Tour de France Stage 17: Team Sky tighten grip on Tour one-two, Valverde takes stage

Liquigas-Cannondale work all day for Nibali, but it's Wiggins and Froome left standing on final climb

by Simon_MacMichael   July 19, 2012  

Tour de France 2012 poster

Team Sky are heading towards an historic double in Paris on Sunday after Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins finished second and third respectively behind Movistar's Alejandro Valverde in Stage 17 of the Tour de France at Peyragudes today. Vincenzo Nibali's Liquigas-Cannondale team rode hard to try and set him up to take time back on the final climb of the final mountain stage of this year's race, but it was the Sicilian himself who was distanced inside the closing kilometres.

The one man who could potentially have threatened Wiggins' march towards the overall win was Froome himself, who looked as through he could easily have dropped his team leader during the last few kilometres but loyally held back to shepherd Wiggins home.

Wiggins revealed afterwards that he had tears in his eyes as he headed towards the finish as the enormity of his being set to become the first British rider to win the Tour de France hit him. Froome was looking back, gesticulating repeatedly, encouraging the maillot jaune on, said Wiggins, who himself was telling Froome to head off after Valverde.

As it was, the pair crossed the linetogether, 19 seconds behind Valverde and three ahead of FDJ-BigMat's Thibaut Pinot. The gap between the two British riders in the general classification remains 2 minutes and 5 seconds, with Nibali today losing 18 seconds on Froome, meaning he now trails him by 36 seconds overall.

Following tomorrow's stage, which has a hilly profile but should end with a bunch sprint, Saturday's individual time trial gives Wiggins and Froome a chance to make the margin of their likely one-two placing even more emphatic ahead of Sunday's traditional procession into Paris - although 'procession' may not be the right word, with Wiggins having vowed earlier this week that Team Sky would look to set up Mark Cavendish to sprint for his fourth victory in a row on the Champs-Elysees.

That raises the intriguing prospect of the maillot jaune leading out the rainbow jersey, though with a couple of stages still to negotiate safely ahead of Sunday, the Champagne needs to be kept on ice for another couple of days yet.

The drama wasn't quite over for Team Sky however. After the end of the stage, Mark Cavendish, who had trailed in second last, a little more than half an hour behind Wiggins and Froome, tweeted: "Thanks to the dickhead who crashed me at 3km to go today by waving his flag so it wrapped round my handlebars. Bike's broke. Leg's swollen." Sports director Sean Yates would subsequently tell journalists that Cavendish, who is aiming for Olympic gold in nine days' time, was "fine."

Today saw the first jersey of this year's Tour settled, with Europcar's Thomas Voeckler now holding an unsurpassable lead in the mountains classification. Assuming he makes it to Paris safely, Voeckler, who just missed out on a podium place last year when he finished fourth on GC, will enjoy the cheers of the crowd as he is presented with the polka dot jersey.

Valverde and Voeckler were among the riders who got clear from the front of the peloton on the day’s first climb on the 143.5 kilometres stage from Bagneres de Luchon, the Category1 Col de Menté. For the Spaniard, the day would be about trying to rescue something from what had been a lucklustre Tour for Movistar, which lost sprinter José Joaquín Rojas to a crash in the opening week.

For Voeckler, on the other hand, there was the small matter of the polka dot jersey to consider. Yesterday, on his way to his second stage win of this year’s race, he had wrested it back from Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff and the pair were always going to shadow each other closely today.

The Europcar rider took that first mountain sprint, and would also beat the Swede over the next three climbs, although on the last of those, the Hors-Categorie Porte de Balès, there were by now five riders ahead of the pair.

One of those was Valverde, who had bridged across to lone leader and fellow Movistar rider Rui Costa on that ascent, using his team mate’s move as a springboard to launch his own attack. On the way up the final climb, the pace being set by Ivan Basso, working hard for Nibali, was causing riders to be shed out the back of the GC group, including once again defending champion Cadel Evans of BMC Racing.

