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Tour de France Stage 13: Cavendish Wins in Select Group

OPQS Dominates Battle in the Wind
Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team won the Combativity Award for Tour de France Stage 13 today, and for very good reason. A 173km flat stage turned into complete chaos due to crosswinds, thanks to OPQS driving it to blow the peloton to pieces.

OPQS and Belkin Pro Cycling Team worked together after echelons formed to put themselves in the best position for a stage victory. The plan was executed so well that riders who missed out on the lead group never caught back on, and ended up down by seven or eight minutes in the final kilometers.

Sensing fatigue in the front group, Saxo-Tinkoff decided it was time to attack with the crosswinds at about 30km to go. OPQS was able to hang on with the acceleration. Niki Terpstra, Sylvain Chavanel, and Mark Cavendish made the select group despite the fact that OPQS had already been keeping the tempo high for most of the race. Peter Sagan (Cannondale ProCycling) also made it across.

120713 OPQS TDF 13 - Team OPQS (c)Tim DeWaele

In the final kilometers, Saxo-Tinkoff kept driving the pace to put some time into Chris Froome in yellow for Alberto Contador. Sky continued to lose teammates for the chase and eventually, the gap was more than a minute as Cannondale and OPQS moved riders to the front of the yellow jersey group to let the gap grow.

By the Flamme Rouge, the gap was more than a minute, and Niki Terpstra had launched an attack to try and use up some energy on the part of Cannondale for the chase. Sylvain Chavanel then started the leadout, but Sagan was the one on his wheel and Cavendish waiting on Sagan.

The move proved to be the right one for Cavendish, as he launched his sprint and was able to win his 25th Tour de France Stage. It was also the 42nd (40th road) for OPQS in three disciplines in 2013, and the third victory of the Tour.

“It was incredible, we talked about it this morning as we knew the wind was strong,” Cavendish said. “Gert Steegmans wanted to go, this was after 60km, and Tony Martin said to wait a little longer. Next thing, Gert goes and it just kicked off from there. It wasn’t quite strong enough to break it open completely, but then Saxo-Tinkoff went again later. It was incredible. I am so happy and proud of the guys. They rode out of their skin today, like, every one of them. It is just incredible to get a win like that.”

Cavendish admitted it was not easy to catch onto the select group that decided the finish, especially after doing so much work earlier in the stage and with such strong crosswinds.

“I barely made it,” Cavendish said. “Michal Kwiatkowski had been riding for us at the front so he was a bit gassed, but he still worked to get me across. I finally said ‘move left’ and he moved left, and I had to sprint to make it. I managed to just get in when the echelons started. You know that feeling where you know you’ve got five seconds or it’s over? You’ve got five seconds to make it, and that’s it. So, I just sprinted across.”

OPQS knew how to handle these conditions based on the pedigree and tradition of the team, according to Cavendish.

“We’re a Belgian team used to riding in the crosswinds,” Cavendish said. “We’ve got guys who are experienced at it. They’re strong at it, so along with Belkin it was a strong combination to get the move going and split the peloton to begin with.”

Some clever tactics in the final proved to be crucial for the victory.

120713 OPQS TDF Stage 13- Cavendish arrival(c)Tim De Waele

“Sagan is a very strong guy,” Cavendish said. “We’re lucky we had three there, as Sagan only had one other guy. So, we knew if we launched Niki with a kilometer to go, Sagan would have to use up his leadout man. I made sure I stayed on Sagan’s wheel so Chavanel could take him and drop him off early. I knew if he dropped him off early into a headwind finish I’d just come around him. Sagan knew it was too early, so he kind of hesitated to get on the front. I just kicked it and am so happy I could stay away for the win. I’m so, so happy and proud of the guys today. The Tour de France is the most incredible race, and really the biggest annual sporting event, in the world. It means so much to me. When I think about this race I want to cry. It makes the wins that more special and the losses that much more amplified. Every July is what I look forward to when I start training in October. Today, I just finished off the work of my team. The guys rode out of their minds, they really rode their legs off. To watch them do that and then finish it off, it makes me incredibly proud.”

Cavendish couldn’t stop smiling after the stage win, and he explained the team chemistry is a huge reason why everyone is so happy.

“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Cavendish said. “I think we’ve got what, eight nationalities here at the Tour on our team? We’re a Belgian team with eight nationalities here and it really shows what kind of a dynamic group we are. We really have so much fun. We don’t just eat dinner and then go to bed. We sit around the table, we talk. I’m so happy, you can see how happy I am with this team and you can see how happy everyone else is. We’re all incredibly good friends and that really speaks volumes to our results and to our morale when riding our bikes.”

120713 OPQS TDF Stage 13- Cavendish podium(c)Tim De Waele
Photos: De Waele/OPQS.

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