Tag Archives: Pierre Rolland

Quintana does one of the great rides in the most brutal of conditions to win the stage and move into the Pink jersey

Nairo Quintana, pre-Giro favorite who looked to be in a little trouble just a few days ago, pulled out what will surely go down as one of the great rides in the history of this great race to win stage 16 and turn a 2 minutes, 40 seconds deficit to fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran into a 1 minute, 41 seconds lead in this race in one of the most difficult, yet brilliant, stages of cycling you’re ever likely to see.

The 139 kilometres they raced may not have sounded extremely challenging but when faced with the three climbs they had to go over — the Passo di Gavia, the Stelvio and Val Martello — there was no doubt today was always going to be one of the hardest stages. But only when the weather was factored in did the stage go from tough to brutal and left many debating whether they should just cancel the stage as the snow fell and the temperatures plummeted.

There was talk for a while that the descent of the Stelvio had been neutralized by race officials, though that was later denied, yet confusion reigned and is likely to reign into the night as to how it was supposed to be raced. Naturally therefore the stage was blown wide open on that Stelvio descent with Nairo Quintana, Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal going on the attack in tricky conditions while their rivals felt the need to exercise caution. It’s not yet known whether those left behind thought racing had ceased — though no doubt many of them will claim they did — while those who took advantage will claim it was game on for an epic encounter.

While the weather may have played a big part in the staggering fact that only 36 men finished within half an hour of Quintana, there is little doubt that it was his pure ability to also go uphill in these conditions that truly swung the balance of this Giro.

When himself, Hesjedal and Rolland hit the bottom of the Stelvio they carried a two minute advantage over the rest … a lead so great on a descent that it has fueled the argument that the race had been neutralized but left me arguing that upon seeing these three contenders head on down the hill why wouldn’t you go with them and debate the neutralization later? If indeed there was any agreement to ‘take it easy’ which given the official results would suggest that officially, there was not.

It mattered not however, because once they all got off the descent and the charge up to Val Martello began, Uran, devoid of team support, followed the Tinkoff-Saxo team as they tried to haul back, without success, the deficit to the three up the road, who were quickly reigning in the loan survivor of an earlier attack, Dario Cataldo, and gunning towards stage glory. Rolland and Hesjedal have been fine opportunists in this Giro, using every chance they can get to take back time and it was no great shock that in the midst of this confusion they would be seeking the advantage. And why not Quintana too, who has hooked up with Rolland on a few occasions now in this Giro, to get in on the act and take back from Uran what he had lost in the individual time-trial last week?

If their lead was two minutes going onto the climb, then it says something to Quintana’s form as this race progresses that he only increased that with pedal stroke, coming home more than four minutes ahead of Uran. That Quintana put two minutes into Uran alone on the climb when he came into the stage 2-40 off his lead, suggests that had he waited on the descent, further conserving his energy, he might well have overturned that 2-40 on the climb to Val Martello alone anyway.

I find it hard to argue that the best man isn’t tonight in the pink jersey. Especially when you go about acquiring it in such fashion.

And make no mistake about it, Quintana didn’t ride the coat tails of his fellow escapees here, the lions share of work was done by the Colombian as Hesjedal and Rolland fought to hang on. On several occasions Hesjedal was dropped when the gradient percentage ramped up into double figure only to claw, in true diesel fashion, his way back on when it leveled off a little. It looked for a while as though Rolland would take the tow to the top and out sprint Quintana for the stage, but surprisingly it was he that fell away first as Hesjedal continue to go mind over body to keep on the flying Quintana’s wheel.

Into the final kilometre and things kicked up again and this time Quintana shedded Hesjedal for good, winning solo, though only 8 seconds up on the Canadian. Rolland rolled in 1-13 behind with Wilco Kelderman the first of the chasing pack to come home 3-32 down. He was followed in by Domenico Pozzovivo at 3-37, Fabio Aru at 3-40, Rafal Majka at 4-08 and Uran on the wheel of Sebastian Henao at 4-11. Struggling more still in the conditions was Cadel Evans who finished at 4-48 but has done just about enough to maintain a podium position in the general classification.

Quintana now leads that classification over Uran by 1-41 with Evans at 3-21. Rolland has jumped into fourth, five seconds behind Evans and should continue to move up, while Majka sits fifth at 3-28 and Aru in sixth at 3-34.

And following his inspired ride to stay as close to the wheel of Quintana as possible, Ryder Hesjedal moved into the top ten overall in 9th place, 4-16 down though I can’t help think what might have been had stage 1 not gone so badly for his Garmin team?

That wet day in Belfast, Garmin lost 2-31 to Movistar when Dan Martin slipped on a manhole and brought down the majority of his team forcing the likes of Hesjedal to wait until the minimum compliment of riders could get themselves together and finish as a team.