It looked inevitable that Valverde would be caught, and perhaps if Nibali, the man who succeeded him to the Vuelta title in 2010, had been able to stay with the Team Sky pair, he would have been. Instead, it would be the Movistar rider, who returned in January from a two-year ban for doping, held on to take the stage win.

That doping ban had its roots in Valverde’s last participation in the Tour de France in 2008, when the race made a brief excursion into Italy and CONI, the Italian Olympic committee, found that Valverde’s DNA matched blood in a bag seized by Spanish authorities as part of Operacion Puerto. The UCI successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have his ban from racing in Italy imposed as a result of that extended worldwide.

In this evening’s post-stage press conference, Valverde was asked about doping but declined to answer, his silence on the issue contrasting with the eloquent humility displayed by another formerly banned rider, David Millar of Garmin-Sharp, when he won Stage 12 of the race last Friday.

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Stage winner Alejandro Valverde, Movistar

“I've had a lot of bad luck since the start of the Tour, and it was very difficult to manage. I fell three times in two days, and it wasn't looking good. Then it was no longer possible to fight for a good general classification result, especially when Froome and Wiggins are so strong. So I focused on a stage win. I really tried; until now far it hasn't worked but we had to keep fighting the bad luck.

“When I felt that Froome and Wiggins were approaching me on the final climb, I gave everything I could to resist their chase and, after 500 metres from the finish line, I started to tell myself that it was good.

“This is a very special victory for me: I'm back in the squad and I'm winning again, like I did before. For two years I had to stop competing but I never stopped working. And now this is the fifth victory of the season for me. They are all emotional. This is why I was on the podium in a world of my won, and I was not able to restrain my tears.”

Maillot jaune Bradley WIggins, Team Sky, third today:

"The minute we went over the Peyresourde I knew that was it. I still felt fantastic at that point. We hit the last climb and I went on the front. I just lost concentration and started thinking a lot of things. Froomey was egging me on for more but I knew that [the riders behind] were all gone.

"I knew someone was going to attack and I knew it was going to be hard. As they were fatiguing off I was feeling better and better, so it was actually getting slower the higher we got up. Once we went over the summit I knew Nibali was in trouble and a few of the other guys. I had a little chat with Froomey on the descent and that was it.

"Obviously we’ve got the time trial to come but that’s very much our domain. It’s all looking very good at the moment."

He was also quick to pay tribute not only to Froome but also all the other riders who have helped him into such a strong position, adding: "We’ve done the majority of this race with seven guys supporting me and I owe an incredible amount to those guys.

"We’ve been an amazing team all season and I think we’ve shown here how strong we are.

"Chris will have his day for sure - and I’ll be there to support him every inch of the way when he does at the Tour."

Chris Froome, Team Sky, second overall and second today:

“I wouldn’t say anything’s definite yet, I’d rather just finish it off before we start talking ‘definite’ and actual results.

“We weren’t here focusing on stages, our objective is to win the Tour overall, the yellow jersey, and I think we have that secured until this point, I think we’ve done a really good job so far.

“That [the stage win] obviously wasn’t my objective today, obviously when we heard Vincenzo was dropping off the main group, that was a good motivation for us to keep riding hard and to stay at the front, I don’t know how far ahead Valverde was.

“I was definitely expecting him [Nibali] to attack but I could see on that second last climb his legs weren’t looking that super and that’s when I said to Bradley, ‘Now we go,’ and I think we maybe got a small gap on Nibali as well.”

Sean Yates, Team Sky Sports Director:

“It worked out perfectly. It was up to Liquigas today as they wanted to win the stage and they rode accordingly. Valverde hung on and did a great ride but ultimately Nibali cracked and didn’t have what it took to go for that stage.

“The plan was to stick together and at the end of the stage we managed to put time into all our rivals once again. It was a great team performance.

“We still have three stages to go and you can’t switch off until you hit the finish line on the Champs-Elysees. We’ll remain vigilant and keep riding just as we’ve done up until now.”

