Movistar took charge of the Tour de France on Tuesday and left behind two of Alejandro Valverde's rivals en route to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Up the final Port de Balès climb, American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) fell behind.
"Movistar just made an insane tempo. It was just too hard," van Garderen said.
"It's definitely disappointing I had hopes for a podium, and now it looks like it's taken a big hit."
Van Garderen was given free rein from BMC after it sent 2011 Tour champion, Cadel Evans to the Giro d'Italia. Going into the 16th stage, the longest of the race, he sat fifth overall and seemly ready to pounce for a top three. Instead, it went the other way.
He lost nearly four minutes to race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and more importantly, time to Valverde and the race for second place.
It went the same way for Romain Bardet, one of three Frenchmen fighting to be on the podium in Paris on July 27. Bardet slipped from third overall to fifth and lost the white jersey along the way to Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr).
Valverde's team-mates Ion Izaguirre, John Gadret and Beñat Intxausti rode pace up the 11.7-kilometre climb. By the top, several riders were gapped and could not re-join by the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon 21.5 kilometres later.
"We were the ones who did all the pace into the final climb to hurt some of our rivals – that was our plan already since this morning," Valverde said.
"I think it was a good day for us, because we opened big gaps with threatening riders close in the overall standings. We're keeping the same goal, which is the podium in Paris."
Nibali leads the Tour by 4-37 minutes over Valverde. Pinot sits in third at 5-06, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) fourth at 6-08, Badret fifth at 6-40 and van Garderen at sixth at 9-25.
Michael Rogers chose the longest stage of this year’s Tour to claim his first Tour win. Behind, there was a
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