TDF 2013: Stage 20: Froome Seals Yellow, Quintana Steals Second

Froome, Quintana, and Rodriguez. Froome was still in the lead at the last kilometer to the top, but Quintana took the stage. (C) Jennifer Benepe

Le Semnoz, Annecy, France—July 20, 2013—By Jen Benepe

Nairo Quintana made good on yesterday’s promise to do something at the end of this stage, and he attacked in the final 10 km, pushing Froome to his limits, and winning the stage.

It wasn’t easy, but Chris Froome sealed the Yellow Jersey today in the penultimate stage from the border of the lake in Annecy, to the mountain-top nearby.

But now the Colombian has taken second place in the 2013, displacing Alberto Contador, who also slipped behind Joaquim Rodriguez, who is now third overall.

Contador will be going home with fourth position.

Quintana also scooped up the Polka Dot jersey, and the best young rider (White Jersey). ‘The most important thing is to be second overall, and to win the stage,” he told reporters. “It’s incredible, I am very happy.”

Froome told reporters after the stage that it had been one of the hardest. “It was hard today. For the final stage, it was hard,” he said in French.  But the Brit is looking forward to relaxing a little when his team rides into Paris tomorrow. “Tomorrow is a good day for the sprinters, but for us, it’s finished.”

Jens Voigt who attacked on the last mountain won the most combative rider classification. The 42-year-old said this will be his last Tour. “I finished the Tour de France on a good note. I’m happy and now it’s finished for me.”

Peter Sagan will ride into Paris with the Green Jersey—almost assuredly, even though there is one final sprint opportunity on the Champs Elysees.

Today was one of the toughest, and just watching the riders make it up the final col on the Semnoz was painful.

Contador couldn’t keep up with Quintana’s attacks and he is now in fourth position overall. Here one kilometer from the finish. (c) Jennifer Benepe

The teams made one full circle to complete the 20th stage, traveling across the Savoie mountains through a category 2 climb at Cote de Puget, three category 3 climbs at Col de Leschaux, Cote d’Aillon-le-Vieux, and Col des Pres, followed by a category 1 climb at Mont Revard, and finally the hors categorie ascent to Annecy Semnoz.

The Semnoz ascent is so narrow and steep that hikers normally take a ski lift to the top.  That’s what anyone who wanted to see the top had to do today—no cars allowed—not even the Caravane (see our story on the marketing of the Tour de France.)

Thousands of cyclists took to their own bicycles and started the climb up the back of the Semnoz early in the morning: a grueling, hot sun was ever present by the time noon struck.

The stage started with a breakaway, and among the riders was Pierre Rolland of the Europcar team who has made a promise to himself, and perhaps to his fans that even he can’t win a stage, he could at least secure the Polka Dot jersey.

That sadly wasn’t to be, but we watched the whole scene play out until the last few kilometers, when the Yellow Jersey was attacked by Quintana.

Earlier on Rolland’s group included Jens Voigt (RadioShack), Markus Burghardt, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), Cristophe Riblon (AGR2-Mondiale), Pavel Brutt (Astana), Juan Antonio Flecha, Pavel Brutt (Katusha) Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge), and Igor Anton.  Halfway through the stage, the group only had a 44 second advantage over the Yellow Jersey peloton.

The top of the Semnoz today, one kilometer away. A cross and the top of a lift normally used for skiing in the winter. (c) Jen Benepe

At the intermediate sprint, Rolland got in front of the Anton, and there was a brief interchange. Maybe his luck had now got the better of him: as Voigt pushed the pace up the Mont Revard, Rolland was dropped off the back of the escape group.

The RadioShack team was no doubt looking for another victory in today’s stage after two of their riders, Andreas Kloden and Jan Bakelants, came in second and third into le Grand Bornand yesterday.

The peloton started losing time against the leader, Jens Voigt , while Brutt (Katusha), Anton and Clarke were in pursuit. Philippe Gilbert and Tejay van Garderen made an escape off the front of the peloton, and also went in pursuit of Voigt, as they climbed Mont Revard one minute 20 seconds back.

Soon Anton broke off the front of his group, and it was Voigt, Anton (30 seconds back,) the group of Pierre Rolland, Burghardt, and Gautier one minute and 21 seconds back, and finally the peloton, 2 minutes and 43 seconds back of Voigt.

Soon they were all together again—Van Garderen, Burghardt, Rolland, Gilbert, Gautier and Riblon, as they approached the top of Mont Revard. Pavel Brutt also soon joined the group. Voigt was still ahead.

But then as the teams were within 10 km of the finish everything started to change.

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