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Le Tour Stage 16: Rogers Solos In

Bryn Lennon

Today's stage was billed as a potentially exciting one, but one less likely to cause major shakeups in the general classification than the next two stages with summit finishes. Today was also billed as one for the breakaway with GC teams unlikely to drive the pace all day, letting a big group slip up the road and contest the stage win amongst themselves. At the end of the day, one of those predictions would come true.

A large breakaway did get up the road, containing Michael Rogers, Thomas Voeckler, Michal Kwiatkowski, Tom Jelle Slagter, Tony Gallopin, and a host of other riders. Their lead continued to climb almost until they hit the Port de Balés, the lone hors category climb of the day. Then, the break began to disintegrate under the toll of gravity, and later under the attacks of Cyril Gautier, Vockler, and Vasili Kiryienka. A small group came over the summit together and began to cooperate, especially after Michael Rogers had some stern words with Voeckler to ensure he pulled his own weight. The descent off the Balés flattened out about three kilometers from the finish line in Luchon, and that is precisely where Rogers hit out solo, easily gapping his companions and riding to the finish with nine seconds to spare. Behind, Voeckler led in a group of four riders sprinting for second.

In the group of general classification contenders, who would cross the line some eight minutes behind Rogers, the hostilities began early on the climb as Movistar began to force the pace along with FDJ. Racing the day after a rest day is often a hard proposition as the body just wants to shut down, not continue to ride hard. Sluggishness was apparent in a few of the riders, notably Romain Bardet and Tejay van Garderen. On a day when Bardet was expected to pressure Thibault Pinot by attacking the descent off the final climb, it was instead Pinot who went on the offensive on the climb itself, drawing out Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde, and Jean Cristophe Peraud. Bardet and van Garderen lost time and stood slim chances of gaining it back on the descent with Nibali deciding to attack on the way down. At the end of the stage, Bardet would slip to fifth and van Garderen to sixth, almost out of reach of the podium. Much more reshuffling occurred lower down the top ten as Pierre Rolland fell back, Kwiatkowski snuck back up to 9th, and Leopold Konig rode like a man possessed on the final descent to bridge a minute gap to the Nibali group and was rewarded for his efforts with 7th. These places are hardly set in stone, though, especially with two testing summit finishes on tap over the next two days.

Stage Results:

1 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 6:07:10
2 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:09
3 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky
4 José Serpa (Col) Lampre - Merida
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
7 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:36
8 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:50
9 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin - Sharp 0:02:11
10 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol

General Classification:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:05:19
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:37
3 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) 0:05:06
4 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:08
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:40
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:09:25
7 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:09:32
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:11:12
9 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:11:28
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:11:33

Mountains Classification:

1 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 89 pts
2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 88
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 86
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 61