123km to go: Bora-Hansgrohe are really going for it and there are gaps appearing in the bunch. Bennett is around 50” behind the main group as Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team stamp on their pedals and try to turn the screw. Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), meanwhile, is 34” behind our now lone leader, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ).
125km to go: Küng pushes on at the front. He leaves Theuns and solos over the top of the Col du Béal and takes five KOM points. Behind, Bennett has been dropped by the peloton, but has his entire team to help up to the top.
127km to go: The ITV reporter Daniel Friebe on Twitter, with an alternative take on Bardet’s concussion yesterday:
But, was Bardet showing signs of concussion immediately after the crash, as Brian Smith suggested on Eurosport? As Smith said, you need the doctor to take strong decisions in those situations, even if the rider in question is a French hopeful in GC. (That is not to say that Bardet was showing signs of a head injury/concussion straight after his crash, by the way. I did see it on TV, but can’t comment on it from a medically-qualified standpoint.)
128km to go: Jumbo-Visma are massed behind Bora-Hansgrohe at the front of the main peloton. Kamna, who came close to a stage win yesterday, is setting the pace on the front for Sagan’s men.
129km to go: The gap is 4’00”. The break is about four kilometres from the top of the climb. Behind, Bora-Hansgrohe continue to try and put everyone else under pressure at the front of the bunch, and it is working, with a few riders being dropped off the back of the peloton. Bennett is still in the main bunch, but at the back, and looks to be toiling a bit.
130km to go: The world road race champion Mads Pedersen, of Trek-Segafredo, spoke to Eurosport before today’s stage: “Today three guys will have the chance to go in the break – Jasper Stuyven, Eddy [Theuns] and Toms [Skujins]. I’m going to babysit Richie [Porte] once again, so hopefully it’s going to be a less stressful day for us, and maybe they can do a good result in the end. Richie is doing really good, yesterday me and Jasper, we were pretty happy to be there so far with him into the final, and in the end he finished it off really well, so it’s looking good in terms of the GC.”
“What needs to happen for one of your guys to win today?” asks Ashley House.
“Be stronger than the rest,” Pedersen deadpans.
133km to go: Bora-Hansgrohe are now massed at the front again, and have massively upped the pace. Are they riding to try and set up a stage win, riding to put Bennett under pressure, or a bit of both? The gap to the two breakaway riders is 5’19”.
134km to go: Hardly breaking news, but the TV helicopter shots of the rolling French countryside on this pleasantly warm September day are quite beautiful. Well worth catching the TV highlights just for those, let alone the racing.
136km to go: The break has just rolled on to the second categorised climb of the day. We’ve already had some excitment in the points classification today, but what of the king of the mountains classification? This is how they stand at the moment, currently a one-two for French team AG2R La Mondiale. In view of the fact that Bardet has packed and Pinot is out of GC contention, a polka-dot jersey in Paris for a French rider would do something to cheer up the home fans.
1. Benoit Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) 36 pts
2. Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) 31 pts
3. Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) 31 pts
4. Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) 24 pts
5. Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) 21 pts
137km to go: Tom Atkins emails: “Bernard Moitessier disappearing off over the horizon is just one of a number of wonderful stories from that race, and De Gendt is a good comparison. Meanwhile, Ian Stannard or Luke Rowe are a good substitute for meat and potatoes British plodder Robin Knox-Johnson, Thibaut Pinot is the popular but doomed Nigel Tetley and as for Donald Crowhurst, the flawed genius pushed by the pressures of the race to cheat and end up taking his own life, there have been plenty of those down the years.”
140km to go: The gap is out to 4’34” as Theuns and Küng keep working together in the break. Deceuninck – Quick-Step continue to work on the front of the peloton, with Bora-Hansgrohe still prominent too. This is all going swimmingly for Jumbo-Visma today, who have been able to take a back seat so far, following a very successful day yesterday in which Roglic strengthened his grip on the GC. The road is going uphill, but we are not yet on the second categorised climb of the day, the Col du Béal.
143km to go: Chris Collinson emails: “Theuns and Kūng – a seminal nu skool breaks outfit hammered by DJ Tipper on Fuel records back in the day.”
Myself, I’ve always thought that Tejay Van Garderen sounds like a guy taking time out of his Space Ibiza residency to ride the Tour de France.
Theuns’s nickname is Edward ‘Loony’ Theuns, by the way.
144km to go: Concussion is now the topic of discussion among the TV commentators. Yesterday, Bardet crashed at 60 km/h, continued to the end of the stage, but then abandoned at the end. “You have to say ‘No’ straightway, ‘you cannot go back on the bike,’” says Brian Smith. “I think the doctor of the Tour de France made the wrong call yesterday, in my opinion. They should have stopped him [Bardet], they should have not allowed him to ride on. Anybody could see from the TV pictures that he was wobbling about all over the place … there needs to be strong decisions. There is no grey area when it comes to this.”
