Costa Soloes to Stage Win in Tour de France
Rui Costa (Movistar) has won Stage 16 of the Tour de France. The winner of the last two Tours de Suisse attacked a 26-man break on the day’s last climb and descended to the finish line to win the rugged, 168-km ride from Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap in 3:52:45. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) outsprinted Arnold Jeannesson (Francaise des Jeux) for second at 0:42, and Chris Froome (Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
The lead group formed as soon as the flag dropped. At one time, it was 32 riders strong, but after an hour, the break had assumed its final size. The escape consisted of Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Philippe Gilbert and Manuel Quinziato (both from BMC), Andreas Kloden, Laurent Didier, and Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Leopard), Cyril Gautier and Thomas Voeckler (both from Team Europcar), Blel Kadri and Riblon (both from Ag2r-La Mondiale), Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), Yury Trofimov (Katusha), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Costa, Jerome Coppel, and Daniel Navarro (both from Cofidis), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), Michael Albasini and Cameron Meyer (both from Orica-GreenEdge), Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano), Thomas De Gendt and Johnny Hoogerland (both from Vacansoleil-DCM), Jean-Marc Marino (Sojasun), and Jeannesson. Every team in the race was represented, and no one in the break was a GC threat. The stage was set for an epic escape.
The fugitives led the field by 2:50 at 39 km, 6:35 at 48 km, 8:10 at 92.5 km, and 9:00 at 101.5 km. By 145 km, the break’s advantage had ballooned to 12:30, and a break member would obviously win.
The break members began attacking each other with 34 km left, when Marino and Kadri made the first move. The pair forged a 24-second lead and still led by 0:20 at the base of the Category 2 Col de Manse. Hansen overtook the pair, and the group began to shed itself of members. Costa then attacked and took the lead.
Kloden, Kadri, Jeannesson, and Coppel pursued the Portuguese rider but could not get to grips with him. The Movistar man punched the air with his fists as he reached the finish line. Behind, Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) attacked the maillot jaune at the base of the climb. When he was reeled in, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff attacked the maillot jaune. Alberto Contador and Roman Kreuziger took turns attacking Froome. Their accelerations reduced the maillot jaune group to Contador, Froome, Kreuziger, Richie Porte (Sky), Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (both from Movistar), Rodriguez, and Bauke Mollema (Belkin).
On the descent, an event occurred that could have transformed the Tour. Contador crashed on the run to Gap, and Froome had to swerve off of the road to avoid the Spaniard. The event was reminiscent of the 2003 Tour when Joseba Beloki (ONCE) crashed on this same stretch of road and broke his leg and Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) had to ride off of the road to avoid him. Neither Contador nor Froome was injured, however, and the pair rejoined the group, which waited for them.
Because Costa had been eliminated as a GC threat, he had hoped to win a stage. "Yesterday, I was already thinking of entering the breaks one of these days. I know today was a good day for me, with those two climbs in the beginning to respond to the moves with strength rather than relying on good luck. My legs felt well all day. I knew it had to be my day. It was hard to get the break going, with lots of riders trying to stay at front. There was a moment when I didn't really know who was in, but in the end, some of the riders that were going with me, including Alejandro and Rojas, dropped as we were able to stick at last.
"I really knew the place to move was the last climb. Everything went as I planned, jumping into the uphill and reaching the top with a gap. I came to the summit with 40 seconds and even had time to enjoy as I rode through the final kilometer. Things couldn't have been better. After the descent, three km from the finish, I already knew I was going to win. The final kilometer was really beautiful, with such big crowds in both sides. It's something I will remember for the rest of my life.
"Winning a stage in the Tour is really difficult, but winning two... I have no words for that. [Costa won Stage 8 of the 2011 Tour.] I also fought for this last year, but this race is the hardest to obtain even a minor success. Being able to snatch a win again is a relief for me. Since I had to help Alejandro and dropped on Stage 13, I forgot my GC chances and focused on winning a stage. It's dedicated to all people who support me. Two days ago, I got to know I was the Tour rider with the most supportive messages from the fans, and this is all for them.”
In the overall, Froome leads Mollema by 4:14 and Contador by 4:25. Stage 17 will shake up the standings. The 32-km mountain time trial from Embrun to Chorges will feature two Category 2 ascents. A GC contender or a climber will probably win the stage. Who will it be? Contador? Froome? Nairo Quintana (Movistar)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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