it’s going to be a long day for us guys behind. After about 30 kilometers we knew it was about surviving the day. We knew there wasn’t a chance to win with me. But we knew there were guys that were in the break, which is really good. It was a hard day for us, but I’m still in Le Tour de France. I’m looking forward to just trying to get to Paris and I hope I am not ill in the next days.”

Tour de France Stage 15 Result:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal in 3:56:35
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
6. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale-Garmin
7. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
8. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE
9. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 15:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 59:58:54
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:10
3. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 3:32
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 4:02
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4:23
6. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 4:54
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 6:23
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 8:17
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 8:23
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 8:53.

Stage 15:

Summary – Stage 15 (Mende > Valence) – Tour de… por tourdefrance_en

Steegmans announces retirement from professional cycling
Gert Steegmans has announced his immediate retirement from professional cycling today. The 34-year-old Belgian steps away from the sport after 13 years as a pro.

Steegmans asked the management to be relieved of his contract and cites an absence of purpose to come back after several crashes and injuries as the cause. “I have been playing with the thought of retirement since my crash in Driedaagse De Panne, when I ended up in an ambulance for the second time in three days,” says Steegmans, who also crashed hard in Gent-Wevelgem two days earlier. “Then I was a week off the bike and started in Paris-Roubaix, which ended in another crash for me.”

“One year ago I also considered retiring, but then Trek came along. I am thankful to Luca (Guercilena) for the chance he gave me last winter. He gave me an opportunity when I found myself without a team and I was hungry for a ride. I was brought in to add strength to the Classics team and to watch over the young sprinters in the team – and I was very motivated to do well and prove my value.”

“The first part of the season was disappointing. It already started with a broken toe in Mallorca in January. Racing the Tour of Qatar was a bad decision, but I was the one who had insisted. From there on I struggled from injury to crash to injury. It never stopped,” says Steegmans.

“This sport has given me so much. I consider myself a lucky guy to have had so many lifetime experiences to cherish,” he continues. “I had a lot of fun along the way and met a lot of very nice people. That’s what I take away from this. I don’t like looking back much, I prefer looking forward.”

Steegmans’ biggest wins are in one-day events, or individual stages, where his strong finishing sprint played into his victory. He most notable wins are the final stage of the 2008 Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées, but also his Tour de France stage win into Ghent in 2007.

Gert Steegmans:
Reconnaissance session  Paris - Roubaix 201R

Rhythm investment in Belgian Races
Erik Dekker will be in Belgium next week with a few riders to regain race rhythm after a period of training. Team LottoNL-Jumbo aims high for the GP Jose Dubois Isières, de GP Cerami and de GP Beeckman-De Caluwé Ninove.

“We want to regain race rhythm in the run-up to the various WorldTour races that will be held after the Tour de France, but we always ride to win,” Dekker said. “We want to be aggressive anyway. Most of the riders haven’t raced for a while. You always have to wait and see how they’ll do because some need one day to get back into it, others a little longer.”

Mike Teunissen looks forward to race again. “The next three races are perfect to start up again. Certainly, the Kermesse races will be chaotic with many attacks and little organization, and I personally like those kinds of races. We also have Tom Van Asbroeck and Moreno Hofland with us for the sprints. We want to show ourselves in the front, just like the others are doing in the Tour de France.”

Teunissen recently, after a week of rest, travelled to the Black Forest for a training camp. In Germany, he’s working towards the second half of the season with confidence. “The last few months I noticed that I reached a higher level. In the Tour de Suisse, the World Ports Classic and the Dutch road race, I was able to properly do my share of work.”

Team line-up GP Jose Dubois Isières (July 21)
Tom van Asbroeck, Brian Bulgac, Rick Flens, Moreno Hofland, Nick van der Lijke, Barry Markus, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Maarten Tjallingii, Robert Wagner & Maarten Wynants.

Team line-up GP Cerami (July 22)
Tom van Asbroeck, Rick Flens, Moreno Hofland, Nick van der Lijke, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Maarten Tjallingii, Robert Wagner & Maarten Wynants.

Team line-up GP Beeckman-De Caluwé Ninove (July 23)
Tom van Asbroeck, Brian Bulgac, Rick Flens, Moreno Hofland, Nick van der Lijke, Barry Markus, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Maarten Tjallingii, Robert Wagner & Maarten Wynants.

Sports Director GP Jose Dubois Isières, GP Cerami & GP Beeckman-De Caluwé Ninove: Erik Dekker.

Moreno Hofland:
Ster ZLM Toer 2015 stage-4

Marcel Kittel to Race Tour de Pologne
German sprinter Marcel Kittel will continue his season at the Tour de Pologne. The stage race, scheduled for August 2-8, consists of six stages and a closing individual time trial. Kittel will then work toward the Vattenfal Cyclassics and GP Ouest France – Plouay one-day races at the end of August.

“I am looking forward to racing again after a good period of training at home,” said Kittel. “The Tour de Pologne is a nice race to get back into racing and gain rhythm. As a team, we will be aiming to win sprint stages in Poland.”

Marcel Kittel’s 2015 high point:

Are the BMC Riders Superstitious?
Find out in this team video:

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