Serguei IVANOVÂ©Â A.S.O.
On what many considered was to be the last stage for the sprinters before a bout of mountains in the 2009 Tour de France, the fast men had to contend themselves to a race for 13th place. Ahead of them were 12 escapees who collaborated well for 110 kilometers before attacking each other in the finale. The strongest was the Russian champion, Serguei Ivanov of the Katusha team. He picked up his second stage win in the Tour de France, eight years after setting off from Pontarlier to and beating other escape companions in Aix-les-Bains. In BesanĂ§on, however, there was another prize on offer: the yellow jersey was under threat from George Hincapie. His presence in the escape meant that Mark Cavendishâs team didnât contribute to the pelotonâs chase as the American could have taken the yellow jerseyâŠ he missed out by just five second after finishing eighth in the stage.
The Progress Report
Once again cold conditions greeted the riders in the 2009 Tour de France. The forecast was for a maximum temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and rain for the 199km stage from Pontarlier to BesanĂ§on in stage 14. The official start was at 12.44pm and there were 164 riders in the race; Spilak (LAM) was outside the time limit in stage 13 but he was held up by spectators on the course so the judges allowed him to start the 14th stage.
This is the last day of the 96th edition to have three intermediate sprints. They were contested in: Pulversheim (34km), Dannemarie (67km) and Baume-les-Dames (161.5km). Also on the itinerary were two category-three climbs: the cote de Lebetain (90.5km) and cote de Blamont (111.5km).
Hincapie Becomes Virtual Leader
At the 14km mark, Maaskant (GRM) instigated an escape with 13 other riders, including Cavendish. At the 18km mark, the quadruple stage winner retreated to the peloton. The riders who remained were: Roulston (CTT), Voigt (SAX), Maaskant (GRM), Hincapie (THR), Roche (ALM), Bennati and Willems (LIQ), Le Mevel (FDJ), Minard (COF), Righi (LAM), Ivanov (KAT), Ciolek (MRM) and Timmer (SKS). Silence-Lotto, Quickstep, Rabobank and Euskaltel led the chase, not allowing the escape to gain more than 30â advantage for the first hour. The average of the opening hour was the fastest so far this year: 49.8km/h.
The road dried out and after an hour of racing the peloton eased off the pace of the chase. At 53km, the advantage was 1â00â. Voigt punctured at the 57km mark and received a new wheel from the neutral spares car but had to concede his place in the escape. He was caught by the peloton at 60km. Astana led the peloton from 55km onward. Hincapie was the best place on GC of those in the escape group and, at 78km, he became the virtual leader with the peloton at 5â30â.
The maximum gain of the escape was 8â50â at the 120km mark. At 145km, the AG2R team moved ahead of Astana at the head of the peloton and by 150km, the deficit of the peloton was 8â00â.
The Attacks Begin
Hincapie was the first to attack the lead group. He accelerated ahead with 35km to go when the peloton was 7â05â behind. The others chased him down but it sparked some action at the front. With 25km to go, the peloton was behind by 6â25â. Maaskant attacked the 12 leaders with 13km to go. He was quickly caught and at the 11km mark, Ivanov surged forward and opened up a gap to Timmer and Roulston who teamed up with a pursuit of the Russian champion.
Katushaâs Russian Champion Claims Another Stage
Under the âflamme rougeâ, Ivanov led by 28â. He held off all others and won by 16â from Roche, who passed Roulston and Timmer inside the final kilometer. Hincapie finished eighth at the same time as Roche and, if the peloton finished 5â41â behind, he would have taken the yellow jerseyâŠ they finished 5â36â so Hincapie moved up to second overall instead of first. Cavendish led the peloton home in 13th place but Hushovd was 14th so the green jersey remains on the Cervelo riderâs shoulders. (After the stage, the race jury decided to relegate Cavendish to last of the bunch because of an ’irregular sprint’.) Nocentini finished 46th and keeps the yellow jersey for another day.
The man who started what ultimately became a successful escape was Garminâs Dutch strongman, Martijn Maaskant. He wasnât able to earn his team its first stage win but heâs pleased he had a go. His reward was the most votes in the combative classification.
