Results tagged “Col du Galibier” from spare cycles

Stage 17: All on Sastre, Was it Enough?

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letour.jpgWas it enough? That's the big question today as CSC played a great hand today, successfully transferred the yellow jersey to their anointed leader, Carlos Sastre. Another stage win on Alpe d'Huez and another yellow jersey are cause for celebration, but Evans knew he could sacrifice both today as long as he kept the gap close. 1'34" seems like a pretty small number when you think of Evans on his prototype Ridley TT bike. It seems strange to say, but CSC, sitting in first and second in the GC, must be worried.

Alpe d'Huez, it's switchbacks adorned with drunken and partially dressed fans, delivered the promised drama as all the GC contenders had to duke it out on the last decisive mountain stage for this Tour. As it has been in the mountains of this Tour, it was Riis' CSC team that controlled the tactics on the day, delivering his three climbers to the base of the Alpe d'Huez primed and ready. The Sastre/Schlecks trio worked to perfection as Sastre attacked at immediately, once, then twice, to solo his way to victory and yellow. As all eyes watched Frank Schleck in the yellow jersey among them, no one seemed intent on chasing the future yellow jersey ahead.

Move after move attempted to go up the road, but Andy Schleck was on amazing form and played the role of sheep herder to perfection. Anyone who attacked quickly found Andy stuck to their back wheel, dragging them back. It all seemed effortless as he moved back and forth up the chase group, keeping his wheeled sheep in a tight bunch. The chase group was unable to maintain any sort of pace: Menchov had been dropped after unwisely attempting to go with Sastre's first dig, but was able to claw his way back in as the pace stuttered.

As Sastre's lead hit the two minute mark, the grand moment that everyone seemed to be waiting for happened: Evans went to the front to chase. He proved his reserve was simply patience, not weakness, as he single-handedly kept Sastre's lead contained even under the brunt of CSC's three-pronged attack.

Christian Vande Velde fought valiantly to try and claw back the time he lost yesterday, but ultimately his efforts were spoiled by both Andy Schleck's policing and Bernhard Kohl, who seemed eager to chase down every move early on the climb. Vande Velde was able to put in a final jump with less than 2k to go, but he couldn't stay free of the chase and was caught at the line.

AG2R had a good ride today with Valjavec and Efimkin both putting in good attacks today to round out the top ten in GC.

Soler - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Barloworld's Juan Mauricio Soler took a surprise win today, attacking solo on the Telegraphe to bridge all the way from the peloton to a breakaway far up the road. Soler quickly left the break behind and held off a chase group of the top contenders all the way to the finish line.

Today's stage was full of fireworks that made for exciting racing on the classic climbs of the Galibier and Telegraphe. Discovery put the most cards into play with Popovych, Gusev, Contador, and Levi all playing a role. Popovych and Gusev were first as they went on the attack from the start to position themselves far up the road. Popovych was the only rider able to follow Soler's wheel as Soler accelerated past, but even Popo couldn't hold on as the slopes of the Galibier ticked upwards.

Valverde shook things up in the peloton with an attack that shed Vinokourov and Schleck. The other contenders were able to follow, but Contador became the next Discovery card to be played as he put in an attack that Evans briefly followed. Contador's attack was strong enough to catch Popo up the road and Popo dug deep to try and pull Soler back on the descent towards Briancon.

The Valverde/Rasmussen group reeled Evans in on the descent and set their eyes on Popo and Contador. Evans was caught sleeping and the group split in half, with Evans/Levi/Mayo/Moreau/Sastre caught behind. They had trouble organizing a chase and Levi was able to use the position of his two teammates up the road to sit and do little work. Levi was a bit annoyed with Saunier Duval as Cobo wasn't willing to do work for Mayo to pull things back.

Valverde and teammate Gutierrez were able to reel in Popo and Contador and soon after the other contenders latched back on. Discovery played its last cards as Popovych accelerated to try and reel Soler back in for Contador. Soler was much too far up the road and it was Valverde who put in the last attack of the day to take second with a small time gap over the other contenders. Contador was rewarded with the white Best Young Rider jersey for his efforts.

The overall competition saw a little more sorting today. Valverde is earning is favorite status and Rasmussen defended his yellow well. Kloden is now the apparent leader of Astana as Vino was no longer protected. Evans is looking stronger than I expected while Sastre and Leipheimer are still racing conservatively in the Alps. Schleck wasn't able to hold on and may no longer have backup leader status and Menchov was dropped, hurting his leader status over Rasmussen. Kim Kirchen is a bright light for T-Mobile and Mayo could be a dark horse favorite if he continues to be strong. Moreau faltered but didn't break, but he's only shooting for top 3. The GC is looking more proper, but the top three in Paris really haven't shown themselves yet:

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 2.35
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) 2.39
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2.41
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) 3.08
6 Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) 3.18
7 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) 3.39
8 Andreas Klöden (Astana) 3.50
9 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) 3.53
10 Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) 5.06

Today's stage finally finished well in advance of the planned Versus TV schedule, which is to say the Tour is on.

