Tour de France: Stage 17 – Valverde

Spain’s Aljeandro Valverde just held on after a race long break to deny Team Sky a 1-2 on the final big mountain stage of the 2012 Tour de France.

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Yellow Jersey: Bradley Wiggins | White jersey: Tejay van Garderen |
| KoM Jersey:   Thomas Voeckler  | Green Jersey: Peter Sagan | Team: Radioshack Nissan

Valverde had spent a long time out front on his own, and whilst his breakaway companions were swept up by the Liquigas led peloton, the Movistar rider continued to hold the gap to the chasers of just over two minutes. It wasn’t until Lotto went on the attack after Basso (Liquigas) had done his bit for Nibali on the front, that the gap to Aljeandro Valverde started to tumble.

Jurgen van den Broeck sent a teammate up the road to try and break the Sky train but all it did was put riders like Evans and Nibali in trouble before first Brad Wiggins and then Chris Froome went on the offensive and they distanced everyone and went after Valverde.

With Froome having to keep looking back at Wiggins, talking to him to stay on his wheel, Valverde kept up the pressure up and held on to win by 19 seconds. It was a gap that had Froome been allowed to go it alone, he may well have closed in the losing kilometres but the Kenyan born rider stuck to team orders and stayed with Wiggins, making sure he was there in case Wiggins punctured or suffered any sort of mechanical.

It was though a day when Team Sky showed their rivals that no-one is taking the yellow jersey from them and both Wiggins and Froome gained time, albeit only seconds, on all their rivals.

Bradly Wiggins: “We were talking about Nibali [in the last few kilometres] because we knew he was on his limit. Chris said he wanted to go for the stage and I said, ‘Yeah… ah… pff’. You know. I wasn’t too sure on the time gap at that point but from the moment I crossed the Peyresourde [1.5km from the finish] I allowed myself to drift; at that point it was the first time I allowed myself to think that I’ve won the Tour. All the way up the last bit of my concentration had gone. Everything about performance had gone and Chris was egging me on to take time and, ah, I was just in another world really.”

“Today it was more a case of everyone faltering around us and us just continuing what we were doing. That’s very much how it was today as opposed to yesterday when we were taking on the attacks of Nibali and all that…”

“Once we saw that Nibali had cracked at the top of the Peyresourde, we knew we didn’t have the danger of him attacking in the final so it was at that point that I knew it was pretty much over. We rode away from the rest of the field and I lost concentration. I was thinking of lots of different things at that time. Chris wanted more but the fight had gone from me at that point.”

“The nature of the Tour is that people fall by the wayside as the race goes on. That’s the affect of the length of the race and how hard it is; it’s the nature of the Tour de France. I said at the start in Liège that it’s about being good for 21 days and never really having any super days or any bad days. I think we saw that today: Nibali was super strong yesterday and perhaps didn’t back it up today. It’s about consistency really.”

“It was an ideal situation. As soon as we went of the Peyresourde, I knew that that was the climbing done, really. It was an incredible feeling because that’s where everyone said that I was at my weakest – in the mountains – so it was good to go over the last summit. All the way up the last climb I almost had tears in my eyes. It’s a really nice feeling.”

“Chris was super strong again today. He’s super excited. He’s been a fantastic team-mate during this Tour de France. For sure, one day, he’ll win the Tour and I’ll be there beside him to do it.”

Chris Froome “The plan was to stay together and we did that, and that’s all good,” Froome said to ITV4. Asked what he had said to Wiggins on the climb to Peyragudes, Froome said: “That we’d got rid of Nibali and it was about to flatten out – just stay on my wheel.”

Valverde ““I’ve had a lot of bad luck since the start of the Tour, and it was very difficult to manage. I fell three times in two days, and it wasn’t looking good. Then it was no longer possible to fight for a good general classification result, especially when Froome and Wiggins are so strong. So I focused on a stage win. I really tried; until now far it hasn’t worked but we had to keep fighting the bad luck.”

“When I felt that Froome and Wiggins were approaching me on the final climb, I gave everything I could to resist their chase and, after 500 metres from the finish line, I started to tell myself that it was good.”

“This is a very special victory for me: I’m back in the squad and I’m winning again, like I did before. For two years I had to stop competing but I never stopped working. And now this is the fifth victory of the season for me. They are all emotional. This is why I was on the podium in a world of my won, and I was not able to restrain my tears.”