Tour de France Stage 17 result  

1  ALEJANDRO VALVERDE       MOVISTAR
2  WIGGINS Bradley          SKY PROCYCLING                04h 12' 11''
2  FROOME Christopher       SKY PROCYCLING                  + 00' 19''
4  PINOT Thibaut            FDJ-BIGMAT                      + 00' 22''
5  ROLLAND Pierre           TEAM EUROPCAR                   + 00' 26''
5  VAN GARDEREN Tejay       BMC RACING TEAM                 + 08' 30''
6  VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen    LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM              + 00' 26''
7  NIBALI Vincenzo          LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE             + 00' 37''
8  VAN GARDEREN Tejay       BMC RACING TEAM                 + 00' 54''
9  HORNER Christopher       RADIOSHACK-NISSAN               + 01' 02''
10 MARTIN Daniel            GARMIN-SHARP                    + 01' 11''
11 KLÖDEN Andréas           RADIOSHACK-NISSAN               + 01' 14''
12 ROCHE Nicolas            AG2R LA MONDIALE                + 01' 30''
13 VANENDERT Jelle          LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM              + 01' 39''
14 PORTE Richie             SKY PROCYCLING                  + 01' 46''
15 MENCHOV Denis            KATUSHA TEAM                    + 01' 55''
16 KERN Christophe          TEAM EUROPCAR                   + 02' 10''
17 BRAJKOVIC Janez          ASTANA PRO TEAM                 + 02' 10''
18 EVANS Cadel              BMC RACING TEAM                 + 02' 10''
19 ROGERS Michael           SKY PROCYCLING                  + 02' 10''
20 BASSO Ivan               LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE             + 02' 37''

Last man home on Stage 17  

153 VANOTTI Alessandro      LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE             + 31' 32''

General Classification after Stage 17  

1 WIGGINS Bradley           SKY PROCYCLING                78h 28' 02''
2 FROOME Christopher        SKY PROCYCLING                  + 02' 05''
3 NIBALI Vincenzo           LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE             + 02' 41''
4 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen     LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM              + 05' 53''
5 VAN GARDEREN Tejay        BMC RACING TEAM                 + 08' 30''
6 EVANS Cadel               BMC RACING TEAM                 + 09' 57''
7 ZUBELDIA Haimar           RADIOSHACK-NISSAN               + 10' 11''
8 ROLLAND Pierre            TEAM EUROPCAR                   + 10' 17''
9 BRAJKOVIC Janez           ASTANA PRO TEAM                 + 11' 00''
10 PINOT Thibaut            FDJ-BIGMAT                      + 11' 46''

Points Classification after Stage 17  

1 SAGAN Peter               LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE              356 pts
2 GREIPEL André             LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM               254 pts
3 GOSS Matthew Harley       ORICA GREENEDGE                  203 pts
4 CAVENDISH Mark            SKY PROCYCLING                   130 pts
5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald      SKY PROCYCLING                   127 pts

Mountains Classification after Stage 17  

1 VOECKLER Thomas           TEAM EUROPCAR                    134 pts
2 KESSIAKOFF Fredrik        ASTANA PRO TEAM                  123 pts
3 SORENSEN Chris Anker      TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK       77 pts
4 ROLLAND Pierre            TEAM EUROPCAR                     63 pts
5 VALVERDE Alejandro        MOVISTAR TEAM                     51 pts

Young Rider's Classification after Stage 17  

1 VAN GARDEREN Tejay        BMC RACING TEAM               78h 36' 32''
2 PINOT Thibaut             FDJ-BIGMAT                      + 03' 16''
3 KRUIJSWIJK Steven         RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM       + 01h 00' 38''
4 IZAGUIRRE Gorka           EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI         + 01h 02' 37''
5 TAARAMAE Rein             COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE  + 01h 12' 23'

 

 

 

11 user comments

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Im glad to see you reporting it how i saw it - Froome held back for his captain and the yellow jersey out of respect and team spirit.
Not - as some are suggesting - that the Sky nazis in the team car ordered Froome, by punishment of death, to hang back.

posted by Some Fella [719 posts]
19th July 2012 - 18:31

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100% agree, Some Fella. The only thing I noted while watching was that I thought Wiggins should have let Froome take the stage...in reading the comments it sounds like he did urge him to go for it but Froome chose to pull Wiggins in for third rather than leave him to get reeled by Pinot.

