The second weekend of the 2016 Tour de France is in the books, and as the 183 remaining riders settle in for a well-deserved rest day in Switzerland it is the perfect time to look back on the second weekend of this year’s race. Only five stages remain after the rest day, with four straight Alpine stages leading into the race finale on the Champs-Elysees. Let’s recap what happened over the past three stages leading into the final week of competition.
Stage 14: Cavendish Takes 30th Career Tour Stage
Two years ago, it appeared as though one of the most fearsome sprinters in cycling history had lost his devastating top gear after Mark Cavendish failed to win a single stage at the 2014 Tour, the first time in seven participations that the Manx Missile had left France empty-handed. Last year Cavendish did secure one stage win, but it seemed like a swan song more than a resurgence.
Then the British speedster returned to the track to prepare for a shot at Olympic glory, and the work in the velodrome has rejuvenated his form to the point where he has once again threatened to rewrite the record books. After taking three stage victories in the first week of racing, Cavendish surpassed Bernard Hinault on the list of all-time Tour stage victories and began his charge toward Eddy Merckx.
The assault on the records continued on Saturday as the race provided another opportunity for the sprinters in the field to battle for stage victory. A four-man breakaway was allowed to dangle off the front of the peloton throughout the stage, gaining a maximum lead of four minutes before the sprinters’ teams started reeling them back in. They were allowed a few seconds’ advantage within the final 25 kilometers, finally reintegrating into the main field in the final kilometers before the finish line.
Then the fireworks started. Just as he has several times already this Tour, Marcel Kittel led out the sprint with around 250 meters to go. Cavendish glued onto his wheel, expertly timing his sprint to accelerate around the German for his fourth stage win of this year’s race. Kittel protested the finish, asserting that Cavendish had cut off his line and endangered the field, but the race jury deemed the claim to be without basis. In the process he moved within four stage wins of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record in France, and pulled level with Italian legend Mario Cipollini with his 48th career grand tour stage victory.
The big question remains whether or not Cavendish will ride all the way to Paris, where he won the stage on the Champs-Elysees four straight years from 2009 to 2012. With one eye on the Rio Olympics, it is uncertain whether or not the British specialist will risk his fitness in the Alps. “I’ve said I’m not going to put myself over the edge so if I get sick or fall off I won’t,” Cavendish said after the stage, “but I’m in good shape, the team’s in good morale so I’ll carry on as long as I can.”
Stage 15: Pantano Outkicks Majka in Culoz
Six categorized climbs in the Jura Mountains on the route to Switzerland, coupled with the looming Alps in the final week, caused the general classification contenders to sit back and allow a breakaway to take the spoils on Stage 15. Out of a 30-strong lead group, the current King of the Mountains and a relatively unheralded Colombian climber separated themselves on the penultimate descent to contest the final sprint to the finish line in Culoz.
The catalyst for the breakaway was Rafal Majka, bedecked in polka dots as the best climber of the moment in the race, who countered a move by his rival Thomas De Gendt and brought along a large group with him. It was mixed company, with some riders harboring dreams of a stage win and others working to mitigate the impact of the split to their team leaders. Team Sky, controlling the peloton for yellow jersey Chris Froome, allowed the break to consolidate up the road while also working to tire out Froome’s rivals for yellow.
The hors-categorie Grand Colombier made its presence felt on both the lead group and the peloton further back. After four categorized climbs and numerous other undulations in the course profile, the two groups began to splinter on the 12.8-kilometer climb that averages 6.8% gradient. While the ascent rubberized many a rider’s legs, the descent proved decisive. Majka and Pantano broke free of the fractured breakaway and sped away together toward Culoz.
The pair began the final climb, the Lacets du Grand Colombier, alongside one another. Knowing his only chance at a stage win was to solo to the finish, Majka attacked and began to distance himself from the Colombian. He had a healthy lead coming over the summit, but misjudged a corner on the final descent and wound up detouring through the grass to stay upright. The mistake gave Pantano an opening to catch back up with the Pole, and the two came back together and held off the remnants of the breakaway still chasing after them.
Once in Culoz, Majka led out the sprint with less than 250 meters to go, but Pantano held firm in his slipstream and bided his time. With 140 meters to the line, the Colombian pulled alongside his breakaway companion and accelerated clear. Having built up enough of a gap, Pantano sat up about 20 meters from the finish and raised his arms in triumph to celebrate the first grand-tour stage win of his career. Majka was forced to settle for second, but did manage to increase his lead in the mountains classification that he won in 2014.