Valverde: PhotoSport International. uk usa asia.

Movistar had won a stage of the 2011 Tour de France with Rui Costa triumphant in Super Besse but really the Spanish team was always thinking about the return of its true leader Alejandro Valverde who was
busy serving a suspension last year. Now that he’s back in the race, he’s back on the podium.

He wasn’t the contender for GC honours that Movistar would have hoped for – as he’s well down the rankings – but that meant he was able to put himself in an escape group and chase a victory in the final stage in the Pyrenees of the 99th edition. And it was Costa who helped set up his leader for an impressive return to winning form at the Tour.

Video Summary of the Race

Valverde seems to have benefitted greatly from the tactics employed by Sky as it seemed apparent that Chris Froome was keen to race ahead of his team leader Bradley Wiggins in the final kilometres to try and claim a second stage win but instead he remained loyal to the yellow jersey and paced him all the way to the line where the two Brits finished second and third in a stage that had plenty of drama, created
a few changes to the top order of GC but really didn’t offer too many surprises. Now it’s out of the mountains, onward to the time trial and then a Sky party in Paris…!

The 143.5km 17th stage of the 2012 Tour de France started at 1.02pm with 153 riders in the race. The race from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes included five categorised climbs: the cat-1 Col de Menté
(27.5km), cat-2 Col des Ares (55.5km), cat-3 Cote de Burs (76km), the final ‘HC’ climb of the 99th Tour, the Port de Balès (at 111.5km) and then the final climb, ranked cat-1, which gave double points and was
just 1km from the finish.

The intermediate sprint was at 81km in Loures-Barousse. As soon as the flag fell to signal the start, we saw Burghardt (BMC) attack… again. He’s done that five times in the 2012 Tour. There were several mild attacks before the first climb with a group of 23 ahead by 15” at 19km. Included in this move was Monfort (RNT), Taaramae (COF), Plaza (MOV), Valverde (MOV), Voeckler (EUC), Rolland (EUC), Martin (GRS), Peraud (ALM), Kadri (ALM), Feillu (SAU), Jeandesboz (SAU), Vanendert (LTB) Menchov (KAT), Trofimov (KAT), Casar (FDJ), Sorensen (STB), Kessiakoff (AST) and Leipheimer (OPQ). They were caught at 25km.

The early attacks Valverde attacked again and drew Rolland with him. From behind Kessiakoff made a big attack and put distance into Voeckler but the rider in the polka-dot jersey responded well and, with the help of Rolland, was able to get to the front and into the lead before the top of the climb. On the descent a group of eight formed including Nibali who bridged the gap to the leaders when the road was wet and slippery.

The rider in third overall reached a gain of as much as 25” (putting him briefly into virtual second) but he then shook hands with Valverde and allowed the seven to continue their escape without the pressure of having a threat to the GC lead up front. Nibali was caught at 39km.

Basso leads Nibali during stage 17. Photo: PhotoSport International. uk usa asia.

The 17 stage leaders given little leeway Voeckler, Martinez, Nibali, Peraud, Casar, Valverde, Costa, and Kessiakoff had a lead of 40” over 10 counter-attackers over the top of the second climb. Of course Voeckler attacked for the five points, of course Kessiakoff chased him… and Voeckler won that sprint. In the chase group included: Azanza (EUS), Izaguirre (EUS), Stortoni (LAM), Kadri (ALM), Hoogerland (VCD), Ten Dam (RAB), Sorensen (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Leipheimer (OPQ) and Weening (OGE).

The peloton was at 1’40”. At 68km the chase group caught the lead group. The maximum gain of the escape was 3’05” at 71km. Cavendish and Porte (SKY) both crashed in the feedzone but remounted their bikes quickly and rejoined the peloton. All of the Liquigas team led the peloton from start of the second climb onward until the base of the Port de Balès. The bunch was 2’15” behind the escapees at the base of the fourth climb.

Port de Balès sets the scene for final climb Azanza, Izaguirre and Kadri attacked the lead group but with 8km to climb, they were caught by a group of five: Leipheimer, Martinez, Valverde, Casar, Costa and Plaza. Once together, Costa attacked he rode several kilometres on his own but he was in the sights of the second group (Izaguirre, Martinez, Valverde and Leipheimer).

