It’s another year and another Tour de France. After some massive crashes, for no apparent reason, in Stage 6, a lot of favorites were out. The course itself wasn’t that hard, but nervous jitters were enough to send most of the peloton sprawling all over the roads.
Run of the mill last stage of the Tour de France, with no attacks from the favorites, it was all up to the stage win, that finally went to Cavendish, as he out-accelerated everyone to win the stage and to win the Green Jersey. Cadel Evans wins the Tour de France, with Andy and Frank Schleck rounding up the top three. The rest of the GC didn’t change from yesterday. Pierre Rolland wins the White Jersey by 46″ over Rein Taaramae, and Samuel Sanchez gets the Polka Dot Jersey. The most aggressive rider of this year’s tour is Jérémie Roy, who spent over 800km in breakaways.
It was well known that both Schlecks didn’t really perform well in time trials, which turned out to be their Achillles’ Heel today as Evans rode clear of them and into yellow. He didn’t just beat them by a few seconds, he rode clear of Andy Schleck by more than 2′, which was impressive but expected, as Andy Schleck is nowhere near the timetrialist that Evans is. So this year, Evans will win the Tour de France since no one will attach him in Paris tomorrow.
Everyone was expecting big things of this final mountain stage, which includes a mountaintop finish at Alpe d’Huez, but no one thought that Contador would attack so early on. He managed to ride away, get caught, and then ride away again while the Schlecks labored on the final climb of Alpe d’Huez. Sanchez brought Rolland up to the front, within a few hundred meters of the finish, and Rolland promptly made a move to distance himself from both Contador and Sanchez to give the French their first stage victory, and it comes from the Europcar team, a French wildcard team, which had held the Yellow Jersey for the last 10 days.
Unfortunately, Voeckler was also on the attack, and stayed a long time in a chase group by himself, which must have drained his energy, because he lost a lot of time on the other favorites. He’s still in 4th position, and now we are left to see what will happen in the individual time trial in Grenoble. Unless Evans rides a superb time trial, Andy Schleck will win the Tour, at least I hope so. Evans could be better at this, and we saw that last year, Contador and Andy Schleck were almost evenly matched.
It had to happen this week because it was simply the last week for it to happen. Finally, Andy Schleck makes a move, which was cunningly put together. At the time, there were already two Leopard Trek riders in the breakaway. Jens Voigt and Stuart O’Grady were doing some hard pacing, having taken it up a notch from what Europcar was doing. Contador was in the back and they were climbing the Col d’Izoard. There were 60km to go and Schleck launched his attack. At one time, the lead was up to 4:24. Slowly but surely, he caught up with all of the splintered groups and beat them. His two teammates served as a jumping point. Monfort stayed with him for the longest. In the end, the blistering chase was led by Evans, who managed to get back a lot of time on Schleck, but not enough. It was just enough for Voeckler to remain in the Yellow Jersey by 15″. This will make it an interesting stage tomorrow.
I expected the favorites to make a move, and they did, however the aggressive move by Contador and Sanchez didn’t distance the Schlecks, as they time trialed their way back to them and caught up with them. They finished in the same time, so Contador didn’t really get any time on them. However, this did put a lot of pressure on the peloton, and actually forced Voeckler to make some key mistakes on the way down the Côte de Pramartino. He misread one corner, the same corner that caused Hivert to crash a few minutes earlier, and went into the same car park as Hivert. While Voeckler didn’t crash, he lost precious time on the Schlecks, Contador and Evans (27″). It was strange because he lost time on the descent, not the climb.
The effort that Contador and Sanchez put in was substantial, however the Schlecks were in a small group, so they might actually try and break Contador tomorrow. They don’t have much time left, because there are only two stages left before the time trial in Grenoble.
The stage was the first in the Alps of this year, and it was definitely interesting. For once, the favorites really got into it, something that we have seen before, thanks to the two-pronged attack of the Schlecks on Contador. However, it didn’t work out as planned, as this time around, Contador was relentless in his attacks. He failed a bunch of times before succeeding in getting away. Evans and Sanchez were hot on his wheel while Andy Schleck dropped back to the peloton. His brother Frank paced the Leopard Trek boys home. It was a disaster for Leopard Trek, and an all out win for BMC, as Evans sped away from even Contador in the last few kilometers of this stage. The GC has barely changed, but this bodes well for this week. The favorites seem to have forgotten that Voeckler has the maillot jaune and will continue to wear it with a good lead.
Today was a relatively flat stage, with only a small cat 4 climb in the middle of it. The last 10km are filled with bends and roundabouts, which could have been exploited by the breakaway. However, due to the breakneck speed that HTC was imposing to the peloton, the breakaway was caught within 2km of the end, and then it was a somewhat predictable result for the HTC team. The other teams tried to disrupt their lead out train, but didn’t have the manpower or strength to do so. In the end, Cav won by a good measure over Farrar, who came up at the last second.
I expected to see a sort of clear front runner for the Tour on this stage, but it didn’t happen. The beginning of the race was marred with different breakaway attempts. Finally, a large breakaway got underway, but it was too large to be fruitful. The 6 climbs were hard on the riders, and in the final few kilometers, all of the favorites were almost evenly matched. Neither Frank nor Andy Schleck could distance Contador, and Evans as well as Voeckler were still hanging around. We’ll have to wait until the Alps to see a clear winner in this year’s Tour, as tomorrow, the stage is flat.
It was an interesting stage today, which saw a somewhat complacent peloton after yesterday’s constant attacks. Still, a very impressive group of 10 riders managed to get away. They quickly splintered under Hushovd’s impetus, and he managed to time trial his way to the end, beating Moncoutie and Roy, who would have given the first French victory of a stage. Still, it isn’t all bad, as Roy takes on the Polka Dot jersey as the leader in the KOM comp. Gilbert is chipping away at the lead in the Green Jersey comp, as is Rojas. They won’t make winning it easy this year. Cav is over confident enough that it will be his downfall.