Stage 16 Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap 168km
Costa stays away..
Well this part of France just gets us plain excited.. It’s an amazing part of the world! Once we at VeloTipper achieve world cycling tipping domination this is where we will have our HQ, climbing the cols, picking up a croissant on the way back with a sneaky little espresso before donning the beret for a good afternoon of gossiping in the town square.
The early parcours presented a challenge for a peloton with rested legs. It always takes a while before they remember that pain is not temporary, but permanent. Add to this a couple of early climbs and so many teams having underachieved so far in this Tour and the competition to get a break established was always going to be red hot.
And it was. Within 10km there was a 20 man break 20 seconds up the road. One team that wasn’t in the break were FDJ. As a result FDJ were on the front of the peloton driving the pace to rectify the matter.
The composition of the break was extremely fluid before being absorbed back into the peloton but the counter attacks continued and finally, after 40km of racing, the break was settled. 26 riders representing 18 teams (including FDJ), par for the course coming into the 3rd week of the Tour, were in the move.
With 80km to go the break had 7+ minutes which soon went over 8 minutes when the peloton was held up at a train level crossing. Ah professional cycling… still flows with the rhythm of life.
At 35km to go the gap was out to 10+ minutes and the attacks started in the break. First to go was Kadri with Marino and as they went through Gap for the first time they had a lead of 20 seconds.
Then we had Carlton Kirby’s quote of the day, referring to Tommy Voeckler as “the bouncing meercat”.
The finishing circuit involved a climb over the Col de Manse and descent into Gap. Essentially if you were first over the top you were looking at a podium finish.
It didn’t take long for fireworks to start on the climb with Hansen bridging across to the break. This started destroying the composition of the chase and soon riders were being pumped out the back tout de suite.
Then Coppel countered to try and bridge across to Hansen. This fired Rui Costa up who was the wild card of the bunch and he quickly got a big gap on the chase with had splintered.
Back in the peloton and for some reason Katusha didn’t get the memo that there was a break of 26 riders 11 minutes up the road and started driving it on the front. This is surely the best way to make friends in professional cycling.
Coming to the top of the climb Costa had around 50 seconds lead and just had to keep it upright to take the stage. The spirited chase of 4 behind would be fighting for 2nd.
Katusha had started something back in the group and it was on. Contador attacked and then Kreuziger started driving the pace. Ten Dam was caught out and was found wanting, along with the vast majority of the remaining peloton. Contador seemed to look like he wanted to distance Mollema but repeated attacks could not unhinge him.
Back up front Costa descended into town and for the first time this Tour it looked like a rider could sit up and savour the last few hundred metres to the line. And so he did!
Bit of drama back in the GC battle: Froome and Contador decided to partake in some synchronised crashing on the descent and the chase was on to try and get back down to Mollema. Trainspotters may remember this was the descent (yes, yes also where Beloki went down as well) where Phil was waxing lyrical about Armstrong’s descending prowess some years ago and the next instant Nibali passed Lance like he was standing still. Classic. Soon enough it was gruppo compacto for the GC contenders and they all crossed the line together so leaving the headlines solely to the winner for the day, Rui Costa.