Costa’s move was part of a ploy to get Valverde to the front; the Movistar leader attacked, with 3.5km to go on the Port de Balès, and most others from the escape were swallowed up by the peloton. At the top Valverde led Martinez and Costa by 35”, Kadri and Leipheimer by 1’37”, Voeckler and Kessiakoff by 2’00”, Izaguirre by 2’12” and the peloton – led by van den Broeck and Nerz – by 2’30”.

There were no big changes to that sequence on the descent and the only thing that altered the order before the final climb was Costa taking a left turn when he should have gone right. With 15km to go, Valverde led Martinez by 1’55”, Costa by 2’30” and the peloton by 2’45”.

Nerz’s turned ended with 10km to go and then Basso led until Vanendert attacked. This was followed by a move from the Lotto-Belisol team  leader, Van den Broeck who attacked 8.5km from the finish. By then Evans had recently been dropped and a group of 10 had formed as the first chase group of Valverde.

The yellow jersey group was: Wiggins, Froome, Van Garderen, Horner, Nibali, Rolland, Vanendert, Pinot, Nibali and Rolland. From this selection, Pinot was the most willing to attack. He sped ahead with 3.5km to go and Wiggins and Froome followed; that’s when the rider in second overall started looking behind (at Wiggins) more than he looked ahead.

There had been some discussion but it seemed that the domestique was trying to convince the team leader that he should be allowed to attack and chase a second stage win in his debut Tour (and increase his advantage over third place on GC) but Wiggins didn’t seem to react to any of Froome’s questions. And thus they rode together to the finish, 19” behind the stage winner.

Valverde’s third Tour stage win…
Valverde won at Courchevel in his Tour debut in 2005 and took the first yellow jersey with a victory on day one in 2008 and today, in his comeback to the Tour, he gave Spain its second win of the 2012 Tour
(after Luis Sanchez) and the first this year for Movistar. He had a lead of two minutes at the base of the final climb and was able to maintain an advantage all the way to the line. Chances are he benefitted from the confusion that seemed to exist with the Sky riders who finished second and third in the stage but that’s now only the subject of post-stage analysis.

Froome finished second, Wiggins was third and they have increased their advantage over Nibali on GC. The Italian slipped from 2’23” behind at the start of the stage to 2’41”. Van Garderen moves up from sixth to fifth after the collapse of Zubeldia on the final climb and Wiggins will wear the yellow jersey in stage 18.

Stage Result

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte Movistar Team 04:12:11
2 Christopher Froome Sky Procycling 00:19
3 Bradley Wiggins Sky Procycling @ same time
4 Thibaut Pinot Equipe Cycliste FDJ – BigMat 00:22
5 Pierre Rolland Europcar 00:26
6 Jurgen Van Den Broeck Lotto – Belisol Team @ same time
7 Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas – Cannondale 00:37
8 Tejay Van Garderen BMC Racing Team 00:54
9 Chris Horner RadioShack – Nissan 01:02
10 Daniel Martin Garmin – Sharp 01:11
11 Andr̩as Kl̦den RadioShack РNissan 01:14
12 Nicolas Roche Ag2R – La Mondiale 01:30
13 Jelle Vanendert Lotto – Belisol Team 01:39
14 Richie Porte Sky Procycling 01:46
15 Denis Menchov Katusha Team 01:55
16 Christophe Kern Europcar 02:10
17 Janez Brajkovic Astana Pro Team @ same time
18 Cadel Evans BMC Racing Team @ same time
19 Michael Rogers Sky Procycling @ same time
20 Ivan Basso Liquigas – Cannondale 02:37
21 Maxime Monfort RadioShack – Nissan 03:17
22 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre RadioShack – Nissan @ same time
23 Yuri Trofimov Katusha Team @ same time
24 Chris Anker Sorensen Team Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank 04:10
25 Egoi Martinez De Esteban Euskaltel – Euskadi @ same time


1. Bradley Wiggins Sky Procycling 78:28:02
2. Christopher Froome Sky Procycling 2:05
3. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas – Cannondale 2:41
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck Lotto – Belisol Team 5:53
5. Tejay Van Garderen BMC Racing Team 8:30
6. Cadel Evans BMC Racing Team 9:57
7. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre RadioShack – Nissan
8. Pierre Rolland Europcar 10:17
9. Janez Brajkovic Astana Pro Team 11:00
10. Thibaut Pinot Equipe Cycliste FDJ – BigMat 11:46




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