Stage 13 is done and dusted and what a Stage it was, in fact what a Tour it’s been so far and we’re only just over half way.
Mark Cavendish finally had reason to smile after a tough few days as he beat out Peter Sagan in the sprint finish in Saint Armand Montrond. It was a lot easier a victory than Cavendish would have expected, with the Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprinter part of 14 man late breakaway.
The day looked pretty simple on paper. Flat and with a tail wind, a breakaway would form early, the teams of the sprinters would shut it down late, we’d have a bunch finish and the quickest man would win.
Things clearly don’t always go to plan.
The race for the General Classification, expected to be unchanged after this stage, had the biggest twist, with the top two riders suffering time losses. Alejandro Valverde, who started the day in second position, was the worst affected, a puncture at precisely the wrong moment – no team cars behind the peloton to assist him in pacing back – saw the Spaniard lose almost ten minutes and tumble out of the top 10.
Even more interesting though were the fortunes of the man in yellow, Chris Froome. Froome lost one of his best allies when team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen was unable to start the race this morning after fracturing his shoulder blade in the crash yesterday, and after having already been isolated once this Tour, his rivals sensed weakness.
Nobody, however, would have expected today’s stage for an attempt to exploit that weakness. Alberto Contador and his Saxo Tinkoff team-mates had other ideas. With 30 kilometres remaining on the stage, the boys in dark blue noticed Froome sitting a little too deep in the peloton. With the high winds, they sensed if they could create a break, they’d be able to stay away, so six Saxo Tinkoff riders took off – their plan working perfectly.
The move proved to be decisive, with Froome finishing a minute behind the group that not only included Contador and his team-mate Roman Kreuziger but also the Belkin pair of Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam, all right up there in the General Classifcation.
Contador might not have looked as dangerous in the mountains so far, but clearly he still knows how to ride a 3 week race and the fact that Sky was caught out yet again will have all those who wish to take the yellow of Froome’s back very interested.
Last year Bradley Wiggins had a team around him that was invincible, it’s fair to say Froome’s squad looks anything but that right now, and his body language as he collected the yellow jersey at the after stage presentation suggests he is concerned.
Cavendish, alert enough to get himself in the break, got the second stage win he craved after a few tough days, but with the race for green seemingly over, the real interest is in the race for overall honours. The mountains are going to test Froome and Sky, I for one can’t wait to see how they fare, bring on Mont Ventoux on Sunday.