147km to go: Brian Smith, commentating on Eurosport, looks ahead to tomorrow’s stage and how it might pan out for the green jersey race. He points out that it’s mostly flat until the intermediate sprint tomorrow, so Bennett and Deceuninck – Quick-Step will look to control that so Bennett can sprint for maximum points at the sprint at Le Bouchage, which comes after 58km. After that, for Bennett and for Sagan, it will presumably just be about survival, with two category-ones and an HC climb on the rest of the stage.
151km to go: The gap to the two-man break is 3’42”. After Bora-Hansgrohe’s big acceleration into the first climb of the day, everything has settled down again. Given there are no more intermediate sprints, it will be interesting to see how Bora-Hansgrohe race for the rest of the day. Is their ultimate aim to try and get Bennett timed out of the overall race in the mountains? Deceuninck – Quick-Step are now the team working on the front of the peloton. The road now goes up pretty much all the way to the top of the Col du Béal, but the categorised climb doesn’t start for at least another 10km.
158km to go: Dog in the road! One of the race motorbikes manages to shoo it off before the breakaway rolls through. Let’s hope they get the canine under control before the peloton arrives.
Sagan takes third place at the intermediate sprint at Courpière, rolling through with Schachmann. The Slovak gives his teammate a pat on the back for a job well done. Sagan takes 15 points for third and Bennett took 10 points for sixth place. Theuns won the sprint but I don’t think he or Küng, his breakaway companion, were bothered about that.
Kelly on Bennett, on Eurosport: “If you go too deep into the red, you are exposed totally, you will just creep over the climbs. He used his experience there, he did it well, got over the climb and clung to the rest of that group, and only lost five points.”
162km to go: Sagan pushes over the top of the climb. Schachmann was the one who really took it up for Bora-Hansgrohe as they powered up that first ascent of the day. There is now a descent down towards the intermediate sprint. Bora correctly calculated that Bennett would not be able to keep up with them over that climb … and they are going to do what they can to chip away at his lead in the green jersey competition. Sagan and Schachmann are riding together, Bennett was trying to get back to them so he could compete in the sprint (after the two-man break) but he has dropped back to the bunch now. The gap is 3’08”, which is a bit surprising, I would have thought that big acceleration by Bora would have narrowed it more than that.
163km to go: Bora-Hansgrohe have suddenly woken up, and charged for the foot of the first climb of the day. Theuns and Küng ride on up front, apparently unperturbed, with the gap at 3’36”. The peloton hits the climb now.
164km to go: Adam Hirst emails – “Something for Thomas Gendt. I’m hoping one day he’ll break away solo but just keep riding, off into the mountains, heading to who knows where, in the style of Bernard Moitessier.”
“Bernard Moitessier (April 10, 1925 – June 16, 1994) was a French sailor, most notable for his participation in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first non-stop, singlehanded, round the world yacht race. With the fastest circumnavigation time towards the end of the race, Moitessier was the likely winner for the fastest voyage, but he elected to continue on to Tahiti and not return to the start line in England, rejecting the idea of the commercialisation of long distance sailing.”
166km to go: A breakdown of today’s five categorised climbs:
Côte du château d’Aulteribe – category four – 162km remaining
Col du Béal – category two – 125.8km remaining
Côte de Courreau – category three – 101.1km remaining
Côte de la Duchère – category four – 9.9km remaining
Côte de la Croix-Rousse – category four – 4.8km remaining
The break’s advantage has shot up to 3’41”. The peloton has almost ground to a halt, such is their lack of urgency.
169km to go: We’re getting closer to the first climb of the day, the Côte du château d’Aulteribe, which is a measly 1km long, but averages 8.4% gradient.
Greg Van Avermaet speaks to Eurosport: “Peter [Sagan] is going to have some interest in the green jersey today … it will be really important for the tactics, we will see how big the group is who goes. Maybe it suits us to have Bora-Hansgrohe making the race harder.”
Bennett certainly had a tough day in the saddle over those climbs yesterday. Are Bora-Hansgrohe and Sagan going to try and make him suffer even more today?
173km to go: Something of a ceasefire has been declared, it seems. The pace in the peloton has eased off, the two-man breakaway has 1’35”. Kelly’s theory on Eurosport is that with Bora-Hansgrohe riding to control at the front, the breakaway riders reasoned that they were expending a lot of energy for nothing, as they would not be allowed too far up the road. So now everything has eased off.
173km to go: In the points classification AKA the green jersey, the Irishman Sam Bennett leads. This is the top of the standings going into today’s stage:
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) 252pts
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 186pts
Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) 162pts
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 155pts
Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) 146pts
176km to go: Bol has sat up. The gap has flown out to 1’05” with Theuns and Küng up front. Bora-Hansgrohe are working on the front of the peloton, as Sagan said they would. Their dual aims are the intermediate spring, which comes in about 20km.
