Stage 19 Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand 204.5km
Well Stage 18 got all the accolades but Stage 19 was the big ugly sister of the ALPE D’DUEX. Over 5,000m climbing in 200km. Nasty, very very nasty.
The race started basically straight up the Col du Glandon. A right out of Bourg-D’Oisans and then another right and BAM you are on it. You can be sure that about 75% of the peloton were working out the predicted winner’s time and then the percentage cut-off they had to play with. For many, today was not to be raced but to be endured.
The attacks started again within the first km. Seriously this Tour has been notable for the ease in which the peloton has let breaks go away. Today was especially notable for the amount of riders let go off the front. Over 40 before the race had gone 15km! By the time they hit the initial dam wall, there were two up the road and then BOOM all of a sudden it’s 40. God knows who – if anyone – was paying attention.
It took a while to make sense of all the breaks, but at the 58km mark the situation was thus: Hesjedal and Izaguirre were TETE LA COURSE. Moser (Backing it up WEAPON), Rolland, Riblon (ZUPER WEAPON), Cunego and Flecha were 2:00 back and then there was the UBER group of about 38 riders another 45 seconds back. The peloton was a mile back. The race was all up with the break.
As the riders hit the Madeleine, Hesjedal dropped Izaguirre and was out front alone. Rolland had attacked from the group behind just before it was gobbled up by the UBER group and was making eyes for Ryder. Then the UBER group got less UBER and started to break up. The Spaniards were getting feisty.
Meanwhile back in the laughing gear, DJ Cadelephant was being pumped out the back not even halfway up the Col de Madeleine…What was going on? Maybe his kid was keeping him up at night? The dog?? DON’T TOUCH MY DOG.
Rolland eventually caught up to Hesjedal and they began a very long journey together. It was a long way to home, but really it was all about KOM points at the top of the climb and then wait up for the SEMI UBER group on the flats before the next suite of climbs. Or so thought the rational minds of the Sofa-DS.
But this wasn’t to be with them both going on with it and moving out to 3:30 over the SEMI UBER group behind of 23 riders. The peloton was just over a galaxy away, 10 minutes adrift.
At the front when two hit the Col de Tamie, young Hesjedal went BOOM and out the ar$e, not even letting his handlebars touch the sides of the chasing group (bear in mind, this was basically a cliff drop of 11 minutes). This left Rolland in the lead alone. The French were surely again delirious, thinking they had re-assumed their deserved position as the world’s chief cycling nation. His chances of holding off the chasing SEMI UBER group of 21 were surely small though. The stage was set for him to emerge a hero.
Coming into the foot of the Col de l’Epine and Rolland had a lead of about 1:10. The catch was near and the SEMI UBER group was close to being blown into a NANO UBER group.
And then the white ghost bike on the side of the road….WTF??
Back to reality and inexplicably the gap to the SEMI UBER group was ballooning out to nearly 2 minutes. Rolland was riding like a man possessed, and again took full points at the top of the climb. He was now a solitary point behind Froome in the KOM competition.
Each and every time Rolland dropped into a valley the thought was that the group of 20 odd riders behind would catch him but the gap was continually dangling between 1 and 2 minutes. At the base of Col de l’Epine Rolland had 1:15. This was about to change when Navarro attacked as soon as the SEMI UBER group hit the climb. This immediately cleaned out the group it was about to get gnarly. Navarro kicked again and Nieve took up arms to shut it down but once it was bought back together everyone sat up and let the group reform.
Finally the heavens opened up. With a single descent to the finish, the line between glory and disaster was going to be extremely fine.
But somewhere, somehow, Rui Costa took off from the chasers, and he made up enough to join Rolland at the pointy end! Rolland and Costa were out the front. Costa instantly became the favourite, legs thrashing while Rolland, hips rolling, looked to be happy with getting enough KOM points to take the polka dots home. The threat was that Nieve was hunting him behind. 2nd on the climb would give the jersey to Nieve!
With 5km to go to the penultimate summit a group of 5 had caught Rolland and were chasing Costa who was out solo. Poor old Rolland was going to fall 1 point short of the KOM jersey…
But it was going no better for Nieve who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by getting dropped from the chase group. Now we had Navarro, Bakelants, De Clercq and KLODIBEAR!!! in pursuit. KLODIBEAR!!!!! This pursuit was for nought as Costa kept driving the pace and had over a minute going into the final descent. The finish was reminiscent of the finish into Gap and the way he had gone about his riding was reminiscent as well. He had picked his stages and executed with perfection.
While Costa was descending to victory the roof on the Velotipper warehouse was blown off when we caught sight of KLODIBEAR attacking the break. At VT HQ, KLODIBEAR is our favourite rider in the whole ZUPER DOOPER peloton. The connection he and JANNIE had was special and something that will never be replicated. In fact we suspect he will take up a position at VT when he retires. (Feel free to ask Jannie about this at email@example.com).
Back in the bunch and it was beer and skittles with the Spaniards fighting it out for 2nd through to 4th. It was mildly exciting but we’re just saying that, we had no choice but to watch it. Porte was obviously over the whole thing and dropped off the back. Half of the VT office lost coverage due to faulty power and it was no more Eurosport, back to the Busch leagues…with Phil and Paul. Electric shock therapy would be preferable.
But enough sooking and whinging, little Rui Costa was coming into the finish to take his 2nd stage in a week which is a fine effort. Winning one stage is impressive, winning another when everyone is watching you, that’s just FULLY SICK.
And then the VT HQ swooned. KLODIBEAR coming through for second. We would lie if our hearts didn’t skip a beat.