Breaking away with 12 other riders, including Jens Voight and Mark Cavendish with 166km to go, he remained in the lead pack throughout the day, at one point having a full 10’26” gap on Nocentini, virtually putting Hincapie in the Yellow Jersey!
Cavendish pulled off the break early to join the peloton, and at 135km to go, Voight suffered a flat with a lousy wheel swap and had to drop back to the peloton, leaving 11 riders in the break.
For the first half of the race, Hincapie’s breakaway freight train seemed unstoppable, adding seconds with every kilometer. Ã‚Â But, by 38km to go, they had seen steady declines, with the gap down to 7’29” and at 35km to go, it was 7’05”. Ã‚Â Still a solid lead, but the seconds started chipping away just as easily as they had grown earlier before leveling off for a bit at around 6’40” through 15km to go.
At the front, Hincapie kept a strong pace to keep the break moving quickly, matching the pace of the peloton. Ã‚Â If Hincapie could stay 5’26” off the front, he could steal the Yellow Jersey. Ã‚Â Unfortunately for him, no one else in the break was quite as motivated and at 13km to go, they started losing fluidity from their paceline.
At 10km from the finish, Serguei Ivanov (KAT) jumped, which caused the break group to chase and drive up the speed…good for George. Ã‚Â Ivanov, the Russian road race champion, put the hammer down and had 20 seconds on the chasers at 7km to go, then 27 seconds at 6km. Ã‚Â Two chasers tried to catch, while Hincapie was in the 2nd chase group, making the time gap too close for comfort knowing that the peloton would pick up speed near the end.
At 4km to go, Ivanov had 24 seconds on his first chasers and 36 seconds on Hincapie’s group. At about 1km to go, Nicolas Roche bridged up to the two chasers, pulling Hincapie and the rest with him, butÃ‚Â Ivanov held everyone off to take the stage win by 16 seconds, and George Hincapie crossed the line to start the countdown to yellow at 5’40”.
In the main pack, it left Team Columbia in a pickle. Ã‚Â They couldn’t sprint out too much to position to Cavendish for the pack sprint, which would eat into Hincapie’s efforts, and they couldn’t just let Cervelo Test Team riders push Hushovd to the front unanswered. Ã‚Â What do to, what to do… well, smartly, they got to the front and effectively blocked a real sprint. Ã‚Â Mark Renshaw led out Cavendish against the left barrier, with Hushovd blocked behind while other Columbia riders spread across the road as a net. Ã‚Â It worked remarkably well, but in the end the peloton came in just 5 seconds faster than Hincapie would have liked, putting him in 2nd overall while Nocentini kept the Yellow Jersey for another day.
French rider Christophe Le Mevel managed to break into the top 10 as well, slotting himself in 5th place overall by hanging with the breakaway.
Racing at its best! Tune in tomorrow when the Tour de France hits the Alps with a mountain top finish on Category One Verbier!
If you’re playing, the Cadillac word of the day is “Chasers”. Ã‚Â Photo at top from AFP.
2009 TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 14 TOP 10
|Christophe Le Mevel
2009 TOUR de FRANCE OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 14
|C. Le Mevel
|C. Vande Velde