Stage 15: Gap - L'Alpe-d'Huez

Frank Schleck won the day and Landis probably won the Tour. Scheck's victory was earned by the hard work of his CSC team. CSC put three riders into a 24-man break and Zabriskie and Voigt pushed that break through rain and shine until it was whittled down to a select group at the base of Alpe d'Huez. Lampre also did a bit of work in that break and both Schleck and Cunego were launched on the final climb. Schleck and Cunego rode up together most of the way, but with 3k to go, Schleck attacked and put in the gap he needed to win, having enough time to zip up his jersey at the end. It's Schleck's first Tour de France and first Tour victory.

Landis finished in fourth and it looks like in all certainty he'll be wearing this yellow jersey in Paris. He took his yellow jersey back from Pereiro, who fought hard but lost out by 10 seconds. Landis never showed a second's weakness while all of his GC competitors did. Menchov couldn't hold Landis' wheel, not even with Rasmussen somehow bridging up to Menchov to help out. Evans couldn't hold on either and Sastre made a good effort, but was dropped further up the climb. Kloden was the only GC contender that stayed with Landis the whole way, but even when his T-Mobile teammate Mazzolini dropped back from the break, Kloden could never get a gap.

The breakway was a big factor in the finish as riders in the break dropped back on the Alpe d'Huez to help out their GC hopefuls. Voigt was first, putting in a big effort for Sastre not long after helping to launch Schleck -- Voigt may have done the biggest effort on the day. Merckx was next, as Landis jumped onto his wheel and shouted for him to go. Merckx was a caught a bit by surprise, but quickly jumped to the front and handed over a bottle. Mazzolini was last, coming back to pace Kloden.

The big abandon on the day was Tom Boonen, who leaves with some yellow jerseys but no stage win or green jerseys. Most would be happy with that sort of haul, but the Belgian press is probably letting him have it today.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Azevedo * Actual: Azevedo, where did you finish? Somewhere way back (7+ minutes)

stage15.gif

Prediction: Jose Azevedo. Thiis will be a stage for the GC contenders, but Azevedo is proven Alpe d'Huez climber who is also enough minutes down that his wheel doesn't have to be followed. This will be a big day for Rabobank to live up to their new credentials as the best climbing team.

Embrun, Sprint 1: Eisel took the sprint

24 riders: Hincapie, Martinez, Zabriskie, Schleck, Voigt, Cunego, de la Fuente, Garzelli, and many others. They are 4:20 ahead. Caisse has 2 riders in the break, as do Discovery, and Lampre. CSC has three riders.

Col d'Izoard, HC

Voeckler is already cracking. Jose Rujano is attacking from the peloton, there's a lot of ground for him to cover.

Brard is setting the pace at the front of the peloton. Boonen is yo-yoing of the back. Now it looks like he's cracked.

There are some attacks off the front. A Saunier Duval (Gomez) and Euskatel rider.

Garzelli is setting the pace at the front and it's causing a lot of riders to fall off the back, including Garzelli's temmate Albasini. Other riders off the back: Knees, Pineau, Acosta, Wegmann, Vaugrenard. Flecha may fall off soon. And now Garzelli attacks and no one is following. Flecha and Zabriskie have been dropped.

Fly to the Finish code for today is Alpe d'Huez. It looks like the 'domestique' code is finally working.

A group of four is trying to bridge from the peloton to the break: Bruseghin, Gomez and two others... Mercado is now attempting to bridge from the peloton to the break.... Mercado has caught the group of four trying to bridge to the peloton.

Phonak has to be happy that Caisse is doing the work on a hard climb like this.

Garzelli looks like he'll be the first over the climb. It's not clear how big his lead is on the break but it appears to be pretty big.

Landis is now attacking the peloton -- nope, that's a bathroom break. The peloton is falling a bit off the pace as they are now 5:25 behind. It might be the fact that there' a lot of riders taking a bathroom break.

Garzelli takes the KOM points. The main part of the break is 1:10 behind. de la Fuente lead the charge so he took 18 KOM points in second. Wegmann wasn't able to get any points.

A Caisse rider (Portal) went down on the descent, possibly due to a motorbike. Portal is already back on the bike.

Egoi Martinez has crashed in the break, but there is no video yet. He's back on the bike.

Garzelli i s now over 6:32 ahead of the peloton, 1:10 ahead of the main part of the break.

I think Landis is getting a wheel from his teammate, but it's from a helicopter shot so it's hard to tell. Milram's Iglinkskiy has crashed and almost got ran over.

CSC actually has three riders in the break as Voigt takes a pull at the front.

The peloton is giong through the feed zone.

It looks like Garzelli has been reabsorbed into the lead break, which is at 18 riders.

T-Mobile's Gonchar is now setting the pace at the front and the break's lead has fallen back down to 4:07

Le-Monetier-les-bains, Sprint 2: Zabriskie took the sprint, my guess is to give the team 6 more seconds so they can keep their yellow numbers and team car position.

Col du Lautaret

Paxti Vila is attacking the lead group now. de la Fuente has bridged back up. The break doesn't seem to mind just yet. They have a 10-second lead. It seems to me that Voigt is the real engine of the break, pulling over from time to time to blow some snot rockets, but then right back up to the front.

The peloton is breaking in half, with much of the back half containing FD Jeux riders.

Flecha, Wegmann, and Charteau have fallen off the lead break, much like on the previous climb. Vila and de la Fuente really aren't getting much on the rest of the break.

Boonen has abandoned. Several yellow jerseys isn't a bad prize to leave with, but the Belgian press won't be had about the zero stage wins.

Gonchar is back at the front of the peloton pulling the break back to 4:00.

