Cover: Joaquim Rodriguez, Tour de France 2015 Stage 12 © Tim De Waele / Team Katusha
Article by Todd Hofert
Stage 12 could only be described as a beast. It was on the long side. It graduated steadily in difficulty over a cat 2 climb, followed by two cat 1 climbs before culminating on the vaunted slopes of Plateau de Beille, the hors categorie climb of the day at 15.8 kilometres in length with an average gradient of 7.9%. And it came on the third and final day in the Pyrenees. The recipe for an exciting day of racing.
Stage 12 could only be described as a beast. It is on the long side. It graduates steadily in difficulty over a cat 2 climb, followed by two cat 1 climbs before culminating on the vaunted slopes of Plateau de Beille, the hors categorie climb of the day at 15.8 kilometres in length with an average gradient of 7.9%. And it came on the third and final day in the Pyrenees. The recipe for an exciting day of racing.
Chris Froome with a comfortable lead on the General Classification spent yet another day in Yellow. Places 2 through 10, however, should be hotly contested as only a handful of minutes separate the riders in those positions. Peter Sagan was back in the Green Jersey and appeared ready to defend it on the day’s intermediate sprint just 20km into the stage. Nairo Quintana wore the White Jersey and Richie Porte would do the honor of wearing the Polka-Dot Jersey on loan from his teammate Chris Froome, the rightful owner of that tunic. No surprise that Team Sky would continue to lead the team competition.
Right out of the gate Lotto Soudal would take charge of the peloton to ensure that an early break could not form and take sprint points away from Andre Greipel. Just 7 points down on Peter Sagan his intent to get the Green Jersey back. He would win the sprint followed by John Degenkolb in second but Peter Sagan’s persistence and a third place would leave the Gorilla two points shy of reclaiming the Maillot Vert.
It wouldn’t take long for the break to form once the business of the sprint was out of the way. At 27km a 22 rider break form that included riders from 15 teams: Lieuwe Westra, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Matthieu Ladagnous, Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx), Romain Bardet, Mickaël Chérel, Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Jan Barta (Bora), Bryan Coquard, Romain Sicard (Europcar), Kristjian Durasek (Lampre), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Sylvain Chavanel, Jérôme Coppel (IAM), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Frédéric Brun, Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché), Louis Meintjes (MTN), Georg Preidler (Giant), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo). At 35km the break had established a 3:45 gap.
The result at the top of the first climb of the day, the Col du Portet d’Aspet (km 57.5) was Georg Preidler(Giant-Alpecin) 5 pts, Jérémy Roy(FDJ) 3 pts, Lieuwe Westra (Astana) 2 pts and Anthony Delaplace(Bretagne-Séché) 1 pt. The time gap to the peloton was 5:05.
The breakaway would start to splinter on the Col de la Core. The pack reduced to 13 then began to slowly regroup as the remainder of the riders settled into their rhythm and regained contact. Over the top of the climb maximum points would be taken by Kristjian Durasek, 10 pts followed by Georg Preidler, 8 pts Mikaël Chérel, 6 pts Matthieu Ladagnous, 4 pts Sylvain Chavanel, 2 pts and Romain Bardet, 1 pt
Preidler, Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke would move clear on the descent of the Col de la Core, the peloton would come across the summit more than ten minutes back of the lead trio. The lead group would reduce to two as Georg Preidler was unable to hang. Kwiatkowski would set the pace up the Port de Lers, the penultimate climb of the day, with Sep Vanmarcke following. Rodriguez, Izagirre and Sicard rejoined Bardet, Fuglsang and Meintjes and the group of six continued in pursuit of the two leaders. Results at the summit of Port de Lers: Michal Kwiatkowski, 10 pts, Sep Vanmarcke, 8 pts and 53 seconds back Mikaël Chérel, 6 pts Louis Meintjes, 4 pts Romain Bardet, 2 pts and Jakob Fuglsang, 1 pt would follow. The gap to the peloton had grown to a maximum of 12:30.
