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TOUR’15 St.20: Pinot Wins Alpe d’Huez, Froome Yellow

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Race Report: Thibaut Pinot claimed his second stage win at the Tour de France in the mythical Alpe d’Huez three years after his debut at Porrentruy. It was brilliant win built collectively by FDJ with Alexandre Geniez attacking from the gun. Pinot resisted to the return of Nairo Quintana who attacked Chris Froome just as he promised to do but the Kenyan-born rider kept an advantage of 1.12 over his arch-rival in the overall classification on the eve of the conclusive stage in Paris.

 

If you like sub-plots, then today was the Tour de France stage for you. Could Quintana crack Froome? Would Movistar risk all for glory? Would Sky hang on? How about the holy, youthful trinity of Bardet, Pinot and Barguil for the home nation? In the end, it was Thibaut Pinot salvaging a glorious Tour from the jaws of desperation with a scintillating l’Alpe d’Huez victory, as Chris Froome survived a Colombian onslaught to seal a second Tour de France title.

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From the start to the Col de la Croix de Fer: Marc Madiot had obviously laid a plan, or simply laid reality on the line for his riders: attack and set up Pinot or else. Alexander Geniez was first away for FDJ as the penultimate stage started like the previous 19 – as if a rabid pack of dogs was chasing the riders – at manic speed.

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Alpe d’Huez was closed to cars days ahead of the stage, and even the lower slopes were barriered to keep the fans in check. Thankfully the Dutch Corner revelled in all its orange glory as the signature mid-way of the iconic climb.

 

On the Croix de Fer
Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Cofidis’ Nicolas Edet and Cannondale-Garmin’s Ramunas Navardauskas joined Geniez and things calmed down as they headed for the Col de la Croix de Fer in a rejigged stage route. However, as expected, the mayhem was unleashed after Sky, Ag2r and Movistar had all attempted to bend the race to their respective wills.

Alejandro Valverde (in third for Movistar at the start of the day) took off as Sky were reduced to Froome, Porte and Roche. Next up, Nairo Quintana (second, Movistar) took off after his team-mate. Ahead, serenely battling skywards was Geniez around 2’40” clear of Froome, with a scattergun of riders in between.

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The day started with a climb straight up the Croix de Fer .

Contador was in trouble, and Nibali had tried an attack … which after yesterday’s uproar simply riled Froome into action. The yellow jersey put the hammer down as what could be described as a leading group turned in on itself.

The pace slowed allowing Contador and a host of others to claw their way back, but a new foursome formed that would shape the stage result: FDJ’s Pinot, hooking up with Anacona (Movistar), Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) and Plaza (Lampre-Merida).

Onto l’Alpe d’Huez
Geniez started the final significant climb of the race with almost four minutes on Froome’s group, and the chase started to fragment more or less as soon as the road tilted up. Nibali punctured and needed team-mates to help him as Quintana made a tentative stab at Froome’s metaphorical midriff. Sky’s Wout Poels, who’d got back on earlier and has proved his value over recent days, policed the Colombian and it all came back together.

Valverde had another go, getting a gap, and then Quintana tried again, succeeding in putting Contador to the sword. Froome looked to be struggling so Quintana tried yet again … this time Froome couldn’t respond. The Colombian hooked up with Valverde and gradually pulled clear, before Valverde was cooked.

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Froome kept his cool under a barrage of attacks from all sides, but rode like a champ to secure his second Tour win.

Froome still had Poels and Porte with him to shepherd him. Ahead, Hesjedal had a few goes at getting rid of Pinot, once Geniez had been pulled back inside the final ten kilometers. Pinot stuck the boot in, flying solo, and motoring up the hairpins.

The fans were in a frenzy: a Frenchman heading for victory on one of the race’s most iconic climbs; and an actually pretty all-round decent ‘bad guy’ to vent their fury at. Whatever you feel about Froome and Sky, it takes a mental constitution of incredible proportions to handle what was being thrown (or spat or screamed) at Froome today.

Pinot was slicing through the crowds like Moses toying with the Red Sea; Quintana passing Hesjedal behind him; Froome running the gauntlet alongside Valverde further back.

Heading through five kilometers to race, Pinot had obviously got fed up of the racket coming from his boss through his earpiece, and tore it out.

tdf15st20-quintanatwoQuintana was eating into Froome’s overall lead gluttonously, but he was going to run out of road to either overhaul Pinot for the stage or Froome for yellow. Three clicks to go, and he was over a minute clear, but needed double that and more. Just too little, too late.

Quintana accelerated again and suddenly from looking relatively secure, Pinot’s gap looked a bit more precarious as he labored onwards. Under the red kite, he had 22 seconds, so it wasn’t a done deal.

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A huge day for Thibot Pinot, and the best redemption imaginable after his disaster on the cobbles of stage 4.

Porte dropped off and Froome had to keep his head right for the final haul to the line, but the day’s glory goes to Pinot – a fantastic result for the young French climber. Quintana comes home second and Hesjedal is third … stopwatches come out. We wait for Froome, and the gap ticks out: 1’00”, 1’10”, 1’20”.

Froome is safe by an overall margin of 1’12”. The Tour is won, and won well in tough circumstances. And as a final nose-thumbing to his detractors, Froome also takes the King of the Mountains title, too.

Keep it Pez for all the roadside reaction!

Tour de France Stage 20 Results
1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 3:17:21
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:18
3. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:41
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:38
5. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:01:41
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:02:11
8. Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:32
9. Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky 0:02:50
10. Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Lampre-Merida
11. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:03:06
12. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:03:12
13. Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:26
14. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:30
15. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
16. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
17. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
18. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
19. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
20. Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
21. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:16
22. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:04:27
23. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:04:38
24. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:04:53
25. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:04:56.

Overall After Stage 20
1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 81:56:33
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:01:12
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:25
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:36
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:09:48
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:10:47
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing 0:15:14
8. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:15:39
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:16:00
10. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:17:30
11. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:22:06
12. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:22:50
13. Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN – Qhubeka 0:31:03
14. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:31:15
15. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:31:39
16. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:38:52
17. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 1:02:51
18. Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1:05:00
19. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling 1:09:08
20. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 1:16:36
21. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 1:21:27
22. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 1:24:58
23. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 1:25:23
24. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar Team 1:26:05
25. Jan Barta (Cze) Bora-Argon 18 1:26:56.

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