Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tour des Pays de Savoie: Simon slogs out stage 2 win; Ignatiev holds slender lead

While the stage wasn't very long at 146 kilometers, the 2nd stage of the Tour des Pays de Savoie was an absolute slog with riders coming in dribs and drabs for over a half an hour after a solo Jordi Simon crossed the line.

The long march began in Chambery, the location of the Ag2r service course as well as the home of the Chambery CF, and was flat to rolling before hitting Albertville. Early on, i.e. km 0, the stick was dropped and the pace was fierce. Over the course of the first 30 kilometers, the breakaway swelled to 30 riders that included many high on GC including Yoann Barbas (Armee de Terre), David Belda (Burgos-BH), Quentin Pacher, Andrei Krasilnikau (AVC Aix) and Mikel Itturia (Euskadi), among others, and they were pulling out multiple minutes on the yellow jersey Dmitriy Ignatiev.

The temperature was heating up on the road (up to 29 C, 84 F) while the race was heating up as well. The gap maxed out at 3 minutes before the race went up the first GPM point, the Fort du Mont, which was won by Eduoard Lauber (CC Etupes) ahead of Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Jordi Simon (Team Ecuador). As the race headed back down into Albertville, the gap was down to 2'30" before the race headed up the Cote du Cohennoz, a 14 kilometer climb that for some reason is classified as only a category 2 climb. Liam Glen, who is racing with Terra Footwear here, said it best about the classified climbs.

Once on the Cohennoz, the bombs were bursting all over the place. Lauber went solo out of the breakaway while a chasing group behind him including Barbas, Simon, Itturia and Belda, among others. In the trailing peloton, Ignatiev was already in difficulty while Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery CF), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto U23), Alexis Dulin (Immo Pro Roux) and Clement Chevrier (France Espoirs) hit it on the climb. Ignatiev came to terms but it was a sign of the damage to come later on.

At the summit, Lauber had a gap of 45 seconds on the chasing group, which was led by Jordi Simon over the top, and Lauber, who rides for CC Etupes, was able to extend his lead to 1'30" while Jesus Del Pino was able to make the junction to the first chasing group and was the leader on the road. The race culminated in two loops on the Plateau d'Assy. Lauber hit the climb with a nice gap but the solo effort had gassed him. Jordi Simon attacked out of the chasing group and proceeded to bridge and drop Lauber. On the first ascent, Vervaeke attacked the yellow jersey group and commenced his chase of the leading breakaway, going through the stragglers that were dropped by the ferocious pace and gradient. Ignatiev was scrapping but was able to recover somewhat to get back to Latour on the climb but there was still another loop to go.

Simon was clearly out in front with 10 kilometers to go while Lauber was hovered up by the chasing group that included Vervaeke, who had bridged, as well as Del Pino, Barbas, Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Julien Liponne (Bourg-en-Bresse). Simon was going strong up front while Vervaeke and Del Pino attacked in tandem. Behind, Ignatiev and Latour were riding well together and the Russian was limiting his losses but it was going to be tight on the line.

Jordi Simon was able to take it easily over the last few hundred meters and was able to take the stellar win on the tough, hot day in the Alps. Jordi Simon was once of the brightest Spanish talents. He placed top ten overall in the Tour de l'Avenir in 2011 and was a constant presence in the race. He raced for Andalucia in 2012 and raced quite solidly but he was a victim of the great contraction of 2013 and had to go from Pro Continental to amateur in 2013 with Coluer Bikes. He won the Vuelta a Leon ahead of Merhawi Kudus and got a contract with Team Ecuador, which is Movistar's South American-Spanish continental team. He paid back his dues on Friday afternoon with this win. No contracts. Riding without knowing where he would be going next. He rode through his skin on Friday and showed that he is a mountain man, through and through.

Louis Vervaeke and Jesus Del Pino came through both 1'37" down on Simon. 14 seconds later, it was Anciaux, the KOM winner from Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, and Barbas coming in. Then, 53 seconds down on Vervaeke and Del Pino, Ignatiev came over the line. The Russian had saved his lead by 4 seconds. After putting on a demolition show on stage 1, the Russian was nearly reduced to ruble the next day and will have to fight to keep his yellow jersey. Vervaeke is just 30 seconds back.

It is hard to describe how hard this stage was. On paper, it wasn't even the toughest stage. Yet once you get out of the top 10 then the gaps become chasms. Clement Chevrier hasn't been on his top game and finished back at 5'33". It only got worse from there. Mikel Iturria...8'31". David Belda....16'32" in 30th. 28 riders abandoned and only 81 are left in the race with 3 stages still left including the final, amazing stage over the Glières.

Ignatiev needs to watch his back. He only has 2 teammates in this race with Pavel Ptashkin being the only semi-decent climber, it is going to be a monumental task for the Russian to keep this lead. This race is between Del Pino and Vervaeke. Both defending champion Yoann Barbas and Pierre-Roger Latour are a bit over 2 minutes behind and if the dice roll there way, which isn't out of the question on this terrain, then they are still within shouting distance.

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