Matteo Trentin added to Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s stage-win tally on Saturday with a narrow victory in stage 14 of the 2013 Tour de France.
Trentin was part of a big break that won the blessing of the bunch, which no doubt had Sunday’s trip up Mont Ventoux on its mind.
Julien Simon (Sojasun) looked to have stolen a march on the break when he attacked on the final obstacle of the day. But he was run down inside the red kite, and instead of a first French victory it was an Italian taking the flowers at the end of the 191km leg from Saint-Pourçain-sur-Siole to Lyon.
Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) took second on the day with Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) third.
“Today we knew it was a good chance for a breakaway, so the team was working for me to get into the break,” said Trentin. “I knew it would be complicated to win out of such a large group. I have a pretty good sprint. I opened my sprint at the right moment.”
On the overall, Chris Froome (Sky) remains in the yellow jersey, 2:28 ahead of Bauke Mollema (Belkin) with Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) third at 2:45. Talansky did himself some good on Saturday, moving into 12th overall at 5:54.
“It’s another day,” said Froome, who crossed with the bunch more than seven minutes behind Trentin. “Once the breakaway pulled clear, my teammates controlled the course perfectly. It’s good to get through the day, because tomorrow we have a big stage with Ventoux.”
A big, big break
The break du jour was a big one, and by the feed zone it had clearly received the peloton’s seal of approval
Best placed among them was American Talansky, 17th overall at 13:11. With him were teammate Garmin-Sharp teammate David Millar; Trentin, Albasini and Simon; former yellow jersey Jan Bakelants and Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard); Tejay van Garderen and Marcus Burghardt (BMC); Cyril Gautier (Europcar); Arthur Vichot (FdJ); Albasini Pavel Brutt (Katusha); Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano); Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil and Imanol Erviti Ollo (Movistar); Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Belisol); Blel Kadri (Ag2r); and Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Cofidis).
Behind, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) tried to bridge to the break. Cunego couldn’t stick with Hoogerland, who drove on, closing to within a minute at one point.
Juan Jose Oroz tried to follow, his Euskaltel-Euskadi squad having missed the break, but his bid failed and he dropped back to the bunch as ahead, Burghardt tried a dig out of the break with 60km to go. That didn’t last long.
Hoogerland was making little progress and decided to wait for Cunego, and with 50km remaining they were hovering at about a minute back of the lead group, which in turn held 4:30 on the GC bunch.
With 25km to go the break seemed good to go. Hoogerland and Cunego were making no headway, at four minutes down, with the peloton a further two minutes in arrears. And then the attacks began.
First Albasini, then Millar, then Kadri made bids for freedom. None of them made it. Then Simon got a gap on the final climb of the day and after a brief flurry of counters, the others sat up and waited for everyone else to take up the chase.
Finally Kadri leapt away, but he didn’t have the strength to overhaul Simon. And with 8km to go Simon was racing alone toward what looked certain to be the first French stage victory of the 2013 Tour.
The chase finally got itself organized in a haphazard sort of fashion, but it was too late. Or was it?
With 2km to go the gap was just 10 seconds. And at the red kite, Simon’s dreams were dashed — Albasini was first to catch, but then the remnants of the break linked up too.
Bakelants led it out, and then Albasini punched it, but it was Trentin who took it at the line, claiming the first Italian victory on this year’s Tour.
Trentin was ecstatic to have brought his team its fourth victory of this year’s Tour.
“When you work alongside a rider like Cavendish, you learn a thing or two. I just waited patiently and unleashed my sprint with 100 (meters) to go,” he said.
“We’re all super happy. All my teammates came behind the podium to congratulate me and that was really nice.”
As for Simon, he was crestfallen at not having scored the victory. With the smallest budget in the race, Sojasun is used to punching above its weight, and he had hoped to finally land a knockout punch for the host nation.
“I’m disappointed, but I had to try. If you don’t try, you can’t win,” said the Frenchman.
Coming up: Mont Ventoux
A day after Froome and several leading challengers lost 1:09 to key rivals Contador and Mollema, the contenders for overall victory kept their powder dry ahead of Sunday’s first summit finish at Mont Ventoux.
Although Froome would love to win atop one of the race’s legendary climbs, he said his priority is stretching his lead over his rivals.
“I’m totally focused on the general classification, but of course it would be a dream to win at Mont Ventoux,” said Froome, who won on the only previous summit finish of this edition, at Ax-Trois-Domaines on stage eight.
“I have been up there. I’m really glad I have seen it because it’s a really tough climb. My focus is going to be on keeping yellow, possibly to build on the advantage I have.
“But it will be interesting because a lot of guys will be targeting it tomorrow.”
Editor’s note: Agence France Press contributed to this report. Stay tuned for more from the Tour de France.