The Latest: Stage 14 shakes top standings at Tour de France
Jul. 18, 2015
MENDE, France (AP) — The Latest from Stage 14 of the Tour de France (all times local):
Tour de France leader Chris Froome knew a steep, short climb in Stage 14 might shake up the top standings.
He was right.
The leaderboard shuffled after the 178-kilometer (111-mile) run from Rodez to Mende, with Froome extending his overall lead by outsprinting Nairo Quintana of Colombia to the finish after fellow Briton Stephen Cummings won the stage.
Quintana rose to second by besting Tejay van Garderen by 39 seconds.
The American leader of BMC also saw his hold on a podium spot diminish: Alejandro Valverde, who was fourth, reduced his deficit to Van Garderen to 36 seconds.
Froome's Sky teammate, Geraint Thomas of Britain, slipped to sixth from fifth, switching places with two-time champion Alberto Contador, who was 51 seconds behind Van Garderen.
Overall, the British race leader has been indomitable in the mountains, and remains looking strong heading into the final week, making it appear to be a race for second. He has a 3 minute, 10 second lead over Quintana, who has four other riders within 1:44 of him.
American rider Tejay van Garderen knew a steep, short climb to the Stage 14 finish line at the Tour de France might be a problem for him.
Nairo Quintana finished right behind race leader Chris Froome, and took second place overall from Van Garderen, who was bumped to third.
The Croix Neuve pass, with a gradient of more than 10 percent, "was difficult," Van Garderen said. "I tend to struggle on really steep short climbs like that."
Noting his fall in the general classification, he said: "It's a pity but, you know, the podium is still very much a realistic goal."
The BMC leader lost 39 seconds to Quintana and 40 to Froome. Overall, the Briton leads Quintana by 3 minutes, 10 seconds, and Van Garderen by 3:32.
"The Alps are really better suited to my characteristics," Van Garderen said of the mountains that loom next week. "So I'm looking forward, and I still feel good."
Tip to Tour de France riders: If your chain comes off and your team car is ahead of you instead of behind you, don't hitch a ride to catch up.
Argentina's Eduardo Sepulveda learned the hard way that such lapses in judgment can have a high cost. The Bretagne-Seche team leader was kicked out of the race in Saturday's Stage 14 for climbing into another team's car and was driven about 100 meters (yards) to reach one of his own team for help.
Team manager Emmanuel Hubert regretted that Sepulveda, who had been an impressive 19th overall as the day's stage began, showed "negligence."
"He should have walked, but in his panic, the rider was all perturbed — and he did what you can't do," Hubert told French TV.
Manager Vincent Lavenu of the AG2R Mondiale team, whose car drove Sepulveda after he climbed in, was fined 100 Swiss francs ($104).
British rider Stephen Cummings of the MTN-Qhubeka team has won Stage 14 of the Tour de France by ambushing French riders Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot on a short flat section after the steep final climb.
Bardet and Pinot summited together on the final ascent only for Cummings to speed past them and take the win on an airfield above the town of Mende.
There were changes in the overall standings. Team leader Chris Froome defended his overall lead but Tejay van Garderen, who had been second, lost time to Nairo Quintana, who moved up from third to second place.
Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali says he got an unwelcome surprise after returning to his hotel room in southern France after breakfast on Saturday: 500 euros and a pair of sunglasses that he wore in last year's race, with sentimental value, were missing.
Astana team officials have asked Tour organizers to help them file a police report after the 14th stage from Rodez to Mende.
Before the stage, Nibali told reporters: "Someone entered my room today looking for something in my suitcase, and took 500 euros and a pair of sunglasses."
The Associated Press called the Brit Hotel Causse Comtal in Montrozier seeking comment, but the manager was not immediately available.
Asked by a reporter whether Nibali's teammate and roommate Michele Scarponi was to blame, Nibali laughed and said, "As a matter of fact, his suitcase was a little messed up too, but in his case nothing was taken."
Among sporting events, the Tour de France remains unbeatable for producing astounding pictures.
Here's video from Stage 14 on Saturday of a bungee jumper plunging off a cliff in the breathtaking Tarn gorges just as the Tour riders raced past: https://twitter.com/letour/status/622404462376693760
It's "stupid" to ask Tour de France riders whether they are doping, says former rider Michael Rasmussen.
While leading the 2007 Tour, the 41-year-old Dane was dramatically ejected for lying about why he had missed earlier doping tests.
Now a commentator in Danish media, Rasmussen told reporters before Saturday's 14th stage that he believes the sport is cleaner than during his era. He said it's "sad" that riders today are paying for its long history with doping — and its pointless to ask them if they are doping.
"If you accept the condition that once you answer that question honestly, your cycling career is over, then it's a stupid question to ask," he said. "I have never heard any rider so far say 'yes' to the rolling camera, while he's racing in his active career."
Rasmussen said he didn't regret doping: "I think that was a condition to be competitive in order to be on the podium."
Steve Morabito broke a collarbone in a crash on Stage 14 and is out of the Tour de France.
The Swiss rider's French FDJ team says he was taken by ambulance back to the stage start in Rodez where doctors diagnosed the fracture.
Richie Porte, a teammate of Tour de France leader Chris Froome, suggests journalists may be putting riders in danger by questioning Froome's dominant performance and "whipping up all the rubbish that they are."
Porte says someone, apparently a spectator, thumped him with a "full-on punch" on a climb in the Pyrenees.
Speaking in a podcast interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Sky team racer says "it's getting to the point where some of these journalists whipping up all the rubbish that they are, they need to be accountable a little bit for our safety."
Sky feels that persistent questions about Froome's riding and whether he's somehow cheating — which he insists he's not — are adversely influencing public opinion.
Porte said spectators have accused him of doping. He said, "I've never taken any shortcuts and it's just a disgrace that they are saying the same things about Chris Froome."
--- John Leicester in Mende, France.
A short but very sharp uphill finish awaits the 175 Tour de France riders who have set off from Rodez on Stage 14, bound for Mende.
The 178-kilometer (111-mile) west-to-east route winds through plains and hills on the fringes of the Massif Central region, with a swing through the breathtaking Tarn gorges.
The final climb isn't long, at 3 kilometers (just under 2 miles), but is very steep with an average 10-percent gradient.
Race leader Chris Froome is expecting podium challengers who are nearly 3 minutes and more behind him to attack on that ascent.
Riders are also dealing again with brutal heat, with temperatures again into the mid-30s Celsius (mid-90s Fahrenheit).