Tour De France - Stage 13
Wiggins gets into the lead-out business
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) took his third stage win at the 2012 Tour de France, winning a photo finish over Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) took third in the mass sprint in Le Cap d'Agde.
Bradley Wiggins, who set up the sprint for Boasson Hagen, easily defended his overall lead as he tried to turn provider for his teammate, who has spent much of the race at Wiggins' side.
"It was just the last kilometre, slightly downhill. It was the safest place to be and I wanted to try to repay a friend of mine," Wiggins said.
“Sometimes it is just best to be in the front, it is best to do the effort in first position than further down the peloton in 20th, especially when there are chances of splits in the bunch. You have to pay attention to every single day, even a day like today because of the bends in the last 400 metres. You have to be careful every day until [the final stage in] Paris."
Greipel's team did much of the chase work in the closing part of the race, and the big German rewarded them for their efforts. He had one less rival to face, as Mark Cavendish had been dropped on the day's only ranked climb 23km from the end. The world champion ended up crossing the finish line more than eight minutes down.
“It was very close,” acknowledged Greipel, who turns 30 on Monday. “I was next to last over the climb. But the team worked great and brought me up to the front.”
"This win is a special one with the Mont St Clair [climb] so close to the finish. I managed to hang on in this climb and then Lars Bak took me back in the bunch. It was once again great team work and we deserved this."
Futile breakaway ahead of sprinter's delight
Once again, the day's break formed almost immediately, with Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Michael Morkov (Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Roy Curvers (Argos-Shimano) the first to go. Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) and Maxime Bouet (AG2R-LaMondiale) joined them and Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-QuickStep finally rounded out the group.
Not quite 50km into the stage, they had built up a lead of some nine minutes, which was enough to set off alarms in the peloton. Orica-GreenEdge did much of the work to close the gap.
There was one abandon during the stage, as Tony Gallopin of RadioShack-Nissan gave in to the illness which has plagued him. Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-QuickStep had a run-in with a barrier at the intermeidate sprint, but was able to continue.
There was no drama this time at that sprint. The eight in the break group took the big points, and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) easily claimed the next points in the field, ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).
With about 64km to go, the gap had dropped to two minutes. Pineau tried to pick up the group speed, but in response, Morkov took off alone. He quickly built up a lead of over a minute over the chasers, but it was a long way to go.
Thirty kilometers later, the gap from Morkov to the field had dropped to just over a minute, and the field's speed was high enough to shed riders along the way.
Mountains classification leader Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) was amongst those involved in a crash with 26km to go, but all got up and going again.
Morkov took less than a minute lead up the day's only ranked climb, the category 3 Mont Saint-Clair, with 23km to go. The field caught the remaining chase group on its way up, and eventually Morkov as well.
Cadel Evans of BMC attacked with about 24km to go, out of the field, with Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto) at his side. But once again, Wiggins calmly drove the field up to the Australian and reeled him in.
Evans led the field over the mountain ranking, and into the descent. Various riders tried to get away on the descent but none was allowed to go. The field had become noticeably smaller though, and the sprinters were amongst those who had been dropped.
Alexandre Vinokourov took off out of the group, and with 16 km to go, Michael Albasini of Orica-GreenEdge went after him. The Wiggins group was then joined by more riders from behind. Sky's Cavendish was not amongst them, being caught in a group more than a minute back and losing time every meter. Caught without teammates, no one else was willing to help the World Champion move up, and he had to resign himself to missing out on yet another sprint.
Lotto-Belisol moved up to lead the chase of the two leaders, with Greipel having made the cut into the group. The wind finally came into play, and Lotto pulled away with 4km to go, with a handful of other riders including Wiggins and Sagan with them.
It came as it must, and with 2.5km, the two leaders were caught. Almost immediately Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank jumped and was joined by Matthieu Sprick (Argos-Shimano) in a massive bid for some revenge after the hideous first half of the race for both teams. But the pair were chased down by the maillot jaune himself as Wiggins led the field, opening the sprint for Boasson Hagen. Greipel still had something left and he and Sagan went to the line in a photo finish.