After two dramatic days in the Pyrenees that saw a big shake up in the overall standings, today’s stage traveled 154 km across the south of France into the foothills of the Alps.
Niki Ruttiman, a teammate of Hinault and LeMond, escaped from the breakaway in the final 2km to win the stage. The effort on Ruttiman’s part moved him to eighth place overall.
“We create the race every day.”
Stage 14 today provides a perfect illustration of La Vie Claire team director Paul Kochli’s “strategic game” in action. Here is a stage that, on paper, presents little danger. La Vie Claire has the yellow jersey as well as a rider placed second overall.
What most teams would do in such a situation, on such a stage, is to ride defensively, putting the team on the front of the peloton and controlling the race, the single priority to protect the yellow jersey. It’s a strategy, says Kochli, that is “opposite in outlook to ours. We create the race every day.”
On the road to Blagnac, there were several early attempts to form a break. Guido Winterberg featured in the first, Jean Francois Bernard in the second. It seemed inevitable that, when a break was established, it would include a La Vie Claire rider. And it did. After 100 km, Ruttimann made a 4-man escape.
Cat and Mouse
The break built a lead of 8 minutes and starred Ruttimann in a brilliant finale of attack and counterattack. Into the final 5 km, Twan Poels attacked. Ruttimann reacted first, but the four regrouped. A momentary lull, then Paul Haghedooren went; a second later, Christophe Lavainne pounced after him. Then Poels hunted down Lavainne and took Ruttimann with him.
Ruttimann was fourth man and in the ideal position. He jumped hard, crossing the road to shake his followers.
His timing was perfect. The others balked after the earlier cat and mouse attacks. They were unwilling, possibly unable, to make another move.
Ruttimann soloed to a stage victory, La Vie Claire’s second in consecutive days.
La Vie Claire is proving their strength as a team as they now occupy four spots in the top eight in the general classification (Hinault-1, LeMond-2, Hampsten-6, Ruttiman-8).
Watch Ruttimann’s attack below:
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