Stage 5 and the lead group is on the Montagne de Lure and just two kilometres from the finish. Andrew Talansky’s already put in two bold attacks. It’s audacious racing and useful too because the accelerations have dropped several riders, you can see a second group in the background of the picture. But it’s also fatal for Talansky’s overall lead because Richie Porte is taking a good look his power meter, at Talansky and the road ahead and will soon attack to finish 32 seconds clear and take the 10 second time bonus. Porte then followed this up with a powerful stage win on the Col d’Eze, extending his overall lead and leaving nobody in doubt as to who was the strongest rider of the week.
Here’s a look back at the race, including the arithmetic to show Talansky’s attacking didn’t lose the race, plus some lessons for the rest of the year, from the classics to the Tour de France.
As ever though, a stage race can have a winning moment but it is a series of efforts and moments compounded over the week that make things happen. A short prologue saw Porte finish 39th, nine seconds off Damien Gaudin. Stage 3 brought foul weather, a steep climb and a fraught descent. Local rider Romain Bardet (Ag2r) got away with Andrey Grivko (Astana) and soon David López (Sky), Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel) and Davide Malacarne (Europcar) joined them. Then Porte and Talansky jumped across, the Australian ushering the American to do the work because there was already a Sky rider up the road. The next day wasn’t easy either and Talansky was isolated by the end of the stage… but so was Porte as he was the only Sky rider to make the 37 rider front group over the tricky final combo of the Côtes de Talencieux and Sizeranne. This all set things up for Stage 5 and the summit finish on the Montagne de Lure.
The Moment The Race Was Lost?
Did Talansky throw the race away on the Lure? No. Some will say he should never have attacked, that he should not even have lifted his rear off the saddle but instead rode high tempo. But his attacks on the Montagne de Lure were a good idea, or at least the first and the second moves helped. They thinned the group, no longer did Talansky have to watch 20 riders but, he could now focus on Porte, Tejay van Garderen and Lieuwe Westra. Yes, the third attack saw him go into foreclosure thanks to oxygen debt but it did thin down the group.
Hopefully the American’s attacking spirit does not evaporate because it was risk-taking that got him the overall lead in the first place when he gambled on the descent to Brioude and paired up with Porte to bridge across to the lead group with a few kilometres to go on Stage 3.
Richie Porte’s the clear winner, taking the mountain stage and the final time trial. But only for the sake of calculation, let’s imagine Talansky did not do three attacks but instead came in with Porte on the Montagne de Lure and won the sprint. He held a seven second lead at the start of the stage and if he won the stage Talansky and Porte did not place in the top three then Talansky would have extended his lead to 17 seconds. Since Porte won on the Col d’Eze by 23 seconds the difference on the Montagne de Lure didn’t matter, the Australian would have overhauled him anyway by five seconds.
The race was more than a battle for the yellow jersey. Here are some other points:
- Sylvain Chavanel has so much energy he struggles to channel it. He’s won time trials but hadn’t got a victory salute road win since June 2011. He’s great to watch but you wonder if he’s the fastest man to the 20km banner rather than the finish line. But he’s racking up precious points, remains a valuable rider and is France’s best paid cyclist
- Robert Gesink reminds me of the Albert King song with the lyrics “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” as the Dutchman started the race as a top pick but left the race ill, another missed opportunity to add to a long list in his career
- Jean-Christophe Péraud is an under-rated rider. Ninth in the 2011 Tour de France, “J-C” had a bad year in 2012 with a few problems as well as a split focus on the Tour and the London Olympics mountain bike. He finished third overall and might have been second were it not for a crash on the final stage.
- French TV have learned how to pronounce Richie Porte. Ironically Porte is the French word for door but for years Thierry Adam called him Re-chee Por-tee
- Talking of the media, all week long L’Equipe newspaper has dedicated less than a page to to the race, despite being in the same corporate stable as race organisers ASO. It’s arguably France’s third biggest stage race yet struggles to get a full page in the house newspaper. Bizarre
- One innovation this year was the circuit finish used where the race crosses the finish line before heading out to the local countryside to return in less than an hour. Strictly speaking it’s not new but we saw it three times in a row. It’s a ruse to get locals out to watch as they can see the race twice and it makes the finish area come alive for longer. The Tour de France probably doesn’t need this kind of theatrical engineering but it’ll be interesting to see if it’s used in the Dauphiné and next year’s Paris-Nice.
- Amongst the teams fighting for wildcards there’s no definitive performance. Certain invitees Europcar had a stage win thanks to Gaudin and Davide Malacarne was second to Talansky in Brioude. IAM Cycling took the mountains jersey which might boost their chances but Tschopp was by poaching points rather than out-climbing the likes of Talansky, Porte or Quintana that they won. Cofidis were visible thanks to their red jerseys and yellow helmets but didn’t get a result, a similar story with Sojasun whose Jonathan Hivert quietly impressed. But none stood out to become incontournable as they say in French, unavoidable.
- Katusha won the team prize overall. Now you know.
What has been missed is if Sky win both PN and TA that’s 200 UCI points. Enough to secure the lead car in the classics @inrng
— Euan Lindsay (@euanlindsay) March 10, 2013
- Talking of teams, whilst Richie Porte won’t be going anywhere near Milan-Sanremo or the Tour of Flanders, his win helps his colleagues a lot for the classics. As pointed out above, UCI points determine the order of team cars in the race convoy. Being first car in the convoy means domestiques don’t have to drop back too far to fetch bottles and more and the same if a rider punctures, they can get a wheel faster than others.
- Lastly, this time last year I wrote a piece asking if Bradley Wiggins could win the Tour de France after his ride in Paris-Nice and the answer, in the piece and 120 days later, was yes. Now with Porte already expressing ambitions for the 2014 Giro and Froome taking into the overall lead in Tirren0-Adriatico you almost wonder if a Team Sky 1-2-3 in the Tour de France is next, no?