The slow fight for the Tour de France yellow jersey erupted on a once giant volcano, with race leader Primoz Roglic using his grueling slopes to increase his overall lead.
- Daniel Martinez took out the 13th stage of the Tour de France at the top of Puy Mary
- But behind him, several top contenders, including last year’s winner Egan Bernal, lost time to race leader Primoz Roglic.
- It could be an all-Slovenian battle for the Tour’s overall victory, with Tadej Pogacar in second place behind Roglic with eight days remaining.
Glancing over the final climb, Roglic thought to himself, “Oh, this is going to hurt. “
But it hurt Slovenian rivals even more.
“We were all at the limit,” he said after the stage.
One of the big losers of stage 13 was Egan Bernal, champion of Colombia last year, who could not match Roglic’s pace on the difficult final ascent of Puy Mary.
Bernal slipped from second to third in the overall standings and collapsed exhausted on his handlebars at the top.
Tadej Pogacar, the only rider able to stay with Roglic on the last climb, moved from seventh to second overall.
He trails Roglic by 44 seconds. The Tour rookie, who will be celebrating his 22nd birthday the day after the end of the race and is also from Slovenia, could have even worn the yellow jersey had he not suffered a setback earlier in the Tour.
On stage 7, he came out of the top 10, having lost precious time in crosswinds. But Pogacar gravely found his way back by winning stage 9 and now creating the possibility of an all-Slovenian battle for the top podium places in Paris.
Bernal fell back to 59 seconds behind Roglic, the winner of last year’s Spanish Vuelta who increasingly seeks the firm favorite to win on the Champs-Elysées in eight days.
The intense stage, one of the most difficult of this race with a relentless rollercoaster succession of seven remarkable climbs, was won by Colombian Daniel Martinez.
He had been part of a breakaway by riders outside the yellow jersey contention and had gone in pursuit of stage victories.
Martinez, winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné in August which served as the finalization for the Tour, beat the German Lennard Kamna at the top of the ascent of Puy Mary.
The 191 kilometer trek through the hills and mountains of the Massif Central was one of the most difficult on this Tour, with the greatest total elevation gain of all stages – a whopping 4,400 meters of ascent in all .
The effort was written big on the faces of Bernal and other runners as they slowly lost contact with Roglic on the Puy Mary, with gradients of 15%.
“A tough day and a tough climb,” Roglic said. “You are in great pain. “
But he made it easy, showing how difficult it would be to snatch the yellow jersey from him in the decisive final week.
At the start in the spa town of Châtel-Guyon, barely 1 minute and 42 seconds separated Roglic and the Spanish rider Mikel Landa, 10th – the smallest stage 13 gap between the top 10 of any Tour since the Second World War.
But Roglic changed all that on the road. The gap between him and the new 10th driver, Enric Mas, is now 2 minutes 54 seconds.
Martin out of the top 10, Bardet, Mollema out of the Tour
The French Guillaume Martin and Romain Bardet, respectively third and fourth overall, came out of the top 10 – and out of the race.
Bardet was hampered by a fall in the middle of the special which also beat the Dutchman Bauke Mollema, 13th.
Bardet scratched himself on the tarmac and continued. Mollema broke his left wrist and was forced to abandon his 10th Round.
Bardet’s team said he suffered a concussion and pulled out of the race.
Runners will not have a break the upcoming climbing weekend, until Monday’s second and final rest day, when all runners and team staff will be retested for COVID-19.
Saturday’s lumpy 14th stage with only one pass, several climbs and a downhill finish in Lyon is unlikely to upset the classification.
The best contenders will prepare for a very difficult finish on the 15th stage on Sunday.
The long and winding ascent of the Grand Colombier on Sunday in the Jura mountains, one of the five ranges climbed by this Tour, could once again shake up the rankings.
It is preceded by a quick succession of two more difficult climbs that will burn the legs of the riders before fighting on the steep slopes until the finish.