Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) won stage 13 of the 2015 Tour de France in swelteringly hot conditions on Friday.
Van Avermaet engaged in a leg-sapping uphill sprint at the end of a hilly stage with points classification leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in Rodez to claim the victory. Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) came in for third place, three seconds behind Van Avermaet and Sagan.
Overall race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) underlined how tough the finale of the stage was by placing sixth at the head of a group including overall rivals Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Nairo Quintana (BMC Racing) – as well as Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.
Froome kept his two minute and 52 second lead over van Garderen in the general classification, with Quintana in third at 3-09.
A six-man escape made its move almost immediately as soon as the day kicked off, involving Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement).
The break’s advantage over the peloton kept steady throughout the day, staying at around the three to four minute mark. Keeping cool was an issue for everyone, with the temperature nudging 40°C in places.
The final, unclassified climb with 15km to go put a lot of riders in trouble as the pace was lifted by the peloton to chase down the escape. Meanwhile, Gautier, Kelderman and De Gendt attacked from the break, but with only a minute’s gap over the bunch.
The lead trio worked well together on the fast descent into the valley before finish, and it looked as though they may just keep the peloton at bay – but were cruelly caught in the final few hundred metres as Van Avermaet and Sagan accelerated past them on the uphill kick.
Just behind the fight for stage honours, the peloton splintered, no doubt all suffering from the heat and the previous three days in the Pyrenees. The overall contenders scrapped for time gains, but once again all finished at the same time and the top of the general classification remains unchanged.
Despite being evidently annoyed at placing second for the fourth time in the 2015 race, Sagan extended his lead in the points classification ahead of André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Earlier in the day, Greipel had moved into the virtual green jersey after placing ahead of Sagan in the intermediate sprint.
However, the big German sprinter was dropped during the hilly run-in to the line and did not figure in the finish. British sprinter Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) is fourth in the points classification behind Sagan, Greipel and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).
Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) – overall Tour runner-up behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) last year – crashed heavily during the stage, ripping his clothing and requiring a swathe of bandages. Despite being delayed by three minutes, Peraud rode his way back up to the peloton and even picked up bottles for team mates on his way past the Ag2r car.
A tricky stage 14 awaits the riders on Saturday: a 178.5km trip from Rodez to Mende with four categorised climbs, including the second category Côte de la Croix Neuve situated very close to the finish.
Tour de France 2015, stage 13: Muret to Rodez 198.5km
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing in 4-43-42
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at same time
3. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale at 3 secs
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin at 7 secs
5. Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-Jumbo
6. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
10. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at same time
12. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
14. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at same time
Overall classification after stage 13
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 2-52
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3-09
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 3-58
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 4-03
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4-04
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 5-32
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 7-32
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 7-47
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 9-53
Video: Pro bikes of the Tour de France – Peter Kennaugh’s Pinarello