SAN DIEGO, July 15, 2013 – For most of Tuesday’s Stage 16 at the 2013 Tour de France, it seemed the overall contenders would be content to take it easy, and let a breakaway group of over two dozen riders who were no threat to them grab a bit of glory.
The peloton consisting of all the top riders let the breakaway group get out in front as much as ten minutes. After numerous individual attacks, it was Rui Costa of Portugal riding for Movistar who summoned the will and speed on the final climb and descent to take the win. Costa, who is a previous stage winner at the Tour, crossed the line in celebration and broke into tears after his victory.
As for the contenders following behind, seconds count and none of them could afford to let someone gain time, including GC leader Chris Froome of Sky Racing. Froome’s big advantage: having teammate Richie Porte with him. Even though Froome has a nice lead, a flat tire or other mechanical problem or even a minor crash could sink his chance to win the Tour without help nearby. That’s where teammate like the sturdy, reliable Richie Porte come in handy. They help chase down renegade riders, and will hand over their bike to their team leader if necessary.
This proved important with a swift descent toward the finish. It’s the same route where Lance Armstrong famously ran off the road avoiding a fallen rider in front of him in 2003, swerving through a field to rejoin the riders on the road below and finish the stage.
As leader Froome and challenger Alberto Contador of Team Saxo-Tinkoff battled on this descent, Contador took risks and rode off the road with about four miles to go. He avoiding falling; Froome and Porte barely got around him. They all calmed down and finished safely in the same time.
Froome wasn’t happy about the pressure. “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 teammate 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.”
The top four riders stayed together, but Laurens Ten Dam of Belkin lost his fifth place after a bad day. Conversely, Nairo Quintana moved up in the standings and has a real shot at the podium. If anyone in front of him falters, he will be the one to benefit most. The current standings:
Chris Froome, Sky Racing Team: 65 hours, 15 minutes, 36 seconds
Bauke Mollema, Belkin, 4 minutes, 14 seconds behind
Alberto Contador, Team Saxo-Tinkoff, 4 minutes, 25 seconds behind
Roman Kreuziger, Team Saxo-Tinkoff, 4 minutes, 28 seconds behind
Nairo Qunitana Rojas, Movistar, 5 minutes 47 seconds behind
Laurens Ten Dam, Belkin, 5 minutes, 54 seconds behind
Jakob Fuglsang, Astana, 6 minutes, 22 seconds
Because it had five riders in the original breakaway most of the day, Team Radioshack Leopard Trek took the team lead.
Wednesday brings the second individual time trial. This one has a pair of Category 2 climbs with the potential to create time gaps among the serious contenders. Fail Wednesday and kiss any chance of standing on the podium in Paris goodbye. Quintana for one says he’s ready to rip.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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