Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap – 162.5 km
OK, this year I’ve missed a few stages and the number of faithful visitors has plummeted as a result. I’m sorry about the state of things around here, and I apologize.
But! The internet connectivity issues have been resolved, and the solution to that has been a lot of stress – which had left me in need of a break from daily grind…
But I’m back, and raring to go! Tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM EST this space will be Live Blogging the Tour de France – Stage 16.
* * *
So far the news is that no one rider has distinguished himself from the crowd as a clear Tour de France 2011 Champion – even after days of High Mountain hell in the Pyrenees.
This Stage allows the sprinters one of only two chances left in this year’s Tour to to profit from their skills, with sprint points available 50 km from the finish line.
After the category 2 Col de Manse, 11km from the finish it’s a step decline to the victors line, which will favour downhill specialists – today could see a ‘never-won-a-stage-before‘ winner.
Here’s the Profile and the Map – and a video preview of the stage from letour.fr’s YouTube Channel:
Yeah, I slept in. But that’s OK, tomorrow is another day, and the first of three High Mountain Stages.
Today saw a great race from a Canadian perspective. Canadan racer Ryder Hesjedal helped Garmin-Cervelo team mate Thor Hushovd to the line for the stage win and himself finished third behind 2nd place, Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky Pro Cycling.
Ryder Hesjedal was in fine form all day, leading out again and again from the Peloton, and later, leading out from a successful escape group of 10. The three top finishers were part of the escape group that split from the Peloton at the 100 km mark and sustained the divide for the rest of the race.
Blow by Blow
Today’s race began at 13:16 CET (7:16 AM EST), and at 8:46, at the 79 km mark, Ryder Hesjedal made his first attack. He was joined by Jeremy Roy; then a group of 15 counter attacked – 11 of them caught the 2 escapees at the food station area where team helper’s are allowed to pass water, power bars and the like to riders. But the escape raced through the food zone and the Peloton were obliged to do the same.
‘No soup for you! – stage 16 leaders.
Just after the food station area the letour.fr commentator writing in the LIVE widget said he thought the group of 13 were going to succeed in separating themselves from the Peloton. At 8:58 he decided it was appropriate to list the group – as indeed, they were establishing a break:
1. Knees (SKY)
2. Kreuziger (AST)
3. Di Gregorio (AST)
4. Coppel (SAU)
5. Hesjedal (GRM)
6. Hoogerland (VCD)
7. Roy (FDJ)
8. Jeannesson (FDJ)
9. Mollema (RAB)
10. Zandio (SKY)
11. Roche (ALM)
12. Gallopin (COF)
13. Marcato (VCD)
Almost immediately, Hesjedal & Kreuziger lead-out off the front of the escape group creating a 0:15 cushion. The 11 behind vote amongst themselves for someone to counter attack. Meanwhile, a counter attack from the Peloton. A Quick Step rider makes a try.
Up in the higher elevations of today’s stage, in the second half of the coarse, it’s been raining since the start – now the racers have caught the weather – the road is wet from a recently passed shower.
9:03 – Rain
A Peloton counter attack has succeeded – in part – they have caught 7 of the 13 ‘escapers’. Then a group lead out from the Peloton again, and 8 successfully chase down 6 – then the rain begins. It poured rain constantly though the last 3rd of the race.
After the leading group of 15 split in two, reform, and then are again caught by the Peloton – the final escape group of 10 finally emerges, at the 99km mark:
They are chased by 5:
But the 10 have left the others in the mist for good. By 9:21 the 5 have melted back into the Peloton, which has fallen behind by nearly a minute.
Mollema, Dumoulin and Jeandesboz try again – and manage to separate theselves from the Peloton, but they cannot haul back the 10.
The Peloton is now 2:05 behind the group of 10.
The Live widget says the Peloton has given up seemingly. They’ve fallen back a full 50 seconds in just a couple of minutes – now 2:55 behind!
The brave musketeers in the chase group of 3 are only 1:20 behind – and maintaining.
The 10 have more energy in them yet! They contest for the Sprint points at the 117.5 km mark, and increase their lead on the Peloton to 6 minutes!
As the 3 musketeers reach the Sprint Area thy are 2:10 behind.
As the Peloton reaches the Sprint Area (117.5 km) the escapees are 5 km ahead!
The 10 are 3:10 ahead the the chase 3, and 6:10 ahead of the Peloton.
The temperature begins to fall as the leaders reach into high elevations, the rain is really coming down now. It’s only 10 degrees Celsius at the 162.5 km finish line – 35 km to go for the Lead 10.
AG2R and Europcar teams are pacing the Peloton together, taking turns at the front in long trains.
Ryder Hesjedal is again leading the escape 10. He has forced this race, created the early breakaways – including this successful group of 10 – and has paced it away from the main group – he’s having a great day.
With 25 km to go the escape 10 begin to fight it out to control the group, and win the stage. Ignatiev (not the Liberal Party of Canada leader) attempts a lead-out which sustains for a time. The 3 chasers give up their dream an fall back to the Peloton – now 6:20 behind the leading 10.
