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TdF #13: Valverde blown away

July 18, 2013

An amazing stage worthy of the spring classics where the wind blew and the northern Europeans dealt to those from warmer climes. Omega and Belkin apparently hatched the plan the night before and they certainly put it into good effect. When the peleton reached an exposed section after only 100km Omega put pressure on and caused a split in the peleton. Later, Valverde had a mechanical and took too long to change his wheel. Even though he had most of this team working hard, they could not regain the peleton. After a long chase, they eventually gave up and Valverde lost over 10 minutes and with that a hope of the podium.

Valverde was not the only rider to miss out but certainly the biggest loser. Kittel and Greipel lost a chance of a stage win. A late surge by Saxo Tinkoff resulted in only a dozen riders going clear. This small group had no less than six Saxo riders. A team time trial put time into the peleton. Froome only just missed the break, but that was enough to end up losing a minute to Contador and Mollema. Cav was the last man to make the break, and with two team mates was always favourite to win the stage. Sagan was completely out foxed and Cav took his 25th tour stage.

So how did it happen? With a strong wind from the side, not all can shelter from those ahead. The most shelter is from beside and slightly behind the rider ahead. Due to the limited width of the road, only 15 or 20 riders can effectively shelter in the peleton. Many of the rest are exposed to the wind. It does not take much for a small gap to appear and quickly the peleton splinters into groups of 20 or so riders. Inattention or weak riding can be severely punished.

Movistar did leave Quintana in the leading peleton, so not all is lost for them. However, they may rue Valverde not swapping bikes or leaving Rui Costa for them to keep in touch in the GC. A day that looked like an easy GC day turned into an intriguing battle between teams. Belgium, Netherlands and Denmark won today.

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