159km to go: Reto Hollenstein has bridged the gap to the breakaway, which is now five strong and 2min 56sec clear of the bunch: Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin), (Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro).
169km to go: On Eurosport, Carlton Kirby is discussing an interview Sky rider Mikel Landa gave to Spanish TV last night in which he said “I’ve got the legs to win this Tour, I just don’t have the stripes”, meaning he thinks he can win the race but won’t be allowed to pull rank on Chris Froome.
Rumoured to be off to Movistar at the end of this season, only time will tell whether or not he’ll do so attack Froome anyway. While nobody seems to have a clue what Sky were doing chasing down Landa’s breakaway yesterday, my own possibly hair-brained theory is that Froome doesn’t trust his team-mate and had no desire to see him in yellow. Other conspiracy theoreis are, of course, available. It could be a long afternoon, so feel free to share yours via email or on the Twitter.
“So this has been my office twice a day for the past week,” writes Mark in the post that accompanies his photo of what looks like a giantPolo mint covered in fridge magnets. “The Isle of Man Hyperbaric Chamber is a publicly funded facility that not only treats divers, but people with injuries and chronic illness, from every walk of life. I swear by the treatment when I’m injured, but not nearly as much if it wasn’t for the amazing people that work there. They honestly care so so much about every patient and go above and beyond for anyone who enters. Just want to give a massive thank you too everyone there.”
174km to go: Voeckler, Roosen, De Gendt and Bouet have opened a gap of 2min 40sec on the bunch, from which Katusha’s Swiss rider Reto Hollenstein has been allowed to escape.
An email from Dan Phillips: “Few would bet against Van Avermaet?” he says. “Well allow me to. I’ve Mr Matthews in one of my fantasy cycling teams. Yes that’s right I have a few across the various platforms. Yes, I have a problem. But can we feed my addiction with a Guardian Readers’ Fantasy League? Anyone else on Velogames?”
If you have the slightest clue what Dan is talking about, please feel free to … do whatever it is he wants you to do.
179km to go: Riders from BMC, Sunweb, Astana and Sky line up across the front of the peloton, in a bid to block any potential attempts from those behind them to bridge the gap to the four-man breakaway.
That breakaway: Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro).
The flag drops …
Slightly behind schedule, they’re off and racing in Stage 14 of this year’s Tour, with one particular veteran Direct Energie rider up towards the front of the bunch eager to attack. So eager in fact, that Prudhomme announces it’s time for “un attack de Thomas Voeckler”. The Frenchman duly obliges and is followed by Thomas de Gendt, Maxime Bouet and one other rider.
Today’s stage has two climbs: A pair of Category 3 climbs, they don’t amount to much more than hills of beans compared to yesterday’s monsters but will still take some negotiating. The first is the Cote du Viaduc du Viaur, 50 kilometres from the finish. It’s 2.3 kilometres in length and has a gradient of 7%. Further up the road, 36 kilometres from the finish, Cote de Centres is spookily similar: the same length and has a gradient of 7.7%.
Today’s stage is under way …
Well, sort of under way – the peloton is currently riding in procession through the streets of Blagnac, awaiting the flag-drop of race director Christian Prudhomme to signal the start of racing.
Two more withdrawals yesterday …
Despite his valiant attempt to soldier on with fractures to his left wrist and elbow, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang was forced to abandon yesterday, when it became apparent he couldn’t grip his handlebars properly. Francaise Des Jeux rider Arthur Vichot also dropped out, still suffering from the after effects of a heavy fall two days previously. His withdrawal means FDJ only have four of their original nine riders left in the race, after Arnaud Demare and three team-mates were eliminated on Sunday after missing the Stage 9 time cut. Fuglsang and VIchot’s withdrawals bring the number of riders sidelined so far to 21, leaving 177 riders in the race.
Behind the scenes with Orica Scott
Orica Scott is one of the more media friendly and accessible teams on the Tour and – occasionally questionable choices of soundtrack aside – their daily Backstage Pass invariably makes for informative and interesting viewing. Enjoy …
Stage 14: Blagnac to Rodez (181.5km)
After yesterday’s short, mountainous and intriguing stage, the riders embark on a transitional stage of almost 200 kilometres that ends in a steep uphill kick with a gradient just shy of 10% that will suit riders such as Michael Matthews, Ben Swift, Tony Gallopin, Jan Bakelants and Greg Van Avarmaet, a winner in Rodez in 2015.
An early breakaway looks a certainty and after yesterday’s perplexing climax, in which Sky helped to chase down a breakaway featuring one of their own big-hitters, it will be intriguing to see which riders are sent to join any escape party by assorted teams.
Will Fotheringham’s take on today’s stage
Out of the frying pan of the mountains into the fiery heat of the plains for a punchy uphill finish which will not suit a conventional sprinter. The Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet won here last time around and, after the spring he has enjoyed, few would bet against him or his fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert.
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