Omega-Pharma’s Matteo Trentin handed Italy its maiden win of the 100th Tour de France when he beat Michael Albasini and Andrew Talansky in a sprint finish at the end of an entertaining 14th stage on Saturday.
Britain’s yellow jersey holder Chris Froome, of Team Sky, came over the finish line with the main peloton and his chief rivals just over seven minutes adrift.
Froome did not come under attack during the undulating 191km ride from Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule to Lyon and still leads Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Belkin) by 2min 28sec and Spain’s former two-time winner Alberto Contador (Saxo) by 2:45.
A day after Froome and several leading challengers lost 1:09 to key rivals Contador and Mollema, the contenders for overall victory kept their powder dry ahead of Sunday’s first summit finish at Mont Ventoux. Although Froome would love to win atop one of the race’s legendary climbs, he said his priority is stretching his lead over his rivals.
“I’m totally focused on the general classification, but of course it would be a dream to win at Mont Ventoux,” said Froome, who won on the only previous summit finish of this edition at Ax-Trois-Domaines on stage eight. “I have been up there. I’m really glad I have seen it because it’s a really tough climb. My focus is going to be on keeping yellow, possibly to build on the advantage I have.
“But it will be interesting because a lot of guys will be targeting it tomorrow.” Ahead of the next chapter in the battle for the yellow jersey, the undulating profile of the 14th stage gave ideas to plenty of riders and teams. After a frenetic start, during which a number of attacks were launched and countered, a group of 18 riders finally broke free of the main bunch and went on to build a healthy lead.
With two of the day’s seven small climbs still to negotiate, Frenchman Julien Simon tried his hand and came over the summit of the 1.8km Duchere climb with a 20sec lead. However the Sojasun rider’s hopes of becoming France’s first stage winner on this edition ended when he was caught by Swiss Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) just outside the final kilometre.
Attacks by veteran Jens Voigt (RadioShack) and German Simon Geschke (Argos) came to nothing and just as Albasini began powering towards the finish, Trentin opened up his sprint to come over the line half a wheel length ahead. Trentin’s win means Omega-Pharma now have four stage wins following victories by British sprinter Mark Cavendish (two) and German Tony Martin.