But had Garmin remained upright, they were on pace to set one of the better times and Quintana’s Movistar team finished 55 seconds behind the winning time posted by Orica Greenedge, as such, Garmin might well have put 30 seconds into Movistar. A lot of if’s and but’s here that mean nothing because crashes are a part of cycling and the times all count, but without that stage 1 nightmare that also took Dan Martin out of the Giro, Hesjedal might have been going to bed tonight a single minute off the race lead with five days to go.

And one minute that includes the 41 seconds lost to Quintana in the individual time-trial, though that was a straight up battle in which the time swings went fair and square.

Of course, what is still to come in this Giro favours Quintana so a one minute deficit to the young Colombian may not have changed the direction in which this race is headed anyway, but it’s nice for Canadian cycling fans to speculate what might have been. That said, the potential podium is still a very realistic possibility, stage 1 crash or not, because Hesejdal today sits only 55 seconds behind a tiring Cadel Evans in 3rd.

Six men abandoned the stage (including Thomas Dekker, Alessandro Petacchi and Michele Scarponi), which given the conditions and the 167 that started (Edvald Boasson Hagen did not take to the start) it’s surprising that it wasn’t more. I’m not exactly sure what the cut off time was, but I have to figure discretion will be shown by the race referees, especially given this whole ‘neutralized’ debate, not to mention the fact that if the cut off was 30 minutes, only 37 men would be taking to the start tomorrow.

It was one of the great rides today by Nairo Quintana … attacking on the descent in freezing conditions and blitzing the final climb as a chasing pack of high quality riders only continued to lose time to him. It was the stuff of Merckx and it was the stuff that very well could win him the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

Result:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 4-42-35

2. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) in 8 sec

3. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + 1-13

4. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) + 3-32

5. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) + 3-37

6. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 3-40

7. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 4-08

8. Sebastian Henao (Sky) + 4-11

9. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + s.t.

10. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 4-48

Overall:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 68-11-44

2. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + 1-41

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 3-21

4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + 3-26

5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 3-28

6. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 3-34

9. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) + 4-16

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Pierre Rolland’s Giro: If only he could time-trial

A rest day today and how they need it given the past couple of stages. Uran comes into it with the Pink jersey on his shoulders and while he’s look a little vulnerable on the climbs he has limited his losses to mere seconds which he will accept having taken minutes out of everyone else in the individual time-trial.

One man who has looked good on the climbs and if not a contender for the GC due to his 4 minutes, 47 defect to Uran, then certainly a stage winner, is Frenchman Pierre Rolland, who is looking every bit the rider the French thought they had found when he won that stage to L’Alpe d’Huez in the 2011 Tour de France and finished 10th overall and 1st in the young rider classification.

So how come Rolland is facing such a gap to Uran if he’s climbing so strong? He never lost any time to him in any of the crashes earlier on the Giro, always finishing in groups with the Colombian. Well, the answer lies against the clock.

In the team-time-trial to start this Giro back in Belfast Rolland’s Europcar team had a nightmare ride and the Frenchman lost a whopping 1 minute, 43 seconds. As I said back then, you cannot win the Giro on an opening stage team-time-trial, but you sure can lose it and it looked right away as though that time loss would be problematic to Rolland.

For all his climbing ability, Rolland has never been strong against the clock. He reminds me of a certain Richard Virenque in that regard — and only that regard, thankfully. Able to soar in the mountains and always willing to go off the front in search of a stage win or mountains classification points, but too weak against the clock to ever win a Grand Tour.

And so it is in this Giro for Rolland. On stage 8 he lost 16 seconds to Uran when his aggressive climbing caught up with him just before the line, but it was the individual time-trial were his Giro aspirations likely vanished when Uran took a devastating 3 minutes and 46 seconds out of him. That left him 5-45 behind Uran on GC and essentially left looking for stage victories.

On stages 14 and 15 he went about trying to do just that, getting in on the attack early and then riding with Ryder Hesjedal one day and Nairo Quintana the next after they had bridged across to him. Neither resulted in a stage victory — often the early break had gone far enough ahead to leave any gap impossible to close — but it did chip away a little at Uran’s lead. 38 seconds on stage 14 and 20 seconds on stage 15. Just under a single minute all in; still 4-47 behind with just four big mountain stages to go. Rolland is going to have to hope Uran falls apart in this final week but that would still leave six very good riders ahead of him to overcome to have any hope of winning this Giro.

It’s extremely unlikely, though I do admire his willingness to keep trying and I hope he wins a stage for it. No doubt French cycling fans everywhere are hoping that if only he could improve his time-trialing just a little he might one day contend to become the first French Grand Tour winner since Laurent Jalabert at the Vuelta in 1995, and before that Bernard Hinault at the Tour de France in 1985.

