Alberto Contador had his eyes on getting through the challenging stage 19 to La Toussuire, as cramps throughout the intensive day took its toll. “It was a day where I had to survive”, says Contador, who retained his fifth place in the GC of Tour de France after strong support from his teammates.
After crossing the line 2’26” down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali, Tinkoff-Saxo’s captain explained that the stage turned out quite well despite bad sensations during the day.
The penultimate mountain stage of the 2015 Tour de France left everything wide open before Saturday's showdown on the Alpe d'Huez -110km including the climb towards the Croix de Fer (HC) before the most famous ascent in professional road cycling-. Nairo Quintana slightly approached GC leader Chris Froome (SKY) in the overall standings while Alejandro Valverde kept his 3rd place into a podium he'll have to defend with all energy after struggling, from the final meters of the Glandon, against a new big threat: Vincenzo Nibali (AST).
A brutal start to the stage caused Froome being let with no team-mates after 18km of a total 138 on today's programme, almost through the summit of the Col du Chaussy (Cat-1). Malori and Herrada entered the opening moves, soon countered by Valverde, who responded to attacks from Contador (TCS) and Nibali himself. When the 'Shark' attacked as Froome suffered from misfortune, José Herrada was responsible to lead the charge from the group with prodigious insistence, limiting losses that kept growing until 2'10" on the foot of La Toussuire, the decisive ascent of today's stage.
Alberto Contador went on the attack on stage 18 of Tour de France in an effort to shake things up in the GC. Having suffered a downhill crash a mere 24 hours earlier, the Tinkoff-Saxo captain deployed a series of accelerations on Col de Glandon, which decimated the group of favorites. Despite the effort, a diminished group of favorites made it to the finish line behind stage winner Romain Bardet.
After crossing the finish in St-Jean-de-Maurienne, Alberto Contador explains that his attack was driven by sheer determination.
A short but hard Stage 19 greets the riders of the 2015 Tour de France as they tackle 138kms from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles. The intermediate sprint occurs as 42kms in Epierre, but the climbs once again are the highlight of the day:
• Km 15.5 - Col du Chaussy (1 533 m) (D77-VC)15.4 kilometre-long climb at 6.3% - category 1 • Km 83.0 - Col de la Croix de Fer (2 067 m)22.4 kilometre-long climb at 6.9% - category H • Km 103.0 - Col du Mollard (1 638 m)5.7 kilometre-long climb at 6.8% - category 2 • Km 138.0 - LA TOUSSUIRE (1 705 m)18 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% - category 1
This stage has been pegged by many as the “deciding” one in this year’s Tour. While Froome has a comfortable lead, anything can happen, so it will be interesting to see what attacks may happen.
The Col du Chaussy is a new climb for the Tour and precedes a Tour “favorite” Croix de Fer—the longest single climb in this year’s Tour. Its long descent is interrupted by the next climb, the Col du Mollard which is a very technical descent replete with hairpins. The slightly “easier” La Toussuire is magnified in difficulty by ending this tough stage that includes more kilometres of climbing than any other stage (61kms). Furthermore, La Toussuire’s finish is the longest summit finish in this year’s Tour.
We will probably see the tactic where team captains send domestiques into the break early to meet up with them further up the road. It will be interesting to see if Bardet or Rodriguez attack for more KOM points as well.
Stage 18 of the 2015 Tour de France is nothing but mountains the entire day of the 186.5kms from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Yes, there is still an intermediate sprint, this time at 107.5kms in Riouperoux, but there are 7 categorized climbs on the day!
Km 6.5 - Col Bayard (1 264 m)6.3 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 2
Km 35.5 - Rampe du Motty2.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.3% - category 3
Km 60.5 - Côte de la Mure2.7 kilometre-long climb at 7.5% - category 3
Km 70.5 - Col de Malissol2 kilometre-long climb at 8.7% - category 3
Km 85.0 - Col de la Morte (1 368 m)3.1 kilometre-long climb at 8.4% - category 2
Km 147.0 - Col du Glandon (1 924 m)21.7 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% - category H
Km 176.5 - Lacets de Montvernier (782 m)3.4 kilometre-long climb at 8.2% - category 2
The descents around the Col du Glandon are tricky technically speaking, and the Lacets de Montvernier is full of switchbacks, so not only will the legs have to be strong but so will the brains if riders are to make intelligent attacks. They will need to be attentive the whole day.
This is also the only Alpine stage that doesn’t end with a summit finish, so an attacker on the final descent could nip off with victory far easier then when the GC guys punch the next couple of days. This is also a big day for the KOM jersey, so anyone like Rodriguez or Majka who may seriously be nursing thoughts of this victory will probably be out in the attack early. If Contador has any hopes of finishing on the podium in Paris, he will have to take every opportunity he can to make back time lost!