Michal Kwiatkowski wins atop Grand Colombier as Pogačar makes gains – Tour de France

Tour de France 2023

Stage 13

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) left it late but attacked Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in the final kilometre of the Grand Colombier to distance him by four seconds and move eight seconds closer to the yellow jersey with the time bonus for third on stage 13 at the Tour de France.

Michal Kwiatkowski won the day on the summit of the Grand Colombier with a brave and determined ride from the breakaway to give Ineos Grenadiers a prestigious stage victory.

Pogačar had his UAE Team Emirates teammates work all stage to chase the break but Kwiatkowski held them off. Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) also did a great ride to finish second at 47 seconds, with Pogačar leaping away for third at 50 seconds.

He finished four seconds ahead of Vingegaard and also collected a four-second time bonus to move to within nine seconds behind the Dane, with a big weekend in the Alps to come.

Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) was just behind the Briton and so stays third in the current Tour de France GC standings at 2:51. Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) is fifth at 4:48, with Pidcock rounding out a close fifth to eighth group at 5:35.

Kwiatkowski, 33, was hugged by Rodríguez and Pidcock beyond the finish line, his prestigious stage win taking the pressure off the young duo as they target the top five and perhaps a podium place in Paris.

“I didn’t believe that was possible, but here I am,” Kwiatkowski said.

“That was full gas racing from the start to the finish and in the end. The last effort was probably one of the hardest in my life but I managed myself well, paced myself well and knew that was going to be a very long effort.”

“When I entered the breakaway I thought this is just a free ticket to maybe the bottom of the climb, I never thought this group would kind of fight for the stage win because UAE were pulling pretty hard in the back. I think they just let too many guys in the front and I just found probably the best legs I ever had in my life.”

Kwiatkowski crosses the finish line atop the Grand Colombier.

Vingegaard still smiled as he stepped onto the day’s podium in the yellow jersey. He lost Pogačar’s wheel and four more seconds but still leads the Tour de France.

“I’m not frustrated or disappointed at all,” he said of the stage result.

“We would have liked the breakaway to go to the finish and that’s what happened, so I think for us, it was a very good day. This stage doesn’t suit me at all, so to be honest, I’m quite happy that I kept (the time loss) within that.

“I’m happy with today and I’m happy with how the team rode. I’m looking forward to the coming days, I think they suit me well.”

The sun and crowds were out in Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne as everyone enjoyed Bastille Day in France and prepared for a great day of racing.

The French riders were given extra cheers in the hope of a French win but the 137.8km stage to the top of the hors catégorie Grand Colombier climb was going to be a big day for everyone. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) swapped a fist-pump on the start line, a daily gesture for the jersey wearers but perhaps a sign of what is to come in the Jura and Alps.

When race director Christian Prudhomme waved his flag after the neutralised sector, the attacks came straight away, with Lotto-Dstny due Victor Campenaerts and Pascal Eenkhoorn even accelerating as Prudhomme raised his arm. It was going to be another day of aggression.

Campenaerts and Eenkhoorn got a gap but were soon closed down by a trio of Uno-X riders, as the stage started fast. The TGV de Clermont-Ferrand Rémi Cavagna (Soudal-QuickStep) tried a move and others did the same but the peloton chased every move to create a very fast first half hour of racing.

The elastic finally snapped after 27km and a quality group of 19 riders got away.

Maxim Van Gils rides at the front of the breakaway.

In the move were Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ), Alberto Bettiol and James Shaw (EF Education-EasyPost), Kasper Asgreen (Soudal-QuickStep), Matej Mohoric and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), Adrien Petit, Mike Teunissen and Georg Zimmerman (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Hugo Houle (Israel-PremierTech), Luca Mozzato (Arkea-Samsic), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny), Cees Bol and Harold Tejada (Astana), Anthon Charmig (Uno-X) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies).

They opened a gap and were given their freedom but not too much. UAE Team Emirates soon lived up to their pre-race talk of an aggressive ride and put Mikkel Bjerg and Vegard Stake Laengen on the front to keep the break in check. Pogačar wanted a shot at the time bonuses at the finish and so his riders pursued the break all the way to the Grand Colombier.

The 15km long but only 3% gradient Col de la Lèbe climb started after 80km and Teunissen won the intermediate sprint which was strangely placed near the top. The break had extended their lead to 3:00 but UAE Team Emirates never really ease up and began to eat into the lead.

The break dived down the descent, trying to hold onto every possible second, with only Latour suffering to hold the wheels. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) was dropped from the peloton on the climb and soon after he was confirmed as abandoned. The Australian sprinter suffered on stage 12 and before that and opted to end his Tour at the foot of the Jura and Alps.

The Grand Colombier soon came into sight and Pogačar opted to slip back and sit behind Vingegaard and his Jumbo-Visma teammates. The showdown was about to start.

However, Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) would not be a threat. He lost contact early, with Ben O’Connor (AG2R -Citroën) also distanced or perhaps also saving himself for a breakaway attempt in the Alps. Powless kept the polka-dot jersey for another day but Pogačar is now only 15 points behind him with a haul of points available between now and Paris.

Pacher attacked first from the breakaway, splitting it into groups of survivors and other hopefuls. But their lead was just 3:30 on the peloton. There was a chance to win the stage. Behind UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers led the peloton onto the Grand Colombier and started to hunt down the attackers with even more determination.