Aru wins thrusting himself into GC contention; Quintana takes back seconds; Evans loses time

And suddenly Fabio Aru has thrust himself right into contention for this years Giro with a superb attack in the final kilometres of this summit finish to Montecampione to take 22 seconds out of Nairo Quintana, 42 seconds out of the Pink jersey of Rigoberto Uran, and 1 minute, 13 seconds out of Cadel Evans. He’s put himself into fourth place overall under two and a half minutes back on Uran who maintained (and extended thanks to him taking time on a tired looking Evans) his lead in this years race.

The early break once again tried to share the spoils of the stage but never carried enough of a lead into a long finishing climb. It was a day that was perfectly flat before the climb and so all eyes were on that final ramp into the sky. At one point Irishman, Philip Deignan, had a crack out of an ever decreasing lead peloton, but when the main contenders to win this Giro began to make their moves his lead was quickly overcome.

Once again the first to go was Pierre Rolland, and once again they let him go, though this time it took his second surge before he got a gap. Rolland came into today 5-07 down on Uran but again took time, but while those time gaps are limited to seconds rather than minutes and while Uran has so much competition around him to go chasing every move, Rolland will be allowed to chip away at his lead and perhaps look to win a stage before this Giro is done.

Shortly after Quintana made his bid but was followed by this time but Uran, who after yesterday, looked much stronger. It was Evans who once again looked like he was tiring out in this Giro. He couldn’t follow the crucial moves and finished in a small group containing Ryder Hesjedal who spent the majority of the final portions of the climb going off and on the back of what was left of the main pack. Hesjedal, like Evans in many ways, is a big diesel engine, he doesn’t react well to the quick changes in pace and prefers to grind up the hills in his own rhythm. It’s why when the pace went up, Hesjedal went back, but when those surges inevitably ceased and the contenders began to look at one another to pick up the slack that he got back on. Another like that is former two-time winner, Ivan Basso, but his glory days are behind him now and when those surges ceased, he couldn’t get back on. And so it was for Evans but as the kilometres closed in the pace remained high and so the gap continued to grow. Thankfully for him the metres ran out before the clock did serious damage but losing 31 seconds to Uran and dropping more than a minute behind him overall is not a good sign with the biggest climbing to come.

When Quintana kicked a second time Uran couldn’t react but the damage was limited to 20 seconds. Someone Quintana couldn’t shake was Rolland having earlier bridged across to his attack. Rolland is looking stronger by the day and those around him will be thankful that his gap to the Pink jersey is still just shy of five minutes.

The competition however remains fierce. Is there anyone in the top six of the overall — separated by a mere 2 minutes, 42 seconds — who cannot still win this Giro? Especially with all the climbing still to come? The past two days have shown that they’re only gaining seconds on one another and so Uran’s more than a minute lead on second place Evans is still an advantage, you have to think with the worst still to come and legs getting tireder, the gaps may increase and with it the chances for someone — maybe all of them on given days — to have a bad day and lose minutes.

Result:

1. Fabio Aru (Astana) in 5-33-06

2. Fabio Duarte Arevalo (Colombia) + 21 sec

3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) + 22 sec

4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + s.t.

5. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + 42 sec

6. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 52 sec

9. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) + 1-13

10. Cadel Evans (BMC) + s.t.

Overall:

1. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) in 63-26-39

2. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 1-03

3. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 1-50

4. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 2-24

5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) + 2-40

6. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) + 2-42

Rolland wins for France while Froome shows his strength but waits for Wiggins

Stage 11 — July 12: Albertville to Fontcouverte-la-Toussuire/Les Sybelles, 148 km (92 mi)

Despite have just crossed three mountain passes, Pierre Rolland has time to finish and lift his bike in celebration while waiting for the others to finish. Photograph: Nathalie Magniez/AFP/Getty Images

It was a day of high drama. A day we might look back on as the one that swung the balance of this Tour into the lap of Bradley Wiggins once and for all, but also the day that his team-mate, and somewhat reluctant super-domestique, Chris Froome showed he had the potential to win the Tour and almost certainly will be trying to do so twelve months from now. It was the day the French had their hopes lifted once again thanks to Pierre Rolland, that not to far into the future they could have their own Tour contender once again.

