While Michael Rogers devoured his first solo stage win in 10 attempts at the race with the aplomb of a man who has suddenly regained his appetite, the runner-up, Thomas Voeckler, had the bitter disgust of a French gourmet who prises open what he thinks is a delectable oyster and discovers a slug.
Rogers had words with the French housewives’ favourite on the vertiginous descent from the Port de Bales to the finish. Many, many kilometres earlier, the Australian explained, as the escape formed in an extremely tough run-out from Carcassonne, he had attempted to persuade Voeckler’s Europcar colleague Cyrille Gautier to contribute, only for Gautier to decline on the legitimate but annoying grounds “a team-mate was chasing behind”.
The Australian team-mate of Nicolas Roche with Tinkoff-Saxo heard the same refrain from Voeckler when he asked for help with the pacemaking at the foot of the descent to the finish – Gautier, along with Sky's Vasil Kiryienka, was attempting to join Rogers, Voeckler and the Colombian Jose Serpa – and clearly it left him less than impressed.
As Rogers pointed out afterwards, it can actually prove more complex to win from a group of five than from a group of three, even if you have a numerical advantage, as Europcar did; Voeckler seemed to agree, through gritted teeth.
The decisive moment came just after Gautier and Kiryienka joined the trio.
Gautier attacked as the road flattened approaching Luchon, opening a small gap, but did not keep a close eye on Rogers as the Australian made a solo chase and closed on him.
Rogers was well aware Voeckler could not pursue him because doing so would bring Kiryienka and Serpa back into play. Knowing there would be no chase from that quarter, at the very moment when Gautier switched his glance to the front, he sped past on the Frenchman’s blind side; once the gap had opened, the Australian had only to use the time-trialling skills that gave him three world titles to ride to the finish.
Roche rolled in 16 minutes 21 seconds later in 60th place, and said afterwards he believed Rogers would be successful.
The former road captain of Team Sky, and a key part of the squad which guided Bradley Wiggins to victory in 2012, Rogers admitted his appetite has been whetted by a spell on the sidelines over a culinary issue.
In December he was provisionally suspended after a clenbuterol positive but in April he was cleared to race after the UCI ruled he had probably consumed the substance in contaminated meat racing in China.
Tinkoff-Saxo have regrouped since losing leader
: this was their second stage win and
heads a tightly packed King of the Mountains classification.
Several of the top 10 found the Pyrenean starter hard to stomach. Romain Bardet, Tejay van Garderen and Bauke Mollema suddenly found their legs giving out in the space of a kilometre at the top of the Port de Bales. At the same time Thibaut Pinot's found enough strength to lift him into third overall at Bardet's expense. –