Tour de France stage 13: Thor thunders to victory, leaving Roy tilting at windmills

Stage 13: Pau to Lourdes, 152.5km

If Thor Hushovd truly was the God of Thunder today, then FDJ’s Jérémy Roy perhaps best suits the role of Don Quixote. The Frenchman, who has been in even more breakaways during this Tour than Mark Cavendish has won stages, finally looked to be on his way to a stylish solo victory as he attacked the giant Col d’Aubisque alone, only to be caught in heartbreaking fashion virtually within sight of the finish. Tilting at windmills indeed.

Another day, another break including Roy

Roy launched a courageous solo attack on the Aubisque which was destined to fall just short

Despite a lumpy start heading out of Pau the peloton set off at an extremely high pace, repeatedly snuffing out breakaway attempts as 49km were covered in the first hour. That pace was too hot for Andreas Klöden (RadioShack), Lars Boom (Rabobank) and Vladimir Isaichev (Katusha), who all abandoned early on. RadioShack are now down to just five men, having lost three of their four GC contenders.

However, a ten-man break did finally get away – an esoteric bunch including not only perennial escapee Roy and climbers such as David Moncoutié (Cofidis), but a pure sprinter in Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and the Norwegian fast men Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky). It was the last of these who claimed maximum points at the intermediate sprint just after the mid-point of the stage, with José Joaquín Rojas surprising Mark Cavendish with an early jump to take the five points on offer for 11th as the peloton arrived a while later. Philippe Gilbert came away without a single point.

The break lasted until the slopes of the day’s one major climb, the hors catégorie Col d’Aubisque, at which point it started to disintegrate. Hushovd rode off the front, only to be overhauled by first Roy and then Moncoutié. Roy crested the foggy summit first – he has now led over both the Tourmalet and the Aubisque on consecutive days – eight minutes ahead of the peloton and nearly one ahead of fellow Frenchman Moncoutié, with Hushovd clinging on slightly further back.

The God of Thunder will not be denied

As Roy bolted down the descent, Hushovd easily caught Moncoutié 25km from the finish, and the pair set about pursuing the leader. At 20km the gap was 1:03, but with Hushovd doing almost all the work the deficit was down to just 17 seconds under the 10km banner. But Roy was able to maintain most of that advantage, until with 3km to go Hushovd lived up to his nickname of the God of Thunder and put the hammer down, leaving Moncoutié for dead. He bridged the 11-second gap to Roy in the space of 600 metres, paused momentarily and then kicked away from the exhausted and dispirited Roy.

Only a brave man would have bet on Hushovd winning in the mountains - but win he did

Hushovd was able to cruise to the finish, shaking his head in disbelief, to claim his ninth and most impressive Tour stage win. Even as the classics specialist he has become, a sprinter should not be able to get over an HC climb to win. In victory, he became only the second reigning world road race champion in the past 30 years to win a stage at the Tour. (Óscar Freire also achieved this in 2002.)

Poor Roy finished 26 seconds down in third, having also been passed by Moncoutié. The fact that he took over the lead in the polka dot jersey competition was scant reward for a heroic near-miss.

Nearly seven minutes behind Hushovd, Gilbert finished tenth to earn six points, having jumped off the front of the peloton on the descent. Rojas was 12th, while Cavendish trailed in with the autobus. Nonetheless, Cavendish retained the green jersey with a slightly diminished advantage of 13 points. The top of the general classification remained largely unchanged, although Gilbert’s break helped promote him to ninth.

Hushovd was delighted to achieve his ambition to win a stage in the world champion’s rainbow jersey, to add to his week in yellow:

I wanted to win a stage while wearing the rainbow jersey. Now that’s happened. Now I’m content. I can’t believe that I’ve won a stage of the Tour in the mountains. I did a perfect ride over the Col d’Aubisque and afterwards I was strong on the flat and then I also did a good tactical race today.

Roy was devastated to have fallen agonisingly short of his maiden stage victory:

The disappointment is too great. I’ll find it difficult to digest. It doesn’t matter if you win by a little or a lot because it’s only the win that counts.

Sadly, there was to be no miracle in Lourdes for Roy, not that that will dissuade him from seeking out further chances for opportunistic glory. Stories of glorious failure such as his are as vital a part of the fabric of the Tour as unlikely but equally victories such as Hushovd’s here. Roy will continue tilting at windmills until one day it is his turn to stand on the top step of the podium. Chapeau to both the victor and the vanquished.

Stage 14 preview

The last day in the Pyrenees carries a significant historic significance: the summit of Plateau de Beille has hosted a stage finish four times before, and on each occasion the winner – Pantani in 1998, Armstrong in 2002 and 2004, Contador in 2007 – has gone on to claim the Tour. There is little respite from start to finish, with the road heading straight to the slopes of the Portet-d’Aspet, site of Fabio Casartelli’s fatal crash in 1995. A breakaway will undoubtedly escape here, but expect a constant concertina effect of counter-attacks and chases all the way over the five back-to-back mountains which lead to the final climb. In particular, the first category Col d’Agnes is an unremitting 10km climb which starts steep and never really lets up until the summit.

The ascent to the ski resort of Plateau de Beille is both long (15.8km) and tricky, with the steepest section of 10.8% coming in kilometre 13 after the first of two false flats. Expect the bulk of the action to come in the final 4km, which provides enough space for some significant time gaps to potentially open up. There will be a lot of tired legs by the end of this stage.

Stage 13 result:

1. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 3:47:36

2. David Moncoutié (Cofidis) +0:10

3. Jérémy Roy (FDJ) +0:26

4. Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) +5:00

5. Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) +5:02

General classification:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 55:49:57

2. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +1:49

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +2:06

4. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:17

5. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) +3:16

6. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) +3:22

7. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) +4:00

8. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +4:11

9. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +4:35

10. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) +4:35

Points classification:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 264 pts

2. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) 251

3. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 240

4. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 192

5. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 164

Mountains classification:

1. Jérémy Roy (FDJ) 45 pts

2. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 40

3. Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 34

4. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 24

5. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) 22

Links: Tour de France official

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Stage recaps

Stage 1: Gilbert climbs to victory as Contador faces uphill battle

Stage 2: Hushovd takes yellow as Evans misses out by one second

Stage 3: Farrar’s green jersey challenge is born on the 4th of July

Stage 4: Evans wins slug-fest but Hushovd clings on to yellow

Stage 5: Cannonball Cav conquers crash carnage

Stage 6: Boasson Hagen wins battle of the strong men

Stage 7: Cavendish wins again as the Sky falls in for Wiggins

Stage 8: Costa’s winning break as Contador continues to look vulnerable

Stage 9: Voeckler leads Tour of attrition as peloton licks its wounds

Stage 10: Greipel the Gorilla gets the monkey off his back

Stage 11: No raining on Cavendish’s parade

Stage 12: Sánchez storms to Bastille Day victory

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Teams and sponsors (part 2)

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