At the 151.0 km mark Ryder Hesjedal leads-out to catch Ignatiev as he begins today’s only categorized climb, the Col de Manse a 9.5 km climb with an average 5.2 % gradient – Category 2.
As Ignatiev goes under the 20 km to go arch, Hesjedal and the other 8 are 15 seconds off his pace up this mountain. The Peloton is 5 km behind.
The chase group of 9 reconfigure, then split in two, Devenyns and Perez Lezaun have 5 seconds on the other 7, still 10 seconds off Ignatiev’s pace.
The Hesjedal group drop Grivko – he’s been in all today’s breakaways.
Devenyns is 5 seconds behind Ignatiev – the chase 7 are 22 seconds back.
5 km to go to the top of the mountain. Hesjedal and Hushovd are pacing the Chase 8 (they’ve caught Devenyns) – now just 8 seconds behind Ignatiev.
Hesjedal catches Ignatiev! They lead the Hushovd 8 chasers by 16 seconds.
At the same time back a the bottom of the climb, Alberto Contador decides to lead-out from the Peloton. He’s up on his pedals in the rain.
“He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
And that palace in the sun.”
Neil Young: “Cortez the Killer” from the Zuma album, 1975
Cancellara, Frank and Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans and race leader Voeckler give chase, there’s over-all lead in that dancing. Sanchez joins them soon after.
25 riders eventually join the Yellow Jersey breakaway which picks up about 35 seconds on the leaders, way up there at the top of the climb in the mist, the clouds, at their palace in the sky.
With 1 km to go to the top of the Col de Manse, Ryder Hesjedal leads the Stage 16 race, 17 seconds between himself and the Chase 9. Boasson and Hushovd currently lead the Chase 9
Meanwhile, Contador attacks again. He tries to divide himself from the 25 Yellow Jersey group riders. This he must think, is a good day to try and catch Voeckler in Yellow.
With only three mountains, a Team Sprint day, and the final day in Paris left to the pretenders, now is not to early to become focused – Contador has 03′ 42″ to make up perhaps here on this mountain, in the rain with a dangerous gambit down the other side to the finish, can make up much of it…
Voeckler responds to each attack with almost an ease of movement. Evans and Frank Schleck are the only ones close enough in time to Voeckler to catch him I think, and it seems they’ve chosen not to – today.
Evans leads the pull back this time and draws to Contador wheel.
The mountain begins to separate the heros from the pretenders. Hesjedal still leads by 10 seconds, Boasson and Hushovd are right behind, the remnants of the lead 10 are now only 4:45 ahead of Cotador Evans and Samuel Sanchez – who have shattered the peloton near the midway point of the climb. Voeckler seems content to play it steady go – losing a little time to Evans in the breakaway.
Boasson and Hushovd catch Hesjedal.
Contador attacks again on the other side of the mountain. The dangerous, fast, wet descent begins for the lead 3.
Contador is taunting Evans – while Evans just focuses on the wheel he must stay in contact with. We see now who is the instigator in the Schleck brothers vesus Contador games of the past few years. Now with no chance to to win, Contador plays head games with a man 2 minutes ahead of him.
Not allowing oneself to become emotionally involved is the key to beating this tactic. Race your race at the time you wish to race it, chose your battle field – don’t let Contador suck you into a race on a day when it doesn’t make any sence for you to race him. Can Frank Schleck learn this lesson?
Voeckler has ceded 20 seconds to Contador, Evans and Sanchez up the mountain so far. He will not play the game – but he will not lose the tour de France 2011 on this climb either. Tomorrow he may have to dance with that ego at the front.
Contador and Evans over the top Contador follows – the safe position – hoping his little game will cause Evans to make a horrible mistake at 80 km/h.
Boasson, Hesjedal and Hushovd are as one – 5 km to go.
Evans has left Contador behind on the dangerous decent. No crash thus far.
A crash on the decent! Jeannesson loses contact with the road on a left hand turn. Andy Schleck has been dropped by the Voeckler group, thus losing more time in the over all.
Inside 1 km to go Hushovd is in back of Boasson and Hesjedal. Of the three Hushovd is the best sprinter – it his his to lose.
Hushovd swings out of the vacuum behind the other two and accelerates to the line just ahead of Boasson. Hesjedal falls off the final sprint, finishing 2 seconds behind the other two.
Evens is 7 seconds ahead of Contador down the mountain – 5 km to go.
Evans finishes 11th.
Voeckler has lost 24 seconds to his closest rival for the over-all lead – but still wears the Yellow Jersey. Andy Schleck is out of contention after today’s stage. His brother, Frank Schleck is still very much in this.
Despite his fall Jeannesson finishes the race with the Yellow Jersey group (27th, +4:44) .
Top 36 Finishers Stage 16
Tour de France 2011 – Overall Classification after Stage 16
NBC Post Stage 16 Wrap
(Link opens NBC Flash Player in new window, or play below, right here.)
Summary Video via NBC Cycling Tab (opens in new window): http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/42363489/?ta=y
Posted: July 19th, 2011
Author: michael holloway
Filed under: Uncategorized
Tags: 2011 Tour de France | No Comments »