UAE Team Emirates’ Portuguese talent, Rui Costa, became the third of the team’s riders to cross the line in a top 10 position at this year’s Tour de France, after a fast paced 209.5km mountain stage from Toulouse to Bagneres de Bigorre in which he finished 8th. The race was eventually won by Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) in a three up sprint with Pello Bilbao (Astana) and Grego Muhlberger (BORA-hansgrohe).
It was another day for the breakaway in stage 12, which saw a group of 40 riders attack off the front after 45km of frenetic racing. In the mix was UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff and Rui Costa. The peloton sat back and allowed the front group to stretch its lead out to over 8-minutes during the stage, which last nearly five hours. Whilst the GC contenders may have taken it easy, the same couldn’t be said for the break – which continually attacked itself over 165km of lumpy terrain. On the final climb the breakaway group began to fracture even further. Costa was unable to stay with Yates and his companions when they attacked with 37kms to go, creating a gap that they maintained until the finish line.
Costa said: “The first part of the stage was very hard because everybody wanted to be in the breakaway. After almost an hour of flat out racing myself and Alexander managed to get into the main break of the day. I didn’t feel as good as I expected but I did my best and came away with 8th – the best I could have hoped for.”
“For sure I’ll try again on a few more stages,” he added.
After an impressive start to his first ever Tour de France, the young Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen did not start Stage 12.
Inigo San Millan, Head of Performance at UAE Team Emirates explained: “It’s better for him to stop now and recover and let his body adapt to be able to come back at an even higher level in the future.”
In the General Classification, Dan Martin remains in 9th position, where there has been no change in the overall standings.
Stage 12 results
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton Scott 4:57:53”
2. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Team Astana st
3. Grego Muhlberger (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe st
8. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates + 1:28
General classification standings
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step) 52:26:09”
2. Geraint Thomas (Team INEOS) 1:12”
3. Egan Bernal (Team INEOS) 1:16”
9. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) 2:09”
UAE Team Emirates duo Jasper Philipsen and Alexander Kristoff both finished in the top-10 for a second time at this year’s Tour de France.
The young Belgian was seventh with the veteran Norwegian ninth in a sprint finish, with a mechanical in the final 500m preventing Kristoff from fully exploiting another impressive lead out from the team’s up and coming young Belgian rider.
The race was won by a matter of inches by Caleb Ewan, of Lotto Soudal, who marginally pipped Jumbo-Visma’s Dylan Groenewegen to the line.
Stage 11 came after a well earned rest day for the riders and eased them back into racing with a relatively short 167km flat route from Albi to Toulouse. The day played out as expected with the inevitable breakaway being slowly reeled back in by the chasing peloton.
Dan Martin was kept safe by the team’s domestiques and managed to avoid the crashes that temporarily split up the peloton, ensuring he reserved his energy for the upcoming mountain stages.
In the final two kilometers, Philipsen and Kristoff worked well together and forced themselves into a great position for the impending sprint – but as the race hit the business end, Kristoff experienced a mechanical issue that prevented him from opening up his trademark powerhouse finish. Philipsen once again showed his strength by continuing on to the line with both riders finishing in the top 10 for a second time.
Philipsen said: “In the final kilometer Alexander had a mechanical problem. It happened at a really bad moment. I tried to support him, but the line was coming up fast.
Youngest man in the race @JasperPhilipsen bags his third top-10 on stage 11 @LeTour into Toulouse 🇫🇷— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) 17 July 2019
📝Report &Quotes: https://t.co/gYQXzaUkKl#UAETeamEmirates #RideTogether #YearofTolerance pic.twitter.com/Gzv7yaigJo
“I was ready to launch the sprint but on my left another rider dropped his chain which was pretty frustrating. So, between the mechanicals and the positioning it wasn’t exactly the perfect scenario for us.”
Kristoff added: “I dropped my chain with just over a kilometre to go. Just as the team trains were moving up I tried to jump on their wheel and it dropped on the inside. Jasper tried to help me but it was too late so I told him to give it a go himself. By the time I got back up it was too late.”
Sports director Neil Stephens added: “I think the riders rode really well throughout the stage. Unfortunately we just weren’t able to get the win here in Toulouse.
“The run in to the line was good – all the guys worked well to get Jasper and Alex in a perfect position. But a rub of wheels in the last kilometer threw him off a bit and it wasn’t to be.”
Stage 12 signals the first Pyrenees mountain stage of the Tour as the peloton heads from Toulouse to Bagneres de Bigorre over 209.5km of lumpy terrain that features one category three and two category one climbs before ending with over 20km of fast and technical descents to the finish line.
We’re halfway through the 2019 Tour de France, with home hero Julian Alaphilippe exciting French fans as he wears the leader’s yellow jersey.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider leads the way after 10 of the Tour’s 21 stages. But can he stay there, with a taxing trip into the mountains ahead of the peloton?
