Le Tour De France 2013 : Stage 15 Winners and Losers
The 15th Stage of the 2013 Tour De France offered the contenders a chance to take over the lead of the race with a 242km stage, the longest of the Tour that finished on the summit of Mont Ventoux.
Chris Froome of Team Sky held a lead of just under two minutes over the rest of the field, but lost time earlier in the week on a flat stage to close the gap and ask serious questions over the strength of his Team Sky squad.
Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana and Pierre Rolland were favorites going into the stage, with a likely French attack on Bastille Day for a famous win on the "Giant of Provence."
Winner : Mont Ventoux
The 1,912m ascent to the top gained legendary status within Le Tour, with an average of an 8% gradient, it destroyed the field and the hopes of several contenders along the way. Tom Simpson died within a mile of the top of Mont Ventoux in 1967 and Eddy Merckx almost collapsed on his ascent in 1970 to add to the aura of the mountain.
Today, the headwind ensured that the 20.8km climb would be one of the toughest tests, if not the toughest climb in this year's tour. It was the end to a 242km stage that, until the base of the climb, was ahead of all of the projected time schedules that the Tour had set out.
Everyone that climbed Mont Ventoux earned their rest day tomorrow, as "The Bald Mountain" was the winner on today's stage.
Winner : Chris Froome
Questions had been asked of Sky's superiority since their victory in Stage 8 at Ax-3-Domaines. Chris Froome answered all those questions with a imperious ride on Mont Ventoux. Aided by Richie Porte, their pace of ascent cracked the lead group of riders before Fromme made his attack in the final 8km.
Overtaking all of the breakaways, including Colombia's Nairo Quintana in the final two kilometres, to ensure he would arrive at the summit alone to strengthen his grip on the yellow jersey. It was a second stage win for the Brit with a performance that asks the question of whether he could have won last year's Tour also.
His attacks on the climb met with mixed reactions on Twitter, with some claiming parallels to Lance Armstrong as Froome seemed to be much fitter and stronger than everyone else in the race. The obvious response is that his team, Team Sky, seem to be the strongest in the race and often dictate the pace going up the mountain stages, with Richie Porte doing a similar job to Chris Froome in the 2012 Tour.
At the top of Mont Ventoux, Froome had extended his gap over the rest of the field to almost four and a half minutes.
Loser : Alberto Contador
Contador came into Le Tour as one of the favourites, a previous winner of the event but was stripped of his 2010 victory after a doping offence, but returned in 2012 to win the Vuelta De Espana to boost his credentials and chances of winning Le Tour in 2013.
He begun the day two minutes and forty-five seconds behind Froome, and was on his back wheel for the entire day up until the final 10km of the climb to Mont Ventoux. He was the last man to stay with Richie Porte and Chris Froome up Mont Ventoux, but had no answer to Froome's attack in the final half of the climb and was left behind to lose almost two minutes on Froome.
There is still plenty of stages to eat into the lead of Chris Froome but for the second time Contador has been unable to match the Sky riders pace, after falling off his back wheel on Stage 8 to Ax-3-Domaines.
Winner : Nairo Quintana
The 23-year-old Colombian, riding in his first Tour, has been the star of the mountain stages.
Born at 9,000 feet, he seems at ease on the toughest climbs that Le Tour has to offer and will be a constant threat in the third and final week of this year's event. His attack with 12km to go on Mont Ventoux sparked the increase in speed from the contenders, and it seemed unlikely that he would stay away for the entire climb.
Only one man caught him, Chris Froome. He finished 29 seconds behind Froome but gained time on every other rider in the field as well as the prize of taking over the white jersey for best young rider. Quintana lies 6th in Le Tour, under six minutes behind Froome.
Loser : Former Winners of Le Tour
Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans came into this year's Tour as outsiders but potential top-ten riders. Mont Ventoux was far from pleasant for the 2010 and 2011 champions as Schleck cracked inside the opening 5km of the climb and Evans followed just a few kilometres after that.
Schleck failed to keep up with his Radioshack Leopard teammate Jan Bakelants on the climb up Mont Ventoux and Maxine Monfort is ahead of him on the overall standings, as the Luxembourg lost 10 minutes on the stage and sits just inside the top twenty in Le Tour.
Cadel Evans lies 16th, leading his team on overall standings but a fair cry away from the successes of his 2011 Tour after losing almost nine minutes on Chris Froome.
Winner : Peter Sagan
Currently in the points leading green jersey, Sagan took the maximum 20 points from the only sprint of the day after being in the lead group that attacked early in the stage. A 99 point lead over Mark Cavendish who lies second looks almost unassailable in the final week of Le Tour as the Slovakian looks to retain his green jersey from last year.
The decision to go in todays break was simply for the sprint points and not for the stage win, he was caught on the base of Mont Ventoux but not before providing the spectacle of the day with a one-handed wheelie and a salute to the camera.
Keep doing what you're doing Sagan, I for one love it.