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It took 18 stages but the French fans can finally celebrate one of their countrymen winning a stage at the 100th edition of the Tour de France. Christophe Riblon got in the breakaway on the first climb of the day – the Col de Manse which topped out just 13km into the stage. He was still at the head of affairs 160km later, taking a famous victory on the first one-day double-summit of Alpe d’Huez in the Tour’s history.
The win certainly wasn’t without its hiccups for the Frenchman from Ag2r. On the technical and much-discussed descent of the Col de Sarenne Riblon overshot a left-hand turn and found himself in a drainage ditch while his breakaway companion Moreno Moser continued on down the road. But Riblon managed to stay upright as he left the bitumen and eventually caught back on with Moser as the final climb of Alpe d’Huez approached.
And when Tejay van Garderen distanced Riblon on the the final climb, the Frenchman dug deep and in an amazing display of tenacity, reeled van Garderen in with just 2km to go before soloing to victory by nearly a minute.
A few minutes behind the leaders the fascinating battle continued between overall leader Chris Froome and the rest of the GC contenders. Contador and Kreuziger had attacked Froome on the Col de Sarenne descent and got a gap, before being brought back before the final climb. The Saxo Tinkoff pair would later pay for their exertions, being dropped by the leaders and losing even more time to Froome.
We saw Quintana attack unsuccessfully and, eventually, succesfully, finishing more than a minute clear of Froome. We saw Rodriguez attack, opening up a gap that took Quintana and Froome a few minutes to shut down. We saw Porte playing the role of super-domestique with never-say-die determination, shutting down attacks and clawing his way back to Froome after being distanced by attacks from Froome’s rivals. Porte even ended up back at the front, driving the pace for Froome after being dropped.
And at one stage Porte looked back and even had to wait for Froome, reminiscent of Froome himself having to wait for Wiggins last year. However, you can feel the camaraderie between Porte and Froome that didn’t exist between Froome and Wiggins.
We now know that Froome hunger-flatted on that final climb, sending Porte back to the team car for gels. Both riders were docked 20 seconds for the incident — riders aren’t allowed to refuel from the team car in the final 20km — but the infringement was worth it; Froome picked up more time on his nearest rival, Alberto Contador, with his overall lead now beyond 5 minutes.
Like last year, the race is destined to end with victory for a Sky rider; a victory that was locked in early in the Tour. But this year’s race is leagues apart from Wiggins’ win in 2012, at least from a fan’s perspective. We’ve seen the yellow jersey of Froome attack often and with conviction — look no further than Mont Ventoux for a perfect example. And while Froome’s moves today lacked the bite they had in Provence, it was still a joy to watch the race leader animating the race.
We spent most of the race today down on Dutch Corner which was just as exciting as the race up Alpe d’Huez. It was estimated that between 700,000 and one million fans lined the road from the town of Bourg d’Oisans up to the finish. But the main attraction was on corner number 7 where thousands of orange t-shirts danced to cheesy Euro techno having an absolute ball.
For all the nationalities in this world who think they’re “king of the party”, the Dutch will eat you for breakfast. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen on the side of a mountain.
The degree of enthusiasm was made all the greater thanks to the success of Dutch duo Laurens Ten Dam and Bauke Mollema on this year’s Tour, with Mollema sparking a new craze in the country, coined “Mollemania”.
Until tomorrow, thanks for reading, turn up some Dutch party music, and enjoy the photos we took from today’s spectacular stage.