As the race gets set to resume on Wednesday following the first rest day, we look ahead to the rest of Le Tour and discuss some talking points.
A FIRST FRENCH WINNER IN THREE DECADES?
It is to cycling what the Maracana is to football, Vince Lombardi to American football and the Ashes to cricket.
It remains the most exciting, gruelling and amazing event the sport has to offer. And yet the Tour de France has lost some of its own identity.
Le Tour has been won by 23 home riders in all, between them taking 36 wins. Both are records. And yet, it is 36 years since they produced a champion.
Since the brilliant Bernard Hinault lifted the last of his five titles in 1985, the Giro d’Italia has produced 14 home grown winners. Spain’s Vuelta a Espana has seen 11 different countrymen ride to glory.
At the halfway point of the 2019 Tour, a Frenchman sits in yellow, having already reclaimed the famous jersey from young Trek-Segafredo upstart Giulio Ciccone.
Julian Alaphilippe is his name. And the former soldier – who stormed back into contention after Thomas De Gendt won Stage 8 – fought to grab the yellow jersey on Bastille Day on Sunday.
The 27-year-old, who wore it for three days initially following his Stage 3 triumph from Binche to Epernay, claimed his two maiden stage wins at Le Tour a year ago and is making an impact once again. The Saint-Amand-Montrond man’s gun-slinging solo attacks have been a highlight of the 2019 Tour so far.
A puncheur (a rider who specialises in rolling terrain with short but steep climbs), Alaphilippe is someone for whom overall Tour de France glory would seem beyond. He is ideally suited for one-day classics, and he is in the form of his life at them coming into this year’s race, having claimed Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche and La Fleche Wallonne victory. He was also second at Brabantse Pijl and fourth at the Amstel Gold Race – career best finishes at all five.
The second half of the Tour will be the real test as the race heads into the perilous Pyrenees.
But just as Bastille Day – the French National Day – was a turning point in the French Revolution, perhaps Alaphilippe’s awe-inspiring performances could also be a turning point for French riders at the 2019 Tour de France.
MARTIN MOVING INTO CONTENTION
It seemed the unpredictability and openness of the 2019 race could have put paid to the chances of some of the pre-race favourites.
Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 champion, for example, is deemed out of contention after he finished 4:25 down on winner De Gendt on Stage 8.
The man known as Lo Squalo (The Shark) has sunk to 30th in the General Classification, 14 minutes adrift of Alaphilippe, which appears too great a gap to bridge.
Adam Yates, Nairo Quintana, Thibaut Pinot – the man seen as France’s greatest hope of ending 34 years of hurt – Jakob Fuglsang, Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet are all poised promisingly in the chasing pack.
Another man shooting into contention after gaining time on some riders in the GC is perennial top-10 finisher Dan Martin. The resolute UAE Team Emirates man climbed into the top-10 following Stage 10, the Irishman is just 2:09 behind Alaphilippe, and is well positioned to make his mark as the race moves into the business end.
A winner on Stage 6 last year – a landmark first Tour triumph for UAE Team Emirates – Martin finished the race by picking up the coveted Combativity award. And, after three successive top-10 finishes at the race – ninth, sixth and eighth in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively – he’ll be confident of pushing on once the race gets back under way, even if he seems to be talking down his chances.
“We’ve done a lot of kilometres and hours. It looked on paper before the race that this is one of the hardest Tour de France’s we’ve ever seen,” the 32-year-old said following Stage 8.
“The fatigue is already pretty high and the level is so high this year. The speed of the race has increased, the bikes are better, nutrition is better, everyone’s fitter, stronger, so it’s normal the race is faster. Week three I think there’ll be a lot of tired guys.”
THE MOUNTAINS WILL MAKE YOU A MAN
Speaking of Week 3, Wednesday and the start of the second half of the race, is when we’ll start to see the men being separated from the boys.
Alaphilippe has been awesome over the course of the first 10 days but it will be a real test of the monument and classics specialist’s credentials to see how long he can remain in yellow.
It’s not impossible, after all Dylan Teuns won the only mountain stage of the Tour so far, Stage 6, which saw riders tackle the La Planche des Belles Filles. The Bahrain-Merida rider, like Alaphilippe, is a puncheur and not a specialist climber.
But with three of the next five stages mountain finishes and three straight lying in wait ahead of the final, largely processional, Stage 21, the coming days will give us a clearer picture of who will be fighting for victory.
As stated, the climbers are hunched, preparing to ascend up the rankings. Reigning champion Geraint Thomas is second. Yates (7th ), Quintana (8th), Martin (9th), Pinot (11th), Valverde (14th), Bardet (15th) and Fuglsang (16th) are nicely poised, with Dane Fuglsang furthest adrift, but only 3:22 off the pace.
The Tour de France has been frantic and fantastic so far. But now it’s about to get a little more fraught.