Tour de France Stage 10: OPQS Continues Aggressive Tactics
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team went on the offensive for yet another stage at the Tour de France on Monday. OPQS was led by Tony Martin in the polka dot jersey and Michal Kwiatkowski, top OPQS rider in the GC, and also in the white jersey.
On a 161.5km Stage 10, with seven categorized climbs including a Cat. 1 La planche des Belles Filles (5.9k, 8.5%) summit finish, the entire race was filled with action that started with a peloton split and a breakaway. Martin and Kwiatkowski were in the front group of that split, and worked their way closer until they eventually caught the leaders with 97km to go and the gap at 4 minutes and 28 seconds.
The hard work of the OPQS duo put Kwiatkowski into virtual yellow for a considerable portion of the race. Martin, who won the 9th stage, gave everything he had for his teammate and stayed on the front from the moment they caught the leaders, until the lead group was on the penultimate Category 1 climb Col des Chevreres (3.5km, 9.5%) at about 21km to go. His impressive, unselfish work earned him the Combative Award for the second day in a row.
The breakaway went from about nine riders down to 5, and with 19.5km to go Kwiatkowski began riding away from the group. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belislol) was off the back of the trailing peloton in yellow and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was near the front of the field chasing the leaders down.
Only Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) could stay on the wheel of Kwiatkowski. Rodriguez and the Polish rider rode away from Visconti, and then Rodriguez distanced Kwiatkowski with about 19km remaining.
Visconti eventually caught and also distanced Kwiatkowski, but the OPQS rider leading the Best Young Rider Competition was far from finished. Kwiatkowski caught all leaders in front on the descent, and even was solo for a short time before Rodriguez chased back.
Kwiatkowski and Rodriguez reached the bottom of the final climb together, but Rodriguez again accelerated with 5.3km to go. He was alone ahead, but the steepness of the climb was too much to stay away from the select group that remained out of the peloton.
Nibali attacked with 2.5km to go, and none of the elite selection could stay with him. He bridged to Rodriguez with 1.3km to go. Nibali dropped Rodriguez in the final few hundred meters and went on to win solo. He also reclaimed the yellow jersey that he lost to Gallopin after the 9th stage.
Kwiatkowski, after gambling with Martin and being aggressive all day, went on to finish 24th (+2'13") after a hard day's work.
"Because of Tony Martin I had a big chance not only to win a stage, but maybe even steal the yellow jersey with this move," Kwiatkowski said. "But, to do that, you still need to have the legs. I am so thankful to Tony. He's just incredible. What he did is amazing. I'm disappointed I couldn't finish his work. But I did the best I could. On the final climb I couldn't even take my own speed. If I could have, I could have gone pretty quickly. I simply couldn't keep holding it. But if it wasn't for Tony I wouldn't have been there to try in the first place, and I have to thank him for working for me today. Now we look forward. Tomorrow is the rest day and I can recover a little bit, so I can be ready for the next week. We never give up, even after the past few days with two stage wins. We are always trying to get good results and be active. The team spirit is so great because of that. We are missing Mark Cavendish and still we have already won twice. I believe we can do something more at this race, even if right now I am disappointed with my condition. I know I can look forward to the support of my teammates and the morale will stay high."
"It was not bad to be in front again today," Martin said. "At the bottom of the climb we were just a group of five or six riders. At that point we talked with our sport directors and we decided to close the gap in the breakaway. I told Kwiatkowski to stay on my wheel and we went. I think it was a good chance for Michal. OK, at the end it didn't work out, but it was a good race and we tried something. It wasn't boring, I can say that for sure. My goal was to reach the bottom of the second-to-last climb. I knew I wouldn't have the power to get over it. For me, the finish line was to get to the bottom of that climb and I gave 100 percent to get there. There was no power left. I had really small gears to somehow come up after that, but even getting to the real finish line was hard after a day like that. But I'm happy to do it for my teammate. We took a chance for a good result. Now we go into the rest day and plan for the second week of racing."