It was a terrible day for Cadel Evans. The defending champion had to try something. He was clearly going to lose more time in the penultimate stage of this years Tour’s time-trial, and it was clear the mountains were his only chance. With two big climbs to go in the day he decided he couldn’t wait until the final one when Sky’s tempo would be at it’s maximum. Hoping to shed them of all support baring Wiggins and Froome, he stepped on the gas going up the Col du Mollard. It got him the briefest of gaps but not being ones to panic, Sky kept their pace and reeled in the Australian. Surely Evans was hoping to get a gap, descend further ahead and then climb to La Toussuire to overcome his deficit to the Yellow jersey. Or at least prove this British team to be vulnerable. He didn’t, and it had to be demoralising. Come the slopes to La Toussuire it was clear that Evan’s effort had been one last throw of the dice for he cracked and by the top he lost 1-26 to the Yellow jersey.

Rolland may have been rolling up the climb much like he did at Alp d’Huez a year before, to his second Tour victory and a top ten position in the GC, but it was behind him were the real action was taking place. Rolland had got into a 26 man break very early on the stage and as that shed in numbers over the hard day of climbing, Rolland was the last man remaining on the way to the finish. Behind him the Yellow jersey group was shedding it’s stragglers at a dramatic rate also and those from the earlier break were being swept up and sent straight out the back thanks to that relentless Sky pace being put down, first by Richie Porte and then by Chris Froome.

Then suddenly Wiggins made a surge and put Froome into trouble. For a moment it looked like Wiggins might finally be showing his hand and being on the verge of really distancing his rivals in this Tour. Was it in reaction to two solid moves by Vincenzo Nibali who had created quite the gap on the second one threatening for a while to put time into Wiggins? Or was it a brief show of strength … a message to his rivals not to try anything crazy?

Either way it didn’t appear to sit well with Froome who had been pacing Wiggins relentlessly up the climb. Once Froome composed himslf and bridged the gap he too put in a hard kick that distanced everyone including Wiggins was was briefly put into trouble. Froome claimed he thought Wiggins would be joining him and maybe he did given the effort Wiggins had put in moments before, but then suddenly the Sky team-car came blasting over his radio instructing him to wait on the team leader. Acting up on this advice and wishing the fans to know exactly why he wasn’t continuing with an attack he might want you to understand could have pushed him right into Yellow jersey contention, Froome put his hand to his ear as if required to do this to hear the message. He slowed off and not until the sprint for the line did he kick again taking just one second out of Wiggins.

With it came the debate over team-orders. Rightly Sky are playing the percentages. The last thing they need would be for Froome to attack, crack Wiggins, see Nibali go with Froome and have a GC standings at the end of the day with Froome a few seconds behind Wiggins and just 18 ahead of Nibali. Wiggins has a two minute advantage and it’s the right game for the team to try and maintain that. Sure it would have been a hell of a lot more exciting had we seen Froome pull out the radio, chuck in it the nearest field, and take off up the climb, potentially pulling back some serious time, but while we long for it to be ultimately an individual effort, cycling is very much a team game at times like this, and this proved it.

Had it not been for a puncture on stage one which cost Froome 1-25 to Wiggins, he would currently find himself just 40 seconds behind overall and surely with more of a case to press home his belief that he is the stronger rider on the hills. Right now that puncture is costing him very dear and unless Wiggins hit real trouble, right now Froome is going to have to pace him up climbs, look after his leader, and bide his time to win this great race for another year.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I follow orders at all costs, I’m part of the team and I have to do what the team ask me to do.” — Team Sky robot, Chris Froome

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FAKE TWEET OF THE DAY

@p_rolland Wait till 2015 France.

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ABANDONMENT’S

Fabian Cancellara failed to start the stage as he headed home to Switzerland to be at his wife’s side who is due to give birth any day now. Five others didn’t finish the stage, they were: Mark Renshaw, Bauke Mollema (both Rabobank), Rob Ruijgh, Gustav Larsson and Lieuwe Westra (all Vancansoleil-DMC). Two others, Alessandro Petacchi and Yuriy Krivtsov were the first two riders eliminated on time after finishing over 45 minutes behind the stage winner.

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STAGE 11 RESULT

1. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar in 4h 43′ 54″
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 55 sec
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling at 55 sec
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Team at 57 sec
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling all at same time

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 11

1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 48h 43′ 53″
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling at 2-05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 02-23
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 3-19
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team at 4-48
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Radioshack-Nissan at 6-15

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THE RACE FOR THE LANTERNE ROUGE

After a couple of tough climbing stages that really put the hurt into the grupetto, American Tyler Farrar siezed control of the Lanterne Rouge position ahead of Frenchman Jimmy Engoulvent. With neither nations looking good for any of the official jersey’s this year, this one could well become a hotly contested battle, especially given that just five seconds separate them.

167. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp 51h 04′ 33″
166.  Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Saur-Sjoasun at 5 sec
165. Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp at 8-05
164. Albert Timmer (Ned) Argos-Shimano at 9-15
163. Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano at 9-58
162. Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) Cofidis at 10-36