Mikel Nieve offered added proof that he's one of the strongest climbers in the Tour's centennial edition by climbing to ninth on the Alpe d'Huez on Thursday.
The Navarran attacked towards the top of the climb the first time going up the Alpe, and got into a solid group containing Andy Schleck, Pierre Rolland and Lieuwe Westra. At one time, the quartet had almost a two minute gap back to the peloton, but the ferocious pace set by Movistar put paid to their efforts at the base of the final ascent.
Despite showing his hand early, Nieve put on a Samuel Sánchez-like display to pace his effort to perfection on the mythical climb to best the likes of Alberto Contador, Andrew Talansky, Bauke Mollema, Laurens ten Dam and the aforementioned Rolland.
His ride was good enough for ninth, and he was quietly pleased with his ride post-race.
"We tried our luck from afar. I didn't feel as good as I did the other days, but I'm happy to be up there amongst the best once again", he said. "I attacked thinking both about the stage and the mountains jersey. It's going to be really hard to get hold of that jersey, but we'll keep fighting for it as long as it's mathematically possible".
Due to his heroic stage win, Christophe Riblon usurped Nieve in the rankings and moved up to third, meaning he'll don the polkadots on Friday's stage. With three days to go, Nieve is a full 41 points adrift of leader Froome.
Igor Antón also made a dash for it on the Alpe and eventually came in a decent 17th. With only a weekend of racing left, Nieve and Antón are 15th and 24th overall respectively.
- (1, Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), 4:51:32)
- 9, Mikel Nieve, 4:15
- 17, Igor Antón, 5:40
- 50, Mikel Astarloza, 14:50
- 88, Romain Sicard, 25:10
- 115, Ion Izagirre, 28:13
- 125, Rubén Pérez, 30:03
- 136, Juan José Oroz, s.t.
- 173, Juan José Lobato, 32:02