The race would hit torrential rain and even hail along the valley on the way to Plateau de Beille. Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke would extend their advantage to 1:50 over the nearest chaser at the base of the final climb. With 13km remaining, Kwiatkowski would dispatch Sep Vanmarcke and soldier on solo looking to hang on to the narrow margin to his chasers. The peloton would hit the climb with a fury led by Lotto NL-Jumbo and Movistar 10:38 behind the leader. Sky would come forward to restore order and the steady pressure would reduce the field.
It’s a pity I couldn’t handle the power necessary to stay away on the last climb. It was really steep after a long day out front. Being caught 7.6 kilometers from the finish is too bad, but for me, it was a bit unexpected to be in that breakaway in the first place. It was many guys and a lot of strong climbers. I think Sep and I did a great move to stay away from the pure climbers. I think it was smart to be aggressive on the descent before the last climb and build the gap. We worked together well and I’m thankful to him. We played the best tactic possible for our skills. It was too bad we didn’t have enough of a gap to stay away. I couldn’t have done any better than what I did.
The rain was even nice to cool off from the heat we dealt with all day, especially with the high temperatures we’ve also been dealing with in the last stages. I tried to fight until the end. It wasn’t enough to win a stage, but I’m happy my performance is getting better and better each day. Congratulations to Rodriguez as he deserved the victory today. He was super strong and he is one of the best climbers in the peloton. I am happy I tried to go for the stage win. I have to be satisfied because you can’t win if you don’t try.”
– Michal Kwiatkowski, Etixx – QuickStep
Rodriguez, Jakob Fuglsang, and Romain Bardet would provide the most exciting action of the day as they sparred their way across the gap to Kwiatkowski, Rodriguez providing the majority of animation. His persistence would finally pay off and he would ride away from Fuglsang and Bardet and catch Kwiatkowski with 7.7km remaining.
I was in hell during the last ten days, I could not follow the rhythm of the peloton. Today I found some new energy such as the AG2R a Mondiale team. However, this Tour still represents the biggest failure of my career because my main goal was to reach the top 5. At least, I gained in confidence today, which is quite good for the Alps. I am more than pleased of my Plateau de Beille climb. Honestly, my best friend Mickael Cherel did an amazing job but Rodriguez was better than us.”
– Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale
Robert Gesink would suffer a puncture at a critical time as the Yellow Jersey group had been reduced to about 11 riders. He would be unable to claw his way back to the group and would give back a handful of seconds as a result of his misfortune.
Today went quite well, although it sucked that I had a puncture at the foot of the Plateau de Beille,” Gesink said. “It was a bad moment. I took another bike, I started riding to the top as if it was a time trial. Thanks to the adrenaline, I almost made it back to the yellow jersey group. I could see them all the way up, but unfortunately, I couldn’t close the gap.”
– Robert Gesink, Lotto NL – Jumbo
Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas would maintain a tight grip on the rest of the Yellow Jersey group keeping the tempo high and responding to accelerations. Alejandro Valverde would launch several sorties trying to soften up the Sky armada and Richie Porte would finally succumb after successfully covering them. Contador would try his luck and Froome would bring him back himself. Nibali would try. Quintana would try. Nothing would stick. The remnants of the days breakaway were picked off one by one with only 8 of the original 22 being able to survive to the finish ahead of the Yellow Jersey group.
It was a good work from everyone in the team. A difficult day, with really demanding climbs and, above all, serious temperature changes and rain in the finale. It took even more energy from us, but we stood it and attacked the leader several times. Sky managed to control all of them, as well ours as the ones from Alberto, Vincenzo… they dominated the situation pretty well and have shown to be strong, as well Froome as his team-mates. We’ll keep dreaming and trying; there’s still a long way to go and everything won’t be decided until the final mountain stage. I feel well at the moment, we’re as strong as in previous days; I think my level shouldn’t go down in what’s left in this Tour, and should I keep it like today, I think we can try some good things until Paris. There’s much to cover, we lost some ground already, but there’s some good condition we’ll use to keep fighting till next Sunday.”