Stage 16: Sagan Steals Third Stage Win in Berne
After Mark Cavendish won Stage 14 and pulled within 62 points of Peter Sagan in the race for the green jersey, everyone looked at Stage 16 as a potential showdown that could pull the points classification into an even tighter race. The finish into Berne afforded the right conditions for a bunch sprint, and the sprinters’ teams worked together to ensure that their specialists would reach the line together to battle for the stage.
The day began with a long breakaway, as Julian Alaphilippe and teammate Tony Martin broke away early in the stage. Martin, the former world time-trial champion, gritted out an impressive effort towing along his teammate with dreams of sending the Frenchman on to a solo victory. Alaphilippe cracked on the only categorized climb of the day, and Martin continued on alone hoping for his own audacious stage win.
The peloton finally enveloped the German soloist with 21 kilometers left to the finish, and after more than 160 kilometers off the front Martin faded away from contention. With the field coming together so far from the finish, it opened the door for a series of counterattacks. Rui Costa made an effort, opening a small gap that held between 10 and 15 seconds for the next 15 kilometers. The Portuguese cyclist was caught with less than five kilometers left on the stage, and it was evident that the stage would end in a bunch sprint.
Missing at the finish was Cavendish, who found himself far back in the main field and finished just 24th on the stage. Taking advantage of this was Sagan, who has won the green jersey four straight years in large part because he is able to get across this sort of terrain more effectively and with more energy at the finish than most of the pure sprinters in the peloton. A cobblestone climb in the final three kilometers tested the field, but nearly 60 riders remained together after cresting the hill.
Fabian Cancellara, riding into his home city in his final Tour de France, battled in vain to claim one final stage victory. Instead it was Alexander Kristoff and Sagan who blew past and dueled to the finish line, leading to the third photo-finish review of the 2016 Tour. Kristoff celebrated at the finish line, but it would be Sagan who celebrated after the fact and who stepped onto the podium as victor. In the process he increased his lead to 114 points in the points classification, effectively securing the green jersey on his shoulders for a fifth straight year.
The cyclists will enjoy a rest day in Berne on Tuesday before heading into the Alps for four grueling days of racing. Chris Froome remains 1:47 ahead of Bauke Mollema in the general classification, and will look to increase that gap in the mountains. His chief rival, Nairo Quintana, sits nearly three minutes behind the leading time; look for the Colombian to make a desperate attack somewhere in the high mountains in an effort to strip away that advantage, perhaps as soon as the Stage 17 summit finish into Finhaut-Emosson.
Stage Results and Standings after Stage 16
Stage 14 Results
|1||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data||5:43:49|
|2||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha|
|3||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team|
|4||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|5||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step|
|6||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|7||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie|
|8||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre – Merida|
|9||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|10||Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
Stage 15 Results
|1||Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling||4:24:49|
|2||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team|
|3||Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||+0:00:06|
|4||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ|
|5||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step||+0:00:22|
|6||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data||+0:00:25|
|7||Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac|
|8||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha||+0:01:30|
|9||Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|10||Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac||+0:02:08|
Stage 16 Results
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team||4:26:02|
|2||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha|
|3||Sondre Holst Enger (Nor) IAM Cycling|
|4||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|5||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange|
|6||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek-Segafredo|
|7||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|8||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Etixx-Quick Step|
|9||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data|
|10||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
General Classification (yellow jersey)
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||72:40:38|
|2||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||+0:01:47|
|3||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange||+0:02:45|
|4||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||+0:02:59|
|5||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||+0:03:17|
|6||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||+0:04:04|
|7||Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team||+0:04:27|
|8||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||+0:04:47|
|9||Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step||+0:05:03|
|10||Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team||+0:05:16|
Points Classification (green jersey)
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team||405|
|2||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data||291|
|3||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-Quick Step||228|
|4||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie||156|
|5||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||152|
|6||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange||143|
|7||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||128|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||119|
|9||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||106|
|10||Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||105|
King of the Mountains (polka-dot jersey)
|1||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||127|
|2||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||90|
|3||Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||69|
|4||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data||62|
|5||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||58|
|6||Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida||50|
|7||Stef Clement (Ned) IAM Cycling||37|
|8||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha||28|
|9||Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana Pro Team||27|
|10||Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team||26|
Best Young Rider (white jersey)
|1||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange||72:43:23|
|2||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida||+0:03:03|
|3||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin||+0:16:30|
|4||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18||+0:25:53|
|5||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||+0:45:38|
|6||Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Fortuneo-Vital Concept||+1:10:13|
|7||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step||+1:17:25|
|8||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Argon 18||+1:31:00|
|9||Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida||+1:42:56|
|10||Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Lampre-Merida||+1:56:49|