Rui Costa of Movistar scored a fine solo win on Stage 16 of the Tour de France in Gap today, attacking from the break on the day’s last climb and keeping away to win by 42 seconds from his closest pursuers.
The day’s big talking point, however, relates to an incident that took place after the Portuguese rider had already won the stage as behind him, Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador forced the pace on the descent in a select GC group and crashed 7.5 kilometres from the finish, race leader Chris Froome – who hit out at the Spaniard’s risk-taking afterwards – nearly coming down behind him.
Here’s our round-up of the reaction.
Speaking afterwards Froome criticised Contador for what he viewed as unnecessary risk-taking from the Spaniard which could have resulted in more serious consequences for the Team Sky rider, who had also appeared to remonstrate with the Spaniard after rejoining the Mollema group for not helping him and Richie Porte chase back on.
Chris Froome of Team Sky, leader of the 100th edition of the Tour de France.
I think he [Contador] was actually taking a few too many risks there.
He was pushing the limits too far and he took himself down in front of me which also put me as risk. I had to go off the road for a second to try and get around him.
I didn't really come off, I just had to reclip into my bike and get going again. I don't think it was necessary to take those kinds of risks.
Alberto Contador crashed in front of me. He was pushing, I think, a little bit too fast on the descent. Trying to get away from us and he crashed in front of me. That put me in danger.
I went around, off the road, and then I had to correct myself and get back in. I was lucky enough to have my team-mate Richie Porte there to keep me in the front of the race and to keep an eye on things.
It did give me a lot of confidence having my team-mate there and I knew the race wasn't going to ride away from me there and then... we were in quite a small group already.
We've got a really big day tomorrow with the time trial and following that we've got another three really hard days so there's going to be some exciting racing coming up.
Saxo-Tinkoff, unsurprisingly, see things differently, the report on their website noting only that “in a right turn both Froome and Contador were off the bikes as they lost control of their bikes” – which isn’t quite what the television pictures suggest; while Contador’s fall itself wasn’t caught on camera, Froome seemed to be following his line, and what’s more, the race leader, despite unclipping, managed to stay upright.
Saxo-Tinkoff Sports Director Fabrizio Guidi on today’s stage
Going for the overall is not just something we say. We showed today that we keep on putting the pressure on Froome and we're willing to take chances.
We had both Nicolas [Roche] in the big break and he was in a free position to go for the stage while Roman [Kreuziger] and Alberto managed to isolate Froome on the final climb [team mate Richie Porte was still with him – ed] and to keep pressing him on the descent.
Alberto was forced off the bike on the descent with Froome but there was no panic and he is ok for tomorrow. I'm really proud of the way we handle this situation.
We're still fighting as a team and we remain focused on the job.
Tomorrow, the most demanding of the two time trials remains and there's nothing else to say than ‘full gas.’
Contador himself insisted that the incident was part and parcel of racing on a day when he attacked repeatedly on the way up the Col de Manse and again on the way down as he sought to achieve the twin aims of making up time on Froome and also overhauling Belkin's Bauke Mollema to try and move second on GC.
As it turned out, he achieved neither; the Dutchman is still 11 seconds ahead of him, as he was at the start of the day, and Contador remains 4 minutes 25 seconds behind Froome.
Two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff, currently third overall.
These are the circumstances. It's a bike race and the game is on – on the climbs and on the descents.
I just hope the bruises are superficial. Now I put ice on my knee and I think I´ll be fine for tomorrow.
Today we tried and in the end, a Belkin rider was unhooked and another was in the ropes. Now I just hope that the fall does not affect me more than to sleep a little worse. Tomorrow could be an important day.
Everyone was very attentive on the final part of the slope and we were not able to make the difference but the legs are getting better and I hope I can create some fuss in the final part of the Tour.
I don't know if we'll win or not but I hope the people behind the TV-screens will enjoy the race.
For me it isn't a great motivation to do the race calmly behind the wheel in the bunch. Whenever I see a chance, I'll grab it, either at the beginning or at the end of the race.
And we'll see what the final result in Paris will be.
The incident involving Contador and Froome inevitably evoked memories of the infamous episode that took place in this area in the 2003 Tour de France when another Spanish rider in a podium position crashed late on in a stage that finished in Gap and nearly brought down an English-speaker in the yellow jersey.
The consequences that day were much more serious for ONCE-Eroski rider Josepa Beloki, who suffered multiple fractures in that crash on the Côte de la Rochette shortly after the Col de Manse, while race leader Lance Armstrong was forced to take a cross-country route to rejoin the race.
Beloki’s crash was the result of the road surface melting under a baking sun, and today no chances were taken by organisers with the road surface watered ahead of the race’s passage to keep it cool.
While that late drama was going on, Movistar were already celebrating Costa’s stage win and what’s more, with Belkin’s Laurens ten Dam losing contact on that final climb with a small group containing the other men towards the top of the General Classification, the Spanish team’s Nairo Quintana moves fifth overall; what’s more.
Quintana, meanwhile, was happy to have got time over Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Michal Kwiatowski to tighten his grip on the white jersey, while also looking ahead to tomorrow’s individual time trial.
Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who now leads the best young rider’s classification by 3 minutes 50 seconds.
I have recovered from the effort on the Mont Ventoux, I still have some juice for the Alps.
Today I made an effort to distance my nearest rival for the white jersey Kwiatkowski.
Then, on the descent Alberto Contador set a very fast pace, and I did not see what happened in the fall. In any case, it is not my fault.
Tomorrow, I have come to make good against the clock, not to lose too much time on my rivals. The course is better for me than the Mont-Saint-Michel...
Tweet of the day, meanwhile goes to world champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing, with his observations on Contador prior to the stage start.
We imagine that the latter's positive test for clenbuterol following the second rest day of the 2010 Tour, which resulted in him being banned and stripped of the overall victory, was the furthest thing from Gilbert's mind when he posted on Twitter this morning, but you never know...
Contador have always his best day the day after the second rest day. So remake of 2011? Nice stage for offensive
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.