CSC is really leading this break: Voigt and Zabriskie pulling for Schleck. Hincapie won't be happy that he lost Martinez. Voigt continues to be the workhorse.

KOM: de la Fuente takes the KOM points. I had no idea that de la Fuente would be able to protect his lead in the Alps. He's got 45 points over Rasmussen, so Chicken Legs Ras would have to go on a long solo break to pull that back.

The lead group is back together on the descent, though it's down to 15 riders.

Rabobank is now helping out Caisse with the chase. The lead is at 3:50.

It's raining on the lead group now. Zabriskie is plowing through in front -- he's actually gapping the field though Lampre (Vila/Cunego) chased back.

Jens Voigt may have finally popped as he's back in the team cars now.

Paxti Vila is pulling for Cunego now and Zabriskie is still taking turns at the front.

Guerini has attacked from the peloton, perhaps hoping for a repeat of past performances.

Voigt is hanging on the tail of the break. The gap to the peloton down to 3:23. Well, Voigt isn't done yet as he's coming to the front to do more pulls. OLN is reporting that Voigt previously crashed, so I guess he was just taking a couple minutes to heal and is all better now.

Alpe d'Huez

Zabriskie has popped after his big efforts on the descent. Arrieta, Landaluze, and Merckx have cracked.

Cunego is at the front, whittling the group down to nine: Mazzoleni , Hincapie, Arroyo, Lobato, de la Fuente, Garzelli, Schleck. They still have 3:19 on the field that is approaching the base of the climb.

The peloton is hitting the first big part of the climb and Rabobank is really whipping up the pace.

Hincapie and Garzelli can't hold onto Cunego's pace. Neither can de la Fuente. It's five riders now: Cunego, Lobato, Schleck, Mazzolini, and Arroyo. de la Fuente keeps trying reattach. Arroyo now apepars to be gone.

One of Landis' teammate is now at the front of the peloton and have broken off a group of T-Mobile riders with them. It's now Kessler, Kloden, Landis, and Evans that have broken off the front of the peloton.

It's now just Schleck and Cunego at the front -- they're teammates did the most work in the break.

AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati

Menchov has pulled into the Landis/Evans/Kloden/Kessler group. Kessler is setting a really hard effort. Levi, Leipheimer, and Boogerd are in a group just behind. The yellow jersey is further behind with Azevedo, but they seem to be holding in there.

Menchov has fallen off the pace but his teammates are close behind.

Chris Horner is on Pereiro's wheel which is a surprise, given how poorly Horner has been doing. I guess the rest day healed him up.

Mazzolini and Lobato are catching up to Schleck and Cunego.

Sastre is on Menchov's wheel as is Leipheimer. Voigt is now going to work for Sastre. Voigt always amazes me. Menchov can't hold onto Voight/Sastre/Leipheime -- it's all Voigt.

Landis has attacked and has a gap. Kloden has bridged but I think Evans may be gone. Evans is back with Voigt/Sastre/Leipheimer.

Pereiro is fighting hard. He's with Boogerd and Rasmussen and Pereiro is now picking up the pace.

Mazzolini has caught on with Schleck and Cunego.

Landis is sitting on Kloden's wheel. Back further Evans is falling off of Sastre and Leipheimer's pace. Voigt is finally done after some amzing efforts today.

Sastre and Leipheimer are catching on to Landis and Kloden.

Merckx is now being caught by Landis' group and should be ready to do some work for Landis. Landis attacks and is catching onto Merckx's wheel. Axel wasn't quite ready but he jumps up and hands a bottle over to Landis. It's Merckx, Landis, and Sastre. Levi is a bit behind. Levi and Kloden are back on.

Hincapie is being caught by Merckx. He's latching onto Levi's wheel. And now he's dropped.

Dessel is back a bit but fighting to stay a top 5 GC rider. He's getting closer to Pereiro's group.

Landis' group can't be far behind as they are passing beneath the 5k to go banner not too soon after. Evans and Menchov are only 15 seconds behind Landis' group. Kloden is attacking.

Cunego is attacking to try and get rid of Mazzolini, who wasn't doing any work. It's back to Schleck and Cunego.

Kloden and Landis are ahead, with Sastre bridging back. They are passing de la Fuente. Evans is passing Merckx so he should be close. Menchov is actually in front of Evans now.

Sastre is getting dropped now.

Rasmussen has caught up to Menchov. Where did Rasmussen come from?

Mazzolini has dropped back to help out Kloden. Placing riders in the break has really paid off for the GC contenders (Merckx, Mazzolni, and Voigt).

Schleck has attacked Cunego. He's getting a good gap. 2k left for him to go. He's got a really good gap.

Rasmussen offers a bottle to Menchov but Menchov is just grimacing in pain.

Lobato, Garzelli and Chavanel are holding onto the Landis group.

Cunego isn't giving up. 1k to go and Cunego is accelerating to try and catch Schleck.

Schleck is going to win it. CSC really earned this victory with all the effort put in by Zabriskie and Voigt.

He zips up the jersey. Schleck wins!

Landis is seeing if he can gap Kloden going into the finish. Garzelli comes around for third, Landis fourth. Landis didn't get any gap. Sastre is coming in having lost a dozen or so seconds.

Now Levi comes in about 30 seconds behind.

Menchov comes in having lost about a minute on Landis.

Pereiro is racing for the jersey but he isn't going to get it. He's going to lose it by several seconds. Pereiro loses the jsersey by 10 seconds. Dessel is now racing in.

Hincapie leads Popovych in

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Comments (2)

glynn:

What a great race today!

kwc:

I love seeing the wreckage of a former peloton in the mornin'