âI felt like I had the legs to go in the break today and maybe win the stage. In the end, I attacked on the last little climb and unfortunately it was a headwind and it was pretty hard to get a gap. At least I tried. When Ivanov went on the descent of that last hill he was really strong and Iâm impressed that he was able to fight the wind all the way to the finish.
âOf course if there was no Columbia rider with us, it would have been hard for an escape to stay away but we had a big group and a lot of strong guys. We had to work for quite a while to really get clear of the peloton but eventually the gap really grew.â
Another day, another stage in yellow for Rinaldo Nocentini. He admitted to his troops that he wasnât fussed if they surrendered the lead in stage 14 but the Italian is grateful for the help he received in defending the yellow jerseyâŠ
âIt was a very difficult day today because weâre getting tired from all the effort in the last week. We had a rider [Nicolas Roche] up front so we didnât have to ride but because [George] Hincapie was in the move there was a big risk of losing the yellow jersey. Eventually, with 50 kilometers to go, our directeur sportif Vincent Lavenu said, âOkay, letâs go! Letâs catch the guysâŠâ Okay this wasnât possible but we had to limit our losses and keep the jersey.
âI told the guys, âListen, I donât mind. If you want to go for it and defend the jersey, thatâs great. But if you donât want to, thatâs okay. Youâve already worked so hard over the last few days so it doesnât really matter.â
âEventually Iâve kept the lead by just five seconds, so Iâm really pleased with how this Tour has gone for me so far. And Iâm really grateful for the commitment from my team.â
When a stage of the Tour last began in Pontarlier, Serguei Ivanov led an escape to the finish as a 26-year-old. The Russian champion has won again with Pontarlier providing the launch pad for an attack that would remain alive all the way to BesanĂ§on. The veteran from the new Katusha team can now appreciate the value of a win at the TourâŠ
âI have been relatively quiet in this yearâs Tour because I was waiting for the right moment to show myself. Nobody would have seen me in the finish of stages until now because Iâve been saving myself a little. Today there was a good opportunity and I decided in the morning that I had to go on the attack. The weather was quite good for me but at the beginning it was very hard. We had been attacking for a long time but the peloton was always just about 20 seconds behind. We were all thinking, âOh, we still have to push.â I had nothing in my legs anymore but then suddenly the time checks started showing that our lead was going up and up.
âEveryone saw that there were 12 of us in the break and we were all waiting for the final kilometers especially because there was a headwind and no one tried an early attack. The group started to accelerate about 15km from the finish and I waited patiently for my moment. I thought it would be a very hard final because of the wind and a little hill but I timed the move well.
âThis is the first Tour de France stage victory for Katusha and itâs a great one and it makes me very happy to deliver a win for the team. This is not the same feeling as the first time I won a stage of the Tour; back then  I was young and I didnât understand what it was all aboutâŠ I was just flying. Today I can appreciate it. Itâs incredible.â
The peloton is sprinting for 13th place and has finished 5’35" behind. Hincapie misses out on the yellow jersey by six seconds...!
Hincapie now has an anxious wait to see if he’s the new leader of the Tour de France. The peloton has to finish over 5’41" behind Ivanov if the American (who finished 8th - at 16") is going to take the yellow jersey.
The most aggressive rider in the 14th stage is Martijn Maaskant but the man who started the escape at the 24km mark had to settle for fourth in Besancon. The top five of stage 14 is:
1. Serguei Ivanov (RUS) KAT - 199km in 4h37’46"
2. Nicolas Roche (IRL) ALM at 16"
3. Hayden Roulston (NZL) CTT at 16"
4. Martijn Maaskant (NED) GRM at 16"
5. Sebastien Minard (FRA) COF) at 16"
Ivanov has won the stage, finishing 15" ahead of the Irish champion. It’s the Russian’s second victory in the Tour de France, the first coming in 2001.
Katusha is about to celebrate its first stage victory in the Tour de France. Roche has just pounced past Roulston inside the final kilometer and there are going to be two national champions in first and second place today...