photo credits @ Le Tour/Twitter
Joaquim Rodriguez claimed stage 12 of the Tour de France today, with a solo finish following the Mur de Huy – marking the Katusha rider’s second victory ‘s in this year’s race.
The Spanish rider gritted his way up a rainy, windy climb to Plateau de Beille, leaving behind Jakob Fuglsang, Romain Bardet, Michal Kwiatkowski and a plucky Sep Vanmarcke along the way. It was a masterful climb. Fuglsang, Bardet and Kwiatkowski are all serious climbers, and Rodriguez soloed away time from all of them, winning by more than a minute.
Rodriguez managed to jettison his breakaway companions, Bardet and Fuglsang, with fewer than eight kilometers remaining and quickly cracked Kwiatkowski, who attempted to take the stage himself after leaving Vanmarcke.
Roughly seven minutes back on the climb, the pre-race favorites took turns attacking at each other. Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde all attempted breakaways up the final climb in hopes of cracking Team Sky’s ironclad barrier around Chris Froome. It didn’t work. Every time, Geraint Thomas nudged up the paced to tow the chase back up to the break.
Froome looked most vulnerable when he made a move himself, but he was followed tightly by Quintana, Contador and Tejay Van Garderen. Alejandro Valverde tried to sling shot around the riders, but he too was reeled in and eventually Thomas was reestablished the pace in front of a chase filled with the Tour’s heaviest hitters.
Ultimately, only Valverde was able to take one second from Froome, sprinting hard with under a kilometer to go to sneak ahead of the Maillot Jaune. Sky won’t be happy about conceding any time, but Valverde’s surge shouldn’t worry Froome much. After the stage, Froome and Team Sky still have a firm grasp on this year’s race.
One thing was clear about today’s, that each team was willing to collaborate to weaken Sky’s grip on the race. Indeed, the constant counter-punching almost felt coordinated, and it briefly left Froome vulnerable twice — once when Richie Porte chase a Valverde and left Froome unprotected, and a little later when Froome went solo.
Froome clearly won the Pyrenees, but the Alps are looming and Thursday was a good indication that the rest of the field will do everything it can to make his life difficult.
Stage 12 Results
ESP 1 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA) 5:40:14
DEN 2 FUGLSANG, Jakob (ASTANA) + 1:12
FRA 3 BARDET, Romain (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 1:49
ESP 4 IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, Gorka (MOVISTAR) + 4:34
RSA 5 MEINTJES, Louis (MTN – QHUBEKA) + 4:38
CZE 6 BARTA, Jan (BORA-ARGON 18) + 5:47
FRA 7 SICARD, Romain (EUROPCAR) + 6:03
FRA 8 CHEREL, Mikael (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 6:28
ESP 9 VALVERDE BELMONTE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) + 6:46
GBR 10 FROOME, Christopher (SKY) + 6:47
COL 11 QUINTANA ROJAS, Nairo Alexander (MOVISTAR)
FRA 12 PINOT, Thibaut (FDJ)
USA 13 VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (BMC RACING)
ESP 14 CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (TINKOFF – SAXO)
FRA 15 ROLLAND, Pierre (EUROPCAR)
ITA 16 NIBALI, Vincenzo (ASTANA)
GBR 17 THOMAS, Geraint (SKY)
NED 18 GESINK, Robert (LOTTO NL – JUMBO) + 7:44
NED 19 MOLLEMA, Bauke (TREK FACTORY RACING)
ESP 20 SANCHEZ GONZALEZ, Samuel (BMC RACING) + 9:13
USA 21 TALANSKY, Andrew (CANNONDALE – GARMIN) + 9:46
FRA 22 GALLOPIN, Tony (LOTTO SOUDAL)
FRA 23 BARGUIL, Warren (GIANT – ALPECIN)
SUI 24 FRANK, Mathias (IAM CYCLING)
ARG 25 SEPULVEDA, Eduardo (BRETAGNE-SECHE ENVIRONNEMENT)
NED 26 TEN DAM, Laurens (LOTTO NL – JUMBO)
POL 27 KWIATKOWSKI, Michal (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) + 11:35
FRA 28 VUILLERMOZ, Alexis (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 11:47
General Classification after Stage 12
GBR 1 FROOME, Christopher (SKY) 46:50:32
USA 2 VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (BMC RACING) + 2:52
COL 3 QUINTANA ROJAS, Nairo Alexander (MOVISTAR) + 3:09
ESP 4 VALVERDE BELMONTE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) + 3:58
GBR 5 THOMAS, Geraint (SKY) + 4:03
ESP 6 CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (TINKOFF – SAXO) + 4:04
NED 7 GESINK, Robert (LOTTO NL – JUMBO) + 5:32
FRA 8 GALLOPIN, Tony (LOTTO SOUDAL) + 7:32
ITA 9 NIBALI, Vincenzo (ASTANA) + 7:47
NED 10 MOLLEMA, Bauke (TREK FACTORY RACING) + 8:02
FRA 11 BARGUIL, Warren (GIANT – ALPECIN) + 9:43
SUI 12 FRANK, Mathias (IAM CYCLING) + 12:25
ESP 13 SANCHEZ GONZALEZ, Samuel (BMC RACING) + 12:53
DEN 14 FUGLSANG, Jakob (ASTANA) + 13:33
ESP 15 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA) + 13:45
FRA 16 ROLLAND, Pierre (EUROPCAR) + 13:57
FRA 17 BARDET, Romain (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 17:05
USA 18 TALANSKY, Andrew (CANNONDALE – GARMIN) + 19:32
ESP 19 IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, Gorka (MOVISTAR) + 26:57
ARG 20 SEPULVEDA, Eduardo (BRETAGNE-SECHE ENVIRONNEMENT) + 28:19
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