Tinkoff-Saxo's Michael Rogers took victory on Stage 16 of the 2014 Tour de France as he headed a breakaway in the first of three days in the Pyrenees.
It marks the Australian's maiden stage win at the Tour after riding it for 10 years and he eventually broke, as a group of four chased, and held off Europcar's Thomas Voeckler and Team Sky's Vasil Kiriyenka into second and third respectively, to the delight of fallen teammate Alberto Contador:
Jose Serpa of Lampre and Cyril Gautier of Europcar rounded out the surviving five who finished up front after challenging climbs, and Vincenzo Nibali stayed comfortably in the yellow jersey.
|Tour de France 2014: Stage 16 Results|
|1||Micahel Rogers||Australia||Tinkoff - Saxo||6:07:10|
|3||Vasil Kiryienka||Belarus||Team Sky||+9|
|6||Greg Van Avermaet||Belgium||BMC Racing||+13|
After Monday's second—and final—rest day of the Tour in Carcassonne, a breakaway was guaranteed. And so it proved as an initial group of 21 riders forced a lead to the peloton which, at its peak, was greater than 12 minutes.
However, as far as the yellow jersey was concerned, Nibali stayed safe in the peloton along with his closest rival Alejandro Valverde who started the day more than four and a half minutes back.
The first of three days climbing, it was the longest stage of the entire three weeks of racing at 237 kilometres.
The penultimate peak—the Col des Ares—was reached first by Voeckler as the breakaway group stayed together but the 11.7 km hors categorie climb to the peak of Port de Bales would inevitably drop several riders before the descent into Bagneres-de-Luchon.
It proved as much as the gradient and struggle caused havoc amongst the breakaway group and the finishing top five eventually pushed themselves ahead, intermittently splitting and rejoining.
Serpa beat Voeckler to the summit but it was eventually Rogers who took the initiative on the descent and with 5 km remaining he had an eight second lead to the other four.
He held the lead to the end and took a famous victory as the breakaway proved successful with the peloton never really threatening to bridge the early gap.
The 34-year-old Rogers said his determination and refusal to lose was what drove him to the victory per Lawrence Barretto on BBC Sport:
I knew once I got to the bottom of the last climb, the race had began for me. I tried a few times to drop them on the climb but I couldn't so I knew I had to pick them off on the descent. I said to myself - "I have been in this position to many times and not won. I'm not going to do it again."
Nibali retained his overall lead comfortably in the general classification with the biggest losers of the day—in terms of the podium—being Romain Bardet and Tejay van Garderen.
|Tour de France 2014: General Classification|
|6||Tejay van Garderen||United States||BMC Racing||+9:25|
|7||Leopold Konig||Czech Republic||NetApp||+9:32|
|8||Laurens ten Dam||Netherlands||Belkin||+11:12|
Stage 17 on Wednesday is the shortest road stage of the Tour but is intense in that it squeezes four tough climbs into a very short final stretch and includes a summit finish.
Nibali need simply stay safe, as—with less than a week to go—his lead is great enough that he effectively has the yellow jersey in the bag.
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