Freire Wins Stage 14 of 2008 Tour de France
Oscar Freire (Rabobank), the points competition leader, has won Stage 14 of the 2008 Tour de France. The three-time world champion took a bunch sprint to win the slightly uphill, 195-km ride from Nimes to Digne-les-Bains in 4:13:08. Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) finished second, and Erik Zabel (Milram) took third. Cadel Evans (Silence) remains the maillot jaune.
As usual, the stage began with a series of abortive sallies. At one point, 21 riders formed a break. The peloton chased down the escapees, who never led the field by more than a minute. Just as the catch occurred, Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux), Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Bram Tankirk (Rabobank), and William Bonnet (Credit Agricole) got away.
The fugitives' advantage maxed out at almost 7:00. In the last 50 km, Bouygues Telecom, Liquigas, and Milram took over at the front, while Columbia and Silence sometimes lent muscle. With 26 km left, the bunch trailed the break by less than 1:00. Gutierrez set out on his own.
Gutierrez felt that he could win the stage if he led the field by 0:40 at the summit of the Category 4 Col de l'Orme (185 km). The bunch, however, reeled him in halfway up the climb, and Milram, Rabobank, and Liquigas led the charge to the finish, with Columbia appearing at the front as well. Zabel started sprinting early, but Freire was too fast for everyone.
In the overall, Evans leads Frank Schleck (CSC) by 0:01 and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) by 0:38. Stage 15 will be a standing shaker. Originally, it was scheduled to be a 216-km-long ride from Digne-les-Bains, France to Prato Nevoso, Italy, but rock falls on the Col de Larche have necessitated shortening the stage by 33 km. The shortened stage will be plenty difficult. The riders will begin climbing the hors categorie Col Agnel, which is a border crossing into Italy. Except for the Category 3 Colle del Morte, the run into Italy is flat until the riders reach the Category 1 finishing climb. Will Evans defend his yellow jersey? Will another rider take it from him? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com.