I’m not going to be the least bit balanced about this: I’m overjoyed for Nairo Quintana. And Jens Voigt, and Andrew Talansky and Tejay van Garderen, and Valverde and Costa, and Rodriguez who was never really on my radar but rode heroically into third on the podium today, and Froome and especially Richie Porte, and Pierre Rolland, who fought so hard for the King of the Mountains, and Philippe Gilbert who was not too proud to ride out van Garderen while wearing the rainbow jersey, and finally for Contador and Kreuziger, who were simply outraced today after riding a strong Tour. What a day of racing, what stakes and what glory!
Gilbert and Van Garderen.
Quintana: King of the Mountains, White Jersey for best young rider, a stage win today (and second in stage 15), second overall in the 2013 Tour de France. His first Tour de France. Chapeau, my man.
Froome showed a lot of heart on the mountain today, too, on a day when he didn’t really need to (i.e., the kind of heart that counts the most). Post-race, he said,
For me, what this represents — the journey I've taken to get here from where I've started, riding on a little mountain bike on dirt roads in Kenya — and to be here the yellow jersey at the Tour de France . . . it's difficult for me to put into words. This really has been an amazing journey for me. The race has been a fight every single day.
I really think Froome’s attack with about 1.5 km to go was a real attempt to take the stage. After the chase group of Froome, Porte, Quintana, Rodriguez, Contador and Valverde caught Voigt with 8.8 km to go, Froome seemed to be riding for Porte and it was thrilling to think that, his victory now sewn up, he’d repay Porte with help to win the stage. But Porte must have been fading, hard as that is to believe.
So it was just Quintana, Rodriguez, and Froome at about 8 km to go — Rodriguez initiating the move with a chance possibly to pass Quintana today into 2nd overall, if he could crack the Colombian. Quintana and Froome were quick to respond and the three of them were away. Kreuziger had battled back unbelievably to help Contador, real Saxo-Tinkoff heroics there, but soon Contador was fading more and more, Kreuziger staying with him, and that is stage racing right there. Valverde stayed with Contador and Kreuziger, weighing them down, all for Quintana. The Spanish leader of Movistar ended up battling to 8th place overall in the GC, a terrific recovery after you-know-what in stage 13.
Rodriguez, Quintana, and Froome. Pulling away. Each man knew exactly what the stakes were for the others and each with a different agenda: Rodriguez and Quintana were fighting over 2nd overall (if Rodriguez could gain more than 26 seconds over Quintana). Meanwhile Froome and Quintana were fighting for the King of the Mountains — the winner at Semnoz would get the polka dot jersey. Granted, not Froome’s main concern probably, but knowing Porte’s chances were not to be, Froome could focus on winning the stage. A statement could be made.
My notes stop. I was too engrossed. They were pulling away from Contador, with Rodriguez doing most of the work, it seemed. Their lead went over a minute. At 1.3 km to go, Froome attacked! As soon as I saw the move, my heart sank. He’s strong today after all, I thought, and he wants it.
Rodriguez missed the move — but Quintana did not! He caught Froome’s wheel! Could he have something left? You can never tell. Rodriguez had been grimacing this while time, but Quintana was impassive to the last.
Immediately Quintana attacked and dropped Froome. It was awesome.
Because Froome had just attacked himself, I think he would have fought Quintana for the stage if he could. He could not. It was Quintana’s day.
Nairo Quintana, expressionless no more.
Celebration with Valverde.
I’ve talked a fair bit about the Merckx–Hinault–put-the-hammer-down style of racing, but Quintana’s style is just as awesome. He’s a quiet person, like Indurain, but stubborn in the best sense and he rides strong in his own way. That first moment when he attacked on Ax 3 Domaines, it was just so smooth. Not standing and dancing like Contador and Rolland, not windmilling a high cadence like Froome — just fluid in a way that suggested he had reserves to burn. Today he burned them, at just the right moment. And anyway, what matters most is the inspiration, and on that Quintana delivers.
I would love to see the scene in Cómbita, Colombia, where Quintana’s family has been watching:
And this just in. ‘Nairo is real class.’
From letour.fr, a ‘major reshuffle’:
There has been a major reshuffle of the top order of the general classification after stage 20. The new top 10 is:
1. Froome (SKY)
2. Quintana (MOV) at 5' 03"
3. Rodriguez (KAT) at 5' 47"
4. Contador (TST) at 7' 10"
5. Kreuziger (TST) at 8' 10"
6. Mollema (BEL) at 12' 25"
7. Fuglsang (AST) at 13' 00"
8. Valverde (MOV) at 16' 09"
9. Navarro (COF) at 16' 35"
10. Talansky (GRS) at 18' 22"
And let’s not forget also the wonderful, brave day that Jens Voigt had. Le numéro rouge to him today. He rode alone from the top of Mont Revard to 9 km from the line (it seemed like most of the race), finally getting caught by the race leaders with just under 9km to go on Mont Semnoz. Here he is, working hard:
Earlier it was Sherwen saying, ‘Jens is cracking everyone.’ (He’d dropped the other members of the early breakaway: Burghardt, Rolland, Gautier, Riblon, Brutt, Anton, Astarloza, and Clarke) Liggett: ‘It’s ridiculous!’ Sherwen: ‘It’s not ridiculous, it’s fabulous!’
I was just thinking of a new project at that moment, but it already exists: fuckyeahjensvoigt.tumblr.com.
A great, dramatic day or racing.