Belgian Classics ace Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) drove up the steep short climb to the finish line Friday to take his first Tour de France triumph. Van Avermaet’s win in the first day in the Massif Central can be added to his Vuelta a España victory from 2008. Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky) finished seven-seconds back with most of his rivals.
— Le Tour de France (@letour) July 17, 2015
Four escapees found a duo of reinforcements early in the stage, and the sextet pulled out 3:45 over the peloton before the intermediate sprint of the day. Thomas De Gendt (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal) crossed first, and back in the peloton his German teammate André Greipel took enough points to finally pull back the green jersey from Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Tinkoff-Saxo).
After the sprint the break had around 20-km until the rolling hills of the Massif Central started. There would be a Cat. 3 and two Cat. 4’s to handle, but there were also two uncategorized climbs near the end of the stage, a 4-km clamber at 11-km to go and more importantly an Ardennes Classic-style kilometre of 9.6% to the finish line in Rodez.
Giant-Alpecin and Tinkoff-Saxo provided the locomotives of the peloton train as the fugitives hit the lumps, all riders broiling in the 35-degree heat. De Gendt rolled over the Cat. 3 Côte de Saint-Cirgue in the lead. The peloton split and Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Astana) suffered a puncture to put him in the second group. However, the two halves were reunited.
Last year’s runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud (France/Ag2r) crashed but carried on in multiple bandages and immodestly ripped shorts, even stuffing his jersey with bottles before rejoining the field. Breakaway rider Alexandre Geniez (France/FDJ), heading toward his hometown of Rodez, was first over the Cat. 4 Côte de la Pomparie, while Wilco Keldermann (The Netherlands/LottoNL-Jumbo) topped the Cat. 4 Côte de la Selve.
The climax neared as MTN-Qhubeka and Orica-GreenEdge appeared at the front of the peloton. Two-minutes was the gap with 30-km remaining. Greipel fell off the back, so Tinkoff-Saxo renewed its interest in driving the pace.
Cannondale-Garmin’s Nathan Haas (Australia) tried to bolt on his breakmates at the 24-km to go mark, but he was brought to heel. The escapees took turns attacking one another on the uncategorized climb that peaked with 11-km remaining. Kelderman, De Gendt and Cyril Gautier (France/Europcar) separated themselves. Their lead was just under a minute when the climb plateaued.
The trio still had a 10-second gap going into the final kilometre, Katusha driving the peloton. Kelderman and Gautier were overtaken with 300-metres to go as Van Avermaet led Sagan to the line, but the Slovakian couldn’t come around the Belgian. However, Sagan keeps his green jersey.
There’s more rolling terrain for the peloton on Saturday’s stage, including a short but very steep Cat. 2 climb peaking 1.5-km before the finish in Mende.
2015 Tour de France Stage 13
1) Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium/BMC)
2) Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Tinkoff-Saxo)
3) Jan Bakelants (Belgium/Ag2r)
121) Ryder Hesjedal (Canada/Cannondale-Garmin) +9:43
136) Svein Tuft (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) +11:24
2015 Tour de France GC
1) Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky) 51:34:21
2) Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) +2:52
3) Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar) +3:09
59) Ryder Hesjedal (Canada/Cannondale-Garmin) +1:17:27
174) Svein Tuft (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) +2:35:12