July 12, 2013.–By Jen Benepe –With reporting by LeTour.fr.
Mark Cavendish and Team Omega Pharma Quickstep wouldn’t let it happen to him again. Once humiliated at the line in stage 12, never again in Stage 13 as he crossed the line.
The best sprinter of this generation won his 25th Tour de France stage in St-Amand Montrond: thirteen must be his lucky number.
But it was bad luck for Alejandro Valverde, who had ranked second in the general classification in Stage 12 into Tours when Omega Pharma-Quickstep picked up the pace at the 56 km makr, and split the peloton into three groups leaving behind the Movistar team leader who had suffered a flat.
Ultimately five teammates waited for Valverde but he lost 37” to the yellow jersey’s group that was paced by Belkin and Omega riders at a time when the second peloton was behind by 1’20”.
The 173km stage from Tours to St-Amand-Montrond began at 1.30pm after the longest neutral zone so far this year (14.3km). There were 181 riders in the race with Boasson Hagen (SKY) the non-starter because of a fractured right scapula. The conditions were warm with temperatures over 30 degrees during the stage that featured only one categorised hill – the côte de Crotz (cat-4 at 77.5km). The intermediate sprint was in Saint-Aoustrille (112.5km).
After a furious chase by Plaza (MOV) the peloton lost contact with the Valverde sextet and this prompted the Movistar group to wait for the second peloton that still had a fair chase on its hands to catch the yellow jersey group.
Far from a standard sprint stage, several of the big GC teams battled it out in the front, pushing the pace throughout.
Omega Pharma started the battle, and the Saxo-Tinkoff team kept on punching through to the end when it realized that Froome was vulnerable.
This was a day when a sprinter won, but many of the GC specialists lost. Froome keeps his overall lead but he is now only 2’28” ahead of second, Bauke Mollema with Alberto Contador edging closer to the overall lead, just 2’45” behind the Sky team’s leader.
The mountains are beckoning.