"because a goal without a plan is just a wish"

posted by bikeyourbest [23 posts]
19th July 2012 - 18:38

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bikeyourbest wrote:
The only thing I noted while watching was that I thought Wiggins should have let Froome take the stage...in reading the comments it sounds like he did urge him to go for it but Froome chose to pull Wiggins in for third rather than leave him to get reeled by Pinot.

I agree that I would have like to have Froome given the freedom to go for the stage once they were with 2 - 3km as Wiggins was perfectly safe and not able to get up there himself.
Not sure I seen anything in Wiggins comments to suggest that he gave Froome the nod to go if he wanted though.

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
19th July 2012 - 20:15

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Hatter - not in the press con quotes, gist tweeted by press source based on immediate post-finish line quotes.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7914 posts]
19th July 2012 - 20:35

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Simon, makes sense that Wiggins should let him go and makes it suprising he didn't. Quite like and agree with the tweet from Jonathan Vaughters
"Would have been better for Froome to just drop Wiggo by 20 seconds or whatever and settle it in the time trial. That was just humiliation."

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
19th July 2012 - 20:46

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Froome's job in this tour is to ride for Wiggins. It's a shame that he can't do that professionally without having to petulantly show that he is the better climber by repeatedly 'accidentally' dropping his team leader at every opportunity and then sit up with one hand off the bars and pretend he doesn't know where Brad is.

I have dreamed for years of a british tour winner and don't need the final realisation of that dream spoilt by a petulant domestique who thinks his job is beneath him. Let's not forget Froome's achievements at Barloworld. If he hadn't had the good fortune of Team Sky forming when it did and looking out for UK registered pros then Froome would be stacking shelves in supermarkets right now. He needs to grow up get some respect for the people who have put him where he is.

posted by sponican [62 posts]
20th July 2012 - 1:06

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Sorry, I have forgot! How did he do at barloworld?

Kind of agree that it's over-shadowing the victory a little. Will be interesting to see what happens to their time gap on Saturday. If it stays the same, perhaps CF would have been the better bet.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2942 posts]
20th July 2012 - 6:30

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He won the Anatomic Jock Race, apparently. I'm sure all the pro-tour teams would have been circling after that.

posted by sponican [62 posts]
20th July 2012 - 8:23

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sponican wrote:
Froome's job in this tour is to ride for Wiggins. It's a shame that he can't do that professionally without having to petulantly show that he is the better climber by repeatedly 'accidentally' dropping his team leader at every opportunity and then sit up with one hand off the bars and pretend he doesn't know where Brad is.

agree entirely, also his interview in the French press demonstrated a lack of something, nous, professionalism, something.

posted by fred22 [207 posts]
20th July 2012 - 8:39

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Hmmm

I'm not so sure sure he is just a the better climber, i recon he is the better rider. As mush as i want Wiggins to win, to me it feels a little hollow because Froome i believe would have won this tour if he had been allowed to ride. Almost like the best man hasn't won.
He has had his orders though which he will have known way before the tour started so as part of a team then you have to stick to them.

Lemond v Hinault springs to mind

posted by hardgrit [22 posts]
20th July 2012 - 9:47

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Froome has the edge in the mountains, Brad has the edge in the TT. But they are both excellent at both disciplines - don't underestimate just how good a climber Bradley is. He may have had to rely on Chris in the mountains on a couple of occasions, but the fact is that he has had the strength to follow Froome's wheel where others have not.

In a more mountainous TdF parcours, as an athlete, I honestly think that Froome could go toe-to-toe with an in-from Contador, both in the climbs and the TTs. The fact that he can maintain a high pace and then deliver a punchy acceleration out of that is something that Bradley does not possess, but for this parcours, I don't think that Froome is the 'better man'.

Bradley has the stronger pedigree and experience behind him, so Sky have been right to stick to their plan.

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posted by andyspaceman [213 posts]
20th July 2012 - 10:37

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