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Costa Wins Thriller to Villard-de-Lans

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On a rainy, horrible day in France, the action never stopped, Ruí Costa winning from Vincenzo Nibali out of a breakaway group.

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Today's stage finished at Villard-de-Lans. You mightn't remember a time the Tour de France finished here - it didn't actually happen (2004, Armstrong beat Basso et al in a sprint). But anyway, a breakaway win was likely and several riders had a go at getting in it. However, Teklehaimanot was not one - he was dropped early. Ten riders were the first to have a try, including Wellens again, Alaphillipe and Adam Yates, but they were caught. After that though nineteen riders tried, and no minnows. This break included yesterday's winner Bardet, who sat just a few seconds behind on GC, Simon Yates in sixth, along with his brother, some GC contenders who had lost time, Vincenzo Nibali, Wilco Kelderman and Ruí Costa, but the real shock was the presence of the yellow jersey Van Garderen, along with one of his most able team mates, Dennis. This wasn't going to be an easy stage. Sky had no rider in the break, so of course they set the early tempo. This caused basically all the riders I've mentioned to drop back to the peloton. The break then lost its momentum and was soon caught. 51 kilometres had been ridden by this time.

Tony Martin was the next to have a try, feeling that if he was by himself, maybe less people would feel inclined to chase. This injection of pressure dropped Julian Alaphillippe and even Joaquím Rodríguez. Martin stayed out for fifteen kilometres before, yes, more GC guys countered. Valverde, Nibali (again) and defending champion Talansky. Imagine, Talansky getting in a break on an anarchic stage. But this time, Froome tried to follow. He didn't catch the group, and dropped back, as Martin was caught and Nibali somehow ended up alone in the lead. He attacked on the descent of the cat. 2 climb. He was solo with 45 seconds by the top of the Col de Grimone. Forty-five seconds to whom? A group with all the GC favourites, with only Intxausti having team mates, and a pair of Cannondales. Van Garderen, Bardet, Froome, S Yates, Dan Martin, Talansky, Valverde, Herrada, Intxausti,  Kelderman, Kiserlovski, Tony Martin, Costa, Serpa and Gallopin were the only riders not dropped by this stage. Gallopin, Costa, Valverde and Tony Martin bridged to Nibali, and Martin, who seems to be determined to be in front, attacked, and again was caught by his companions as the peloton eased off and became a fifty rider group.

Nibali attacked on the Col de Rousset and dropped Gallopin and Martin, leaving just the three climbers at the front, 3 minutes ahead of the peloton, until the two Tonys rejoined. Behind, BMC and Tinkoff were chasing, BMC for yellow jersey Van Garderen and Tinkoff for...some reason? They weren't making much of a dent in the escape's advantage, turns out having Martin in the break can occasionally be useful. However, he quickly became less useful, getting dropped for the third time right at the same time as all of Tejay van Garderen's help.

The Tinkoff-Saxo-led peloton caught Martin but were still somehow leaching time to the group of four climbers. But an attack finally came from Tinkoff. Robert Kiserlovski went and was followed by the leader Van Garderen, who must have been itching to have a go, and get some time back on the escapees. This caused carnage in the peloton, Deignan cracking after trying to launch Froome, but it was Froome himself who caught the duo with a group of about 20 piloted by Van Garderen, in what may have been a mistake from the American. Simon Yates attacked next,  no one responded, and the British rider had a respectable buffer. Talansky now set the pace, and soon his team mate Martin  was attacking with John Gadret in pursuit of Yates, followed by (is there NOTHING this kid can't do?) Tiesj Benoot. The chase group was splintering now, and Romain Bardet didn't help by going from wet to dry roads and sliding off his bike, knocking off Joaquím Rodríguez.

The break was certain of a win, with just 4 kilometres to go and over two minutes of an advantage. Gallopin knew this, and set off, gaining a decent bit of time from the group of Valverde, Costa and Nibali, none of whom were exactly overly willing to work. The Frenchman had 15 seconds going on to the final climb, as Dan Martin attacked his group, looking for time on the peloton. Gallopin was grinding up the steep beginning of the hill, as Nibali attacked to follow him, cracking Valverde and distancing Costa, and catching Gallopin with barely any delay just before the Flamme Rouge.

Intxausti now attacked the peloton now, followed immediately by Van Garderen and dropping Froome. He was in no-man's-land originally, but soon caught the group.

Up front, Ruí Costa had caught Nibali and dropped him with just 100 metres left to take the stage, beating him by 5". Valverde and Gallopin came in a few seconds later, with Yates arriving next, in an excellent showing. Dan Martin also arrived, over a minute and a half down, followed by Froome, Intxausti and Van Garderen, with the British rider dropping Van Garderen to the line, taking just a few seconds.

Vincenzo Nibali now has the yellow jersey, but is seriously unlikely to keep it after being out front all day today, with several attacks. His fatigue may not have such an effect, as I doubt anyone's feeling too sprightly after that stage, but still, it won't be an easy ride,and he was dropped on Thursday. With 5 category one climbs and a steep summit finish, tomorrow's stage will root out any weaknesses. My favourite could actually be Intxausti, he didn't burn too many matches today and will be ready to attack tomorrow. He also wasn't dropped near the end by Froome, unlike someone I could mention. Martin also may lead Cannondale, thanks to his advantage gleaned from Taansky today, and he could be dangerous.

Results:

1. Ruí Costa 4hrs 29' 23"
2. Vincenzo Nibali á 5"
3. Alejandro Valverde 38"
4. Tony Gallopin

39"

5. Simon Yates 1' 24"
6. Daniel Martin 1' 46"
7. John Gadret 1' 48"
8. Tiesj Benoot 1' 59"
9. Christopher Froome 2' 12"
10. Beñat Intxausti 2' 12"

GC:

1. Vincenzo Nibali 22hrs 34' 17"
2. Ruí Costa á 29"
3. Alejandro Valverde 30"
4. Simon Yates 35"
5. Tejay van Garderen 42"
6. Beñat Intxausti 57"
7. Christopher Froome 1' 21"
8. Tony Gallopin 1' 29"
9. Romain Bardet 1' 30"
10. Daniel Martin 1' 30"