95th Tour de France
Stage 13 - Narbonne to Nimes - 182.0 km (113.0 mi)
18 July 2008
The Tour de France needs all the good publicity it can get this year. The end of the Armstrong era -- which was always a love/hate relationship for the Tour de France and its organizer, Amaury Sports Organization -- has seen the turbulent drug-plagued era which preceded the Texan's seven-year reign as champion stir up ill repute. The 2006 Tour was decimated before it began. Operacion Puerto, the Spanish investigation of the blood-doping ring run by Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid, saw pre-race favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich tumbling out of the race along with the entire Liberty Seguros (now Astana) team. The race brought some hope, with a battle for the ages between an American and a Spaniard. Its 2006 champion, Floyd Landis, flew up the Alps and in the final time trial to reclaim lost yellow from Oscar Pereiro... a phoenix rising from the ashes on testosterone-laden wings. Pereiro is now recognized as the winner...
Then 2007 came along. Astana entered the Tour as a wild-card entry. The field was wide open. Then the positives began... and the biggest to befall the peloton was none other than Alexandre Vinokourov, the former podium winner who experienced his own resurrection in the high mountains of the Tour. Caught for blood doping, Astana had once again disgraced the Tour. But then an even bigger scandal came to light. Michael Rasmussen, winner of the King of the Mountains two years running and the man in yellow, had lied about his whereabouts when he missed a pre-Tour drug test. His team, Rabobank, ejected him from the race. The yellow passed to Discovery's Alberto Contador...
... who is now the leader of the reborn Astana team, with its distinctly-Discovery feel headed by team director Johan Bruyneel and a slew of former Discovery riders. ASO decided to keep Astana out of the Tour, citing the past two seasons of scandal as its justification. But no amount of exclusions could keep riders out of the race who are artificially enhanced; if it could, there would be no reason for in-race drug testing. Just weed out the riders right before the race and leave it at that...
But there is a nefarious portion of the peloton which still feels it necessary, despite all the advances in testing technology and the increased cooperation with the manufacturers of doping substances, to seek that extra advantage. The tests have weeded them out to this point. It has stung at times... from Beltran to Ricco, the past present and future of cycling ALL took a blow. But at the same time, teams like Garmin-Chipotle and Columbia and CSC -- all with stringent independent monitoring programs and strict codes of conduct -- are proving that races CAN be won cleanly and, more importantly for this beleaguered sport, transparently.
No one personifies this new ethos more than Mark Cavendish, the man who took today's Stage 13 from Narbonne to Nimes. The 23-year-old British cyclist, a former world champion in track cycling, is riding in just his second Tour de France and is outdueling the stars of sprinting. Today it was three-time green jersey winner Robbie McEwen getting nipped at the line by the young talent. Cavendish, the outspoken Columbia rider who is alternately described as a boon for and the bane of cycling's existence, took his fourth stage victory of the 2008 Tour in splendid fashion, kicking furiously toward the line and past the veteran Australian from Silence-Lotto into a headwind to refocus attention on the positives of professional cycling.
The race began where it ended yesterday, Narbonne, and the attacks again... oh, the ubiquitous attacks! But there would be only one today. Not even a full kilometer into the stage, Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Florent Brard (Cofidis) couldn't take the anticipation and broke clear. The peloton reacted lethargically, and the pair had a one-minute gap by the fourth kilometer. With both riders over an hour and a half behind maillot jaune Cadel Evans, the breakaway was free to roam. And roam it did -- by the twentieth kilometer the gap was pushing near ten minutes on the peloton. The field, now warmed up sufficiently, started pulling back on the reins.
By the time the two leaders reached the first of three fourth-category climbs on the day, the Cote de la Resclauze, the gap was back down to seven minutes. The feed zone came soon after Brard took the summit ahead of Terpstra, the lead still decreasing by the pedal stroke. By the time the second climb arrived at kilometer 105.5 the lead had decreased to four minutes. Terpstra trailed Brard again over the summit of the Cote de Puechabon, the heat visibly affecting the rider on a hot day through southern France though he managed to hold Brard's wheel, and the two continued pushing headstrong toward the Pic Saint-Loup, the final climb of the day. Terpstra was again in duress, but held once again onto his breakaway partner's wheel to trail over the summit. With the terrain of the Massif Central foothills behind, the two descended toward the two sprint points and the finish clear by 2:30.
At the first sprint point in Saint-Bauzille-de-Montmel, Terpstra went through ahead of Brard, with green jersey Oscar Freire's teammate Juan Antonio Flecha going through at the head of the peloton to take third and neutralize the points for Freire's competitors. The next sprint point, just sixteen kilometers down the road in Villevieille, saw Terpstra double-cross the breakaway companion who had done all the pulling over the climbs and sprint clear for the six points and the gap. Flecha again tried to take third, but Stephane Auge (Cofidis) bridged the gap and passed the Rabobank rider to connect with his teammate Brard. With twenty-five kilometers left before the finish, Brard and Auge reunited. They were now thirty-five seconds behind Terpstra and fifty seconds up on the peloton.
Terpstra continued to press his pace until cramps finally set in from the heat and the exertion. He was caught by the Cofidis duo with ten kilometers to go. Sylvain Chavanel attempted to break free from the pack to join his Cofidis teammates, gaining an advantage and staying away until three kilometers remained. Milram pulled hard for Erik Zabel, while Liquigas also futilely attempted to set up a train. In the end, Columbia did just enough to position Cavendish, and he was able to use his track-trained legs to outkick Robbie McEwen. Magnanimous in defeat, the Australian praised his victorious opponent. "Cavendish is simply too strong and too fast," McEwen said after the race. "This was the first time that I've really had a chance to do my sprint, and so it's a relief. I'm glad I was able to sprint, finally. But in the end I was beaten fair and square." Cavendish to this point is the class of the 2008 Tour, and could easily take both Stage 19 from Roanne to Montlucon and the final stage on the Champs-Elysses in Paris to get an even half-dozen...
Results - Stage 13
- Mark Cavendish (GBR) Columbia -- 4.25.42 (41.10 km/h)
- Robbie McEwen (AUS) Silence-Lotto
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel
- Heinrich Haussler (GER) Gerolsteiner
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole
- Leonardo Duque (COL) Cofidis
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram
- Julian Dean (NZL) Garmin-Chipotle
- Sebastien Chavanel (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- all s.t.
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 54.48.47
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +0.01
- Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- +0.38
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- +0.46
- Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank -- +0.57
- Carlos Sastre (ESP) Team CSC -- +1.28
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +1.56
- Vladimir Efimkin (RUS) AG2R La Mondiale -- +2.32
- Mikel Astarloza (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi -- +3.51
- Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas -- +4.18
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank -- 184 pts
- Mark Cavendish (GBR) Columbia -- 156
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 156
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram -- 141
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- 138
- Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld -- 110
- Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis -- 107
- Robbie McEwen (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 105
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 97
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 94
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Sebastian Lang (GER) Gerolsteiner -- 60 pts
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- 57
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- 46
- Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 31
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 30
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- 30
- Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Cofidis -- 27
- Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 27
- Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank -- 24
- Vladimir Efimkin (RUS) AG2R La Mondiale -- 24
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- 54.53.05
- Maxime Monfort (BEL) Cofidis -- +2.49
- Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas -- +2.53
- Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +4.27
- Eduardo Gonzalo (ESP) Agritubel -- +13.57
- Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia -- +25.33
- Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- +32.45
- Remy Di Gregorio (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- +35.12
- Trent Lowe (AUS) Garmin-Chipotle -- +49.28
- John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld -- +52.15