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TdF #9: The Sky Darkens

July 12, 2013

What a breath-taking stage. Garmin decided to light it up before the peleton was even on the first of the five big climbs. When Saxo Tinkoff and Movistar joined in, Sky suddenly lost all control as man after man was spat out the back.

Kennaugh was dispatched in the roughest style, disappearing down a hill after Hesjedal clipped him on his way past. Fortunately he reappeared but was very shaken and was unable to recover to the peleton. Porte cracked early and despite working very hard he was unable to get back to Froome. Whenever he was close, Movistar or Saxo just raised the pace enough to make sure he was left behind. Despondent on the summit of the last climb, he sat up and lost 18m. Even worse, Kiriyenka was unable to make the time limit and was eliminated.

Up front Froome had to chase down all the important attacks himself. He did not have much trouble doing that, even when Valverde had a very crafty attack move with a team mate on the flat. Froome was able to sit on their wheels and even when Rui Costa dropped back to help out, it was not enough to either lose Froome or get a decent gap on the chasing bunch. That was the only big attack from Valverde, so maybe he did not have the legs to try again. Contador did not do any more than just follow all day, suggesting his form is not great.

Quintana pushed hard several times on the last climb but again Froome was able to chase him down. After that, the top GC riders just watched each other. Sky was bruised, but not knocked down. Froome remains the strongest and has time on the others.

Dan Martin escaped at the right time, with a handy companion in Fugslang, and won the sprint to the finish line. An excellent stage win and well deserved for the team that kicked it all off hours earlier.

Sky should not be too unhappy about Porte dropping time. The tactics yesterday with Porte working hard were suspect. Perhaps he should have simply followed Valverde and Contador instead of going into the red and burning off energy. At least now he will dedicate all his energy to Froome winning.

Movistar should be disappointed. For all that work they did not make enough out of a great opportunity. Froome may have had to work harder than ideal and damaging Sky was some reward. However, the Spanish team needed to put time into Froome and they failed to gain a single second.

Hesjedal and Rolland lost time after attacking earlier. Both can now be discounted from high GC finishes.

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