The French fans cheered on Pacher but he was joined by Shaw, Van Gils and Tejada, with 12.5km to climb. Kwiatkowski has shown good form in this year’s Tour and he also joined the attack from the break and pushed on alone on the stunning hairpin section with 11km to go.

Behind UAE Team Emirates continued to lead the peloton, even after Bjerg had finished his time on the front. Pogačar had Marc Soler, Rafal Majka, Felix Großschartner and Adam Yates with him, while Vingegaard only had Sepp Kuss.

Hopes of a French winner on Bastille Day failed to materialise.

The peloton suddenly only included 20 or so riders, with more dropped as the road climbed upwards, including Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious).

On the flatter mid-climb sector, with eight kilometres to climb, Kwiatkowski led his chasers by 45 seconds, with the GC group at 3:00. He opened his jersey to find every possible breath of cooling air. Behind him Großschartner took up the pace in the GC group and soon pulled back 20 seconds, the Austrian rider looking up the road as he suffered for Pogačar.

Kwiatkowski still had 2:00 as the road eased again with five kilometres to go and so knew he had a chance to win. He was fighting himself, the gradient and UAE Team Emirates chasing him behind. He was deservingly awarded the day’s Prix de la Combativité.

Majka swapped turns with Großschartner on the front for the final part of the Grand Colombier but Kwiatkowski started the final two kilometres with a 2:00 gap.

The Polish veteran had to cut his way through the crazy, uncontrolled Bastille Day crowds but savoured every moment, a smile on his face cancelling his pain as he rode alone to the finish line. He gave Ineos Grenadiers a second consecutive stage win on Bastille Day after Pidcock won on L’alpe d’Huez in 2022.

The GC battle finally started with 1.5km to go when Adam Yates surged away to set up Pogačar. Kuss went after him for Vingegaard and suddenly there were eight riders in the group, with Jai Hindley, Simon Yates, Carlos Rodriguez and Tom Pidcock hanging on.

Pogačar had been itching to attack for a while and surged away inside the final kilometre. Vingegaard initially got on his wheel but then a gap opened inch by inch, their physiological differences still miniscule.

Pogačar powered past the remains of the break and kicked again on the 10% final section as the finish line neared. He passed Shaw and Tejada and so finished third. He took the four-second time bonus but was perhaps hoping for more. Vingegaard was only four seconds behind and so kept the yellow jersey.

Pogačar launches his attack on race leader Vingegaard.

Their fight for overall success is still wide open and impossible to predict. Who knows if it will still be the case after the weekend’s Alpine stages to Morzine and then Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc.

The 14th stage of the Tour de France sets off from Annemasse to finish 151.8 kilometres later in Morzine. Two huge climbs inside the last 65 kilometres – Col de la Ramaz and Col de Joux Plane – precede a finale on descent.

The last Tour stage finish in Morzine happened seven editions ago. Back then, the riders descended the Col de Joux Plane in rainy conditions. Jarlinson Pantano, Vincenzo Nibali and Ion Izagirre crested the climb in first position – all three good descenders -, while Izagirre best navigated the conditions to celebrate in Morzine, 19 seconds ahead of Pantano with Nibali another 23 seconds further in arrears.

Let’s hope for better conditions this year. The finale is a carbon copy of seven years ago. In fact, the last 65 kilometres are the same.

The 14th stage features five KOM climbs and the unclassified drag up the Col de Jambaz. The Col de Saxel (4.2 kilometres at 4.6%), Col de Cou (7 kilometres at 7.4%) and Col du Feu (5.8 kilometres at 7.8%) are included in the first half of the race before the Jambaz adds 6.8 kilometres at 3.8% to the mix.

The riders then continue on the 2016 parcours with the Col de la Ramaz. This is a 13.9 kilometres climb at 7.1% and following the downhill and 10 kilometres in the valley the Joux Plane appears. The 11.6 kilometres climb at 8.5% peaks out at 1,691 metres. Moreover, the first three riders at the summit gain time bonuses of 8, 5 and 2 seconds.

After a few more kilometres at altitude the riders enter a technical descent into Morzine. The last few hundred metres are a false flat uphill to the line.

It will be the 16th time that the Tour de France finishes in Morzine. The winner not only succeeds Izagirre, but also Pantani (1997), Virenque (2000, 2003) and Sastre (2006).

Stage 13 result:

  1. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL, INEOS Grenadiers) 3:17:33
  2. Maxim Van Gils (BEL, Lotto Dstny) +47″
  3. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +50″
  4. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) +54″
  5. Thomas Pidcock (GBR, INEOS Grenadiers) 1’03”
  6. Jai Hindley (AUS, Bora-Hansgrohe) 1’05”
  7. James Shaw (GBR, EF Education-EasyPost) 1’05”
  8. Harold Tejada (COL, Astana Qazaqstan Team) 1:05″
  9. Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) 1’14”
  10. Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) 1’18”

General Classification:

  1. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 46h 34’27”
  2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +9″
  3. Jai Hindley (AUS, Bora-Hansgrohe) +2:51″
  4. Carlos Rodriguez Cano (ESP, Ineos Grenadiers) +4:22″
  5. Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +5:03″
  6. Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +5:04″
  7. Pello Bilbao (ESP, Bahrain – Victorious +5:25″
  8. Tom Pidcock (GBR, INEOS Grenadiers) +5:35″
  9. David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama) +6:52″
  10. Sepp Kuss (USA, Jumbo-Visma) +7:11″

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