177km to go: Peter Sagan, speaking to Eurosport before the stage, asked how Bora-Hansgrohe will play it: “It’s hard to say right now, how it’s going to be from the start … we will try to keep the race under control and see if we can do something in the final. Everything depends on the situation.”
185km to go: Küng has made it into the break. Interesting. We have three men up front but they only have nine seconds. De Gendt must be cursing his inability to make these breakaways so far, unless he’s just toying with us, and waiting for opportunities later in the race. Weather update: It’s a pleasant 25C and the wind is 1km/h. It occurred to me yesterday that the lower temperatures, as a result of the Covid-19 delay, have arguably led to some higher-quality and more entertaining racing. It’s easier for the riders to do their stuff when the temperature isn’t pushing 40C.
186km to go: More attacks now from the peloton. Küng is trying to get across and he is dragging some other riders with him. Küng is the kind of rider that Theuns and Bol would love to see join them, at least in terms of his huge engine, if not his ability to beat them for the stage.
“It looks like a day for a breakaway, but it could go on and on, we could see it [the intense racing] carry on a long way into the stage. It’s a day you have to be careful,” says Sean Kelly on Eurosport.
188km to go: Now Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) have formed a two-man escape group and they have 12” on the peloton. They will no doubt be hoping that some more riders come across and they can form a strong breakaway with a chance of making it to the finish.
In the 2016 Tour, the Belgian rider Theuns crashed in a time trial and broke his back. So it’s great to see him looking so strong here.
192km to go: Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), who was in the break on Thursday, is attacking at the front. Jérôme Cousin (Total Direct Énergie) is also up there. If some riders were hoping for a nice relaxed start today, it seems those hopes have been dashed. The sports directors in the team cars will be keeping a close eye on who is attacking, and whether or not they are happy with the composition of any potential escape groups.
Racing on stage 14!
They are off. And they are attacking. De Gendt is up there, as is Cees Bol (Team Sunweb), along with Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ). Roger Kluge (Lotto Soudal) is also prominent. By the way, the day’s solitary intermediate sprint comes early in today’s stage, with 156km still to race, so that should make a difference to how this is raced early on.
194km to go: You get the sense this is going to be very lively. The body language (and/or the bike language) of the riders is tense, and they are rolling fast.
194km to go: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) rolls along at the front in the 7.8km long neutralised stage. Will he finally make the day’s breakaway today? It looks like he is going to have a go. Hundreds of fans – most wearing masks – line the streets. When the flag drops, we might see a seriously fierce fight to get in the day’s break.
194km to go: We are rolling in the neutralised zone for Tour de France stage 14. Race leader Roglic, as always, sits at the front looking cool and focused.
There were sensible arguments against holding this race at all, but 13 stages in, no one can deny the racing has been phenomenally entertaining. Yesterday’s stage was a perfect example of the quality on show so far, with a thrilling battle for the day’s win playing out among the breakaway. Dani Martínez (EF Pro Cycling) eventually prevailed in an exhilarating two-man uphill sprint against Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) atop the Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol. And that was after Kamna’s teammate Maximilian Schachmann had tried to ‘do a Hirschi’ with a concerted solo attack late in the stage.
Behind all of that breakaway drama, Ineos lobbed their first grenades of the 2020 Tour, taking it up late on a day of seven categorised climbs and trying to put all their GC rivals including Jumbo-Visma under pressure, and perhaps set Egan Bernal up for the stage win on what was the hardest day of climbing so far.
But after much talk of Jumbo-Visma doing much work for little reward in the first 10 days, it was Ineos who seemed to fall into that trap yesterday, as Bernal cracked on the final ascent. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) rode off together, stamping their authority on the GC race and putting half a minute each into the defending champion Bernal. It seemed Ineos’s grenade had exploded in their own hands.
In a further instalment of drama, French hope Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) were forced to abandon the race after a crash, Bardet suffering from concussion, while Bardet’s teammate Benoît Cosnefroy stayed in control of the king of the mountains classification and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) laboured over the climbs to keep on course for the maillot vert.
All of which brings us to today, and a 194km trip from Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon. After a draining day yesterday, five categorised climbs await the peloton. The toughest is the second of the day, the category-two, 10.2km long Col du Béal, which peaks after 68km of racing. It looks ripe for a breakaway, and could be difficult for the GC teams to control, although both Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates will have been heartened by their leaders’ time gains yesterday. Tomorrow’s monster stage with two category-ones and a hors-categorie climb of the Grand Colombier at the end will be looming large in the riders’ minds, too, so if they can find a way to make this day any easier they probably will do. But on this unique, Covid-19 affected Tour, they’ve been racing like there’s no tomorrow maybe today will be no different.