This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Matteo Trentin ended a three-year drought for Italian riders and gave Omega Pharma-QuickStep their fourth win of the Tour de France when he surged past his rivals in the break of the day to edge out Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) by less than a wheel in Lyon.
Coming into the final two kilometres, it looked as if Julien Simon (Sojasun) was set to become the first French victor in this year’s race but, after attacking on his own going over the top of the penultimate climb with 15km left, he ran out of juice in the final kilometre, where several members of what had been an 18-man breakaway bridged up to him.
Stage two winner Jan Bakelants (RadioShack) led out the sprint, only to see Albasini fly past him with 200 metres remaining. The Swiss looked like he had done enough to claim the stage, but Tour debutant Trentin came through like a train on his right to deny him, with Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky very close behind in third.
“This means a lot to me. It’s my first pro victory after two years in the peloton,” said Trentin, who is Omega leader Mark Cavendish’s roommate and one of his key lead-out men.
Trentin's win came out of this break, which saw Garmin's Talansky climb on the GC
“The Tour de France is the best place in the world to win, everyone sees you. I played it smart in the break because we did a lot of work and so I think I deserved to miss a few turns. I almost got dropped with cramp on the last climb but managed to hang on. I didn’t have time to think about the finish. [Marcus] Burghardt went with two kilometres and then we caught them. I waited because it was a head wind. Then I went at 200m out and knew I could do a good sprint. I went past Albasini and suddenly realised I’d won.”
The bunch came in more than seven minutes down on the stage winner as the overall contenders saved their legs for Sunday's important finish atop Mont Ventoux. There were no changes in the overall standings among the top 10. However, Talansky’s presence in the break boosted him from 17th to 12th place overall. He is now 5:54 behind Froome and within striking distance of the best young rider's white jersey and a place in the top ten overall.
A high-speed start
Although the GC contenders were no doubt happy to have a much easier day than Friday’s wind-affected slog to St-Amand-Montrond, especially with Mont Ventoux looming on Sunday afternoon, the opening half of the stage was frantic. Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) and Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) were the first riders to go clear, soon after racing got under way. For the next half an hour, the peloton was never far behind as more teams endeavoured to get riders up to the lead group.
Christophe Le Mével (Cofidis) and French national champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr) were the first two to manage this, although Le Mével soon fell back. Fourteen more riders joined the leading quartet with 55km covered, but another 40km passed before the peloton finally eased off and the break edged away.
Froome was safely marshaled throughout the stage by Team Sky
In addition to Bak, Voigt, Kadri and Vichot, Talansky was there with teammate David Millar for company, BMC were represented by Tejay van Garderen and Marcus Burghardt, Movistar had Imanol Erviti looking out for sprinter José Joaquín Rojas, and Bakelants joined RadioShack teammate Voigt.
Cyril Gautier (Team Europcar), Pavel Brutt (Katusha), Egoitz García (Cofidis), Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano), plus Trentin, Albasini and Simon were the sole representatives from their respective teams. Lampre and Vacansoleil were among the squads not represented, which explained a long and ultimately attempt to join the leaders by Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre).
Trentin later gave an insight into the intensity of the opening two hours of racing, revealing: “I checked my average speed after 90km and it was 47km/h.”
Attacks in the finale
The escapees cooperated until they neared the final two of the day’s seven categorised climbs. With 25km remaining, Albasini and Millar both had a dig, but were quickly caught. On the first of those fourth-category climbs, the Côte de la Duchère, Bakelants and van Garderen pressed hard, their pace proving too much for veterans Millar and Voigt.
Cresting that ascent, Simon accelerated into the descent and quickly opened up a substantial gap. With no organised pursuit behind him, he extended his advantage on the final climb, the Côte de la Croix-Rousse, where huge crowds scented a home success and urged him on. At the summit, with 10km remaining, he led lone pursuer Kadri by 24 seconds, with the rest still attacking and countering each other.
Big crowds cheered the break and the peloton up the final climb
Coming off this climb, van Garderen took the initiative, doing a huge turn on the front that halved Simon’s advantage. As the American sat up, Bak was the next to commit himself, Bakelants and Gautier haring after him, followed by Burghardt and Albasini. When these five riders came together, Simon’s lead had been reduced to little more than 50 metres, which Albasini crossed with ease going into the final kilometre, where the group containing Rojas and Trentin also closed in.
Sensing he had shown himself too soon, Albasini eased off and waited until Bakelants got the sprint under way. The Orica rider jumped in behind him, countered and seemed to have it won, only for Trentin to see steam through on the other side of the road in the final 10 metres, becoming Italy’s first stage-winner since Alessandro Petacchi won his second stage of the 2010 Tour in Reims.
After two weeks of helping Cavendish, Trentin got a win of his own on Saturday