Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) won the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday.
Gallopin attacked on the descent of the final categorized climb of the day, but was then joined by three others from the peloton.
With 2.5km left to race, Gallopin attacked again and rode solo the rest of the way. He crossed the finish line just meters ahead of the speeding peloton. It was the second win for Lotto, as Andre Greipel captured victory in stage 6. It was also the second victory for a Frenchman at this Tour.
“Incredible! Thanks to my family and to the confidence that my team is giving me,” Gallopin said. “Two stages? It’s just amazing. I knew that if it came down to the bunch sprint, I wouldn’t win, so I decided to take a long attack. I chose the right moment.”
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) was second and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took third, both finishing with the same time as Gallopin.
“I cannot believe this, until the last 50 meters,” Gallopin said. “It’s going well for the French riders now, with the stage wins and the maillot jaune, and some good position in GC. We are quality riders, and the teams are supporting us. I think the Tour is just starting.”
The GC leadership remains unchanged, with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) holding onto the yellow jersey for another day. He leads Richie Porte (Sky) by 2:23 and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 2:47.
“Another difficult day. A lot of tension out there, especially in that final part,” Nibali said after the 187.km stage from Besancon to Oyonnax that had four categorized climbs and several other bumps along the way. “I’m just glad to have managed to do my job and stay out in the front. With all those climbs and descents it was a tough day. It is hot. It’s one extreme to another.”
On the final rated climb of the day, the Cat. 3 cote d’Echallon (3km at 6.6 percent), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff) tried to push the pace at the front of the race. He was riding with Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Martin Elminger (IAM Cycling), a group that formed with 36km remaining.
Roche’s hard effort dropped Elminger, and soon after he was by himself at the front of the race. The three dropped riders continued their chase of Roche as they hit the summit, but the peloton quickly caught them and swallowed them up.
From that point, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma) assumed controls of the chase and helped bring back Roche at a furious pace. Gallopin then surged ahead, with Martin and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) leading the speeding peloton close behind.
With 6km left, Gallopin’s lead was a mere 6 seconds. With 4.5km to go, Michael Rogers (Tinkoff), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma), and Sagan caught up to Gallopin. As the foursome navigated the sweeping turns in the town of Oyonnax, Gallopin made another move and attacked once more.
This time, Gallopin’s effort stuck and he claimed victory.
“I am disappointed, when you attack, and put in a lot of energy, so I was hoping to get something out of it,” Roche said. “When the peloton caught me, there was no way I was going to win. I will give it another go. There are still another eight, nine stages. It was a tough stage, a lot tougher than we thought this morning.”
GC men sound off
With the mercury and the road rising, the peloton is in for some tough days in the saddle. Before the stage began, Porte told Eurosport he was ready for whatever lies ahead.
“It’s gonna be a hard week,” Porte said. “I’m looking forward to Friday and Saturday’s stages. Obviously Vincenzo is in a good position, but we’ll take it day by day. Whatever happens, I’ve had a great Tour so far. The race is not over.”
Nibali told the media after stage 11 that the weather will come into play.
“The sudden heat is a factor, and it could put anyone in a crisis,” he said. “There is the accumulative effect of the fatigue, not just me, but for everyone. You have to be smart, not spend too much energy when you don’t need to.”
Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) agreed that the weather is affecting the peloton.
“The heat was a factor today for everyone. It’s been a hard Tour already, and now we have to start to deal with the heat,” he said. “We made it through today’s stage in pretty good shape. The harder stages are still to come. We have to take it day to day.”
The stage began on an odd note, with two riders — Lars Boom (Belkin) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) — suffering from punctures in the neutral zone. The peloton was ordered to wait for them as their team mechanics put on new wheels.
When the stage officially got under way a short time later, a few small attacks were immediately launched. Sagan was the most notable rider to make a move, and he rode solo at the front of the race for 4km until he was caught 17km into the race.
The peloton then rode together until the 28km mark, when Elminger launched ahead of the field. He was quickly joined by Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne). The trio built a lead of nearly 7 minutes before the peloton began to clamp down and chip away at their lead.
Elminger eventually found himself alone at the front, on the slopes of the first Cat. 3 climb with 47.5km left. About 10km later, he was joined by four others: Roche, Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), and Cyril Gautier (Europcar).
But the fivesome’s effort also failed, as they were all reeled in late in the race.
Talansky fights through pain
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) has crashed several times in this Tour, including tumbles on Friday and Saturday. He was reportedly suffering from back pain today and fell off the back off the peloton in the second half of Wednesday’s stage.
Clearly riding in pain, he soon found himself riding alone, with just a team car trailing him. With 51km to go, Talansky pulled over to the side of the road and was consoled by members of the Garmin staff. It appeared he was abandoning the race — even the live blog on the official Tour de France website reported that — but after a chat with sport director Robbie Hunter, Talansky climbed back on his bike and resumed pedaling.
Talansky, who was in tears as he started riding again, then rode the rest of the stage alone, with only Hunter and his team car providing support. He crossed the finish line 32:05 behind Gallopin, but he snuck in under the time cut by 4 minutes.
“He’s really struggling to get over the consequences of his accident,” Garmin sport director Charly Wegelius said. “He’s had an extremely tough day, and we’re a little concerned about him. He’s a fighter, even though he’s in a very difficult situation, the way he’s going on is admirable.”
The Tour resumes with Thursday’s stage 12, a 185.5km trek from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Étienne with four categorized climbs.