– Nairo Quintana, Movistar
Joaquim Rodriguez’s move would stick and he would ride home solo to claim his second stage win of the Tour. Jakob Fuglsang would follow 1:12 down and Romain Bardet, after suffering miserably the day before, would claim the third spot on the podium of the day. The remainder of the 8 members that survived the break of the day would come in next and the faithful lieutenant Geraint Thomas would fight his way back to finish the job of getting Chris Froome to the line unscathed.
Tejay Van Garderen would answer all of the attacks and would finish behind the late sprint to the line led by Valverde and Froome. The top ten would remain almost unchanged with Gesink jumping over Tony Gallopin from 8th to 7th despite his bad luck.
I knew Sky had a really strong team and they were going to try to neutralize any of the attacks of all the dangerous guys. So when they were jumping, I just sat behind Sky to make sure they pulled them back. Hopefully, those guys will keep doing that so they waste a few of their bullets. Then, in the third week they might pay the price.”
– Tejay Van Garderen, BMC Racing Team
The peloton will be looking for a bit of restored order as they roll into the weekend tomorrow.
Tour de France 2015 Stage 12 Top 10
- Joachim Rodrgiuez (ESP) #91
TEAM KATUSHA 05h 40′ 14″
- Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) #3
ASTANA PRO TEAM 05h 41′ 26″ + 1:12
- Romain Bardet (FRA) #12
AG2R LA MONDIALE 05h 42′ 03″ + 1:49
- Gorka Izagirre Insausti (ESP) #57
MOVISTAR TEAM 05h 44′ 48″ + 4:34
- Louis Meintjes (RSA) #217
MTN-QHUBEKA 05h 44′ 52″ + 4:38
- Jan Barta (CZE) #192
BORA-ARGON 18 05h 46′ 01″ + 5:47
- Romain Sicard (FRA) #127
TEAM EUROPCAR 05h 46′ 17″ + 6:03
- Mikael Cherel (FRA) #14
AG2R LA MONDIALE 05h 46′ 42” + 6:28
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
MOVISTAR TEAM 05h 47′ 00″ + 6:46
- Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
TEAM SKY 05h 47′ 01″ + 6:47
Tour de France 2015 General Classification Top 10 after Stage 12
- Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
TEAM SKY 46h 50′ 32″
- Tejay Van Garderen (USA) #61
BMC RACING TEAM 46h 53′ 24″ + 2:52
- Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
MOVISTAR TEAM 46h 53′ 41″ + 3:09
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
MOVISTAR TEAM 46h 54′ 30″ + 3:58
- Geraint Thomas (GBR) #39
TEAM SKY 46h 54′ 35″ + 4:03
- Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
TINKOFF-SAXO 46h 54′ 36″‘ + 04:04
- Robert Gesink (NED) #131
TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO 46h 56′ 04″ + 5:32
- Tony Gallopin (FRA) #71
LOTTO-SOUDAL 46h 58′ 04″ + 7:32
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
ASTANA PRO TEAM 46h 58′ 19″ + 7:47
- Bauke Moellema (NED) #141
TREK FACTORY RACING 46h 58′ 34″ + 8:02
Tour de France 2015 Jerseys after Stage 12
Yellow (Overall leader): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Green (Points): Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
Polka-dot (KOM): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Worn by: Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
White (Best Young Rider): Nairo Quintana, Movistar
Stage 12 – Lannemezan / Plateau de Beille – 195km
Date: 16 July, 2015
Finish: Plateau de Beille
Distance: 195 km
Tour de France 2015 Stage 12 route
Tour de France 2015 Stage 12 route map
Tour de France 2015 Stage 12 profile
Tour de France 2015 Stage 12 climbs
Maps courtesy of Le Tour de France / © A.S.O.