A short stage, but to an interesting location. Modane Valfrejus is the ski station above the town where stage 20 of the Tour de France is starting this year, and a high enough ski resort in its own right. Again, no one could decide who was going to the break, but after a quiet week as breaks go by their standard, they were back to normality, sending three representatives in the escape. Quemeneur, Sicard and Gautier joined by Gorka Izagirre, Pires, Timmer, De Clercq, Simon, Tony Martin, Smukulis, Boom, Kelderman and Cummings with a counter attack a couple of minutes behind, who would eventually give up, finally establishing a break after 50 kilometres.
Martin had enough of the break's speed and attacked them, going solo ahead of Les Lacets de Montvernier. On the climb, Sky were down to four men, with Peter Kennaugh setting a hard tempo and riders being shelled out the back. Martin was doing his freight train impression, hands on the drops, but was still losing time to the five-man Sky train. Behind him, somewhere, were the aimless breakaways.
BMC were sitting on the back of Sky, with several more riders than they have had in most recent stages due to the easier run in to the final climb, as Kennaugh and Deignan, both looking good for Sky's TDF team were still there, pulling Martin's advantage down to a very manageable distance, just 1' 21" with 20 kilometres to go, but they were soon relieved by AG2R and Cannondale-Garmin.
Tony Martin was out of gas completely, and the chase group shot past him immediately on catching him, but behind the peloton were advancing mercilessly on the penultimate climb, down to 20 seconds as attacks came from the peloton, first Paul Voss, and he was followed by Alejandro Valverde, but that escape was quickly caught by the peloton, but the effort cracked all of Cannondale's domestiques. Ahead, Cummings had attacked the break and had half a minute, solo.
Valverde attacked again on the descent to the final climb, not letting Cyril Gautier get in his way, just slightly nudging him into the grass in the middle of a corner. However, with 7 kilometres to go, it was Cummings who was the real danger up front, with over a minute as Nibali came to the front to annoy Sky, which he did, getting Roche to suffer. He also got the gap down to exactly one minute in 500 metres, catching Valverde. He cracked and Michele Scarponi, 38 minutes down, attacked, followed by Froome.
Rodríguez, 5th yesterday went next, and Cumming's advantage went down to 30". Poels went to chase him down for Froome, he was last man. All the GC contenders were there, holding strong, as Rodríguez was caught. Cummings was still there, could he make it? He had 22", and left a hairpin of the climb as the GC guys entered it.
Then they hit the steep section. Intxausti and Martin were the first to hit the red and get dropped as Poels sprinted for all he was worth for his team leader with 2.5 kilometres to go, and there was he Froome acceleration. He gapped the peloton by a good distance, and Van Garderen was in no-man's land, but it wasn't enough. The Brit and the American gave all they had at the steepest bit of the climb. And Froome was gaining time, he had 12 seconds with 1.3 kilometres to go, Van Garderen was dying a thousand deaths, grinding out of the saddle as he was caught by Costa and Yates.
Froom was out of sight as the road levelled out, and Froome won his second stage in a row sprinting in the drops to the finish, as the clock started. And it ticked for 18 seconds until Van Garderen came in 4th place, Froome's 10 bonus seconds giving him the GC by the same margin.
Froome's form here, though not as good as that in 2013, is very good, winning both weekend stages is a pretty good showing. It was a very good result for him, but the race was very difficult. Will it serve him well in the Tour de France? What do you think? Also, Van Garderen showed better mountain skills than he has all through his career, will he challenge for yellow? Anyway, great race, almost every stage. I've wholly enjoyed covering it.