Sunday, July 7, 2013

Irish eyes are smiling.

1992. It's been since then that an Irish man last won a stage of Le Tour de France. It was the great Stephen Roche climbing to victory on stage 16 that year, and today it was his nephew, Dan Rogers of Garmin Sharp, who made a masterful move on the days final climb solo and then worked with Jacob Fuglsang to stay away and claim victory on the last day in the Pyranees. It was a fantastic effort and an excellent tactical play by the Irishman to outfox and then outrun the Astana rider and gain another monumental victory to go along with his win in last springs Liege Bastogne Liege. 

And what of the rest of the race? Well, I think we may have seen a preview of what we can expect from the remainder of this tour. It was pretty much everybody against team sky...or more specifically, everybody against Chris Froome. Today's racing should lay to rest any lingering questions regarding whether or not Sky is racing clean, as the black and blue boys exploded on the second to last climb of the day, leaving their leader alone and vulnerable in yellow - or so it would seem. 

Froome however kept his head and saved his legs and matched every challenge that was thrown his way. The main protagonist again was Nairo Quintana. At one point on the way up La Hourquette d' Ancizan the diminutive Colombian attacked four times in less than 1km, and it was amazing to watch as as Froome responded and neutralized every single one of them. Today he cemented his place as Le Patron of the peloton in a stage that - as far as I'm concerned - was more important for his GC hopes than yesterday's stage 8. 

His response in the face of isolation was the stuff of legend, the type of ride that you would have seen from the greats of the sport. Richie Porte - his top lieutenant - was completely shattered on the days first climb up the Portet d' Aspet by the brutal pace pushed by Team Garmin Sharp. From that point he was left alone with over 100km to go and with the challenge of a combined effort by the spanish led Movistar and Saxo Tinkoff teams. There were more than a few shots of Valverde and Contador having discussions through out the race, no doubt planning when and how to attack the South African. 

At the end of the day it was all for naught, as Froome maintained his position, and asserted as the main controller of the race to finish with the chase group and lose not one second of time to his closest competition. He ends the day over 1:25 in the lead now ahead of Valverde in second place and is rewarded with a much needed rest day tomorrow as he preps for the all important individual time trial to Mont Saint Michel. 

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