Okay, now it's a wide open Tour. Ever since the time trial, it was the Landis show, but the final climb today change the story of this Tour and broke it wide open. Landis lost over ten minutes today and dropped to 11th overall, off the podium for good. It's now just Pereiro, and Sastre Kloden, and Evans left to duke it out, as Menchov probably lost a bit too much time as well (GC -3:58). The final time trial, sometimes for show, sometimes decisive, will be perhaps the most decisive time trial ever. And there's one more day of Alps before that.

I'll break down today's results by team, as it's the teams that mattered today:

  • Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty ImagesRabobank: What a day for Rasmussen, who took the stage and the KOM jersey. Rasmussen had been sacrificing KOM points in order to help out Menchov. After Menchov's bad day yesterday, Rasmussen was given free reign and showed the form he's been holding back. Unfortunately for Rabobank, Menchov could have used Rasmussen's help most as Landis cracked, the contenders pushed their advantage, but Menchov couldn't hold with that group. (Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • CSC: CSC continues to have an amazing week as Sastre gained the most today in the overall, but it wasn't enough to catch Pereiro. Sastre will have to try again tomorrow to take that jersey, but Sastre's bigger concern is the good time trialers who are just behind him in the standings now. Sastre got a lot of help from Schleck and Vandevelde. Schleck somehow managed to find legs after yesterday's hard win and Vandevelde was constantly fighting back into the group to do some pulls and hand over water. Just think, CSC lost Basso and Julich, O'Grady is injured, and they ride themselves to stage victory yesterday and second place overall today.

  • Caisse: Caisse believed in Pereiro's chances and were there in numbers untl the final attack. I believe I counted three teammates with him (Karpets, Arroyo, and Xandio). Imagine their strength if Valverde was still in the hunt. I expect a strong defense from Caisse tomorrow.

  • Phonak: I've been dissing Phonak since the Tour of California, and today gives me no reason to stop. Merckx was the only teammate there for Landis, but more often than not he was riding on Landis' wheel or yo-yoing off the back. Landis needed more than one dedicated teammate, because he got hit hard by T-Mobile and CSC today and it wasn't until he had lost about five minutes that Merckx reappeared to pace him into the finish.

  • Discovery: I guess having Armstrong in the car behind you doesn't help. Popo and CheChu couldn't press the break and Azevedo popped like Landis at the end.

  • AG2R: Where did Dessel come from? I don't know, but his teammates and him are pulling themselves inside out to stay top 5 and give France something to cheer about in the overall.

  • T-Mobile: I'm putting T-Mobile last on this list because T-Mobile has the dumbest tactics of any team in the Tour. Last year they chased back an attack by their own teammate Vinokourov, pulling Armstrong with them. In [stage 11][stage11], they blew their own team and leader up by attacking too hard on the penultimate climb, at a time when they dominated the top ten standings. Today, they made two big mistakes. The first was when Menchov attacked and Rogers latched on: Mazzolini and Kloden pulled the break and their own teammate back, towing Landis with them. That didn't matter too much in the end as Landis cracked, but the second mistake was then never attacking. They had four riders on the final climb. Maybe they didn't want repeat their stage 11 mistake, but instead of pushing the advantage, they watched Sastre climb ahead to victory. Today was a chance to gain time on all the other contenders, but for the most part they just held the status quo. I think they are placing too big of a bet on the time trial. It's a descent bet, but a better bet would have been to trim away a bit of Pereiro's and Sastre's lead.

Pereiro in the yellow jersey again will renew the [Landis giveaway debate][debate], but really it didn't matter for Landis. Landis lost so much time today that someone other than him would be wearing yellow. If it matters to anyone, it will be Sastre and Kloden, who now have another contender to knock off. Sastre would be wearing yellow right now, but instead he has to figure out how to get two minutes on a rejuvenanted Periero.

The current overall standings tell the tale: 1. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne-I.B. 2. Carlos Sastre (Sp),

Stage 11: Courchevel-Briancon

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Vino's simply too good to let a bad day on Stage 10 keep him down. The time he lost yesterday also worked to his advantage: unlike previous attacks Armstrong no longer had any reason to respond. He attacked with a group on the Col de la Madeleine climb, whittled it down to just him and Botero, and outsmarted Botero for the finish in Briancon. He had dropped Botero on the Col du Galibier climb, taking the prize for winning the highest climb in the Tour, but Botero caught him on the descent and they rode together into Briancon.

This shouldn't matter too much for Armstrong and Discovery. Vino lost too much time yesterday to be a threat, so Armstrong could afford to give Vino the minute of time. Discovery rode in a defensive mode today and managed to keep a team of five riders all the way from the top of the Col du Galibier climb to the finish. With that many riders at his side, there was no way that any of the contenders could hope to attack -- their own teammates had already fallen away.

Moreau made a go for some King of the Mountain points. He did well over the first two climbs, but Rasmussen took the remaining points on the final climb. Moreau also took the third place sprint bonus to move into third place overall.