Tour de France '07 Stage 16: Orthez - Gourette - Col d’Aubisque

Discovery hit Rasmussen with everything they had, isolating Rasmussen early on the slopes of the Col d'Aubisque. Levi and Contador launched attacks back and forth, but in the end it was Rasmussen who launched the final attack in the final kilometer to take the stage win. Rasmussen rolled through to a chorus of cheers and boos.

Discovery's game plan was near perfect, but Rasmussen was not to be broken. Popovych went to the front to set a blistering pace after Rabobank's Menchov cracked. Boogerd was quickly shed as well, leaving Rasmussen all by himself. Soon it was just six riders, with three of those riders from Discovery. Levi launched the first attack and zoomed past Sastre's and Mayo's breakaway. Levi and Contador exchanged attacks on Rasmussen until it was just Contador and Rasmussen together, with Levi and Evans chasing. Levi was able to chase back up and setup the final selection for the day: Leipheimer, Rasmussen, and Contador.

Levi led Contador and Rasmussen up the slopes of the Aubisque with Evans dangling behind. Rasmussen was in control, worried more about waving off TV motos than Leipheimer's and Contador's efforts. He even took the time to encourage Levi's effort at the front to move onto the podium over Evans. The attacks from Discovery were over and as the final kilometer kite dangled overhead, Rasmussen left Contador and Rasmussen in his dust. Levi jumped for second to take the 0:12 time bonus and a 0:43 gap on Evans. Evans fought valiantly to keep his losses to a minimum, even pulling back some time before losing most of it in the final kilometer. Levi pulled to within 0:56 of Evans, so Levi will have to ride the time trial of his career to finish in third -- he seems motivated to do it, but Evans is the unofficial winner of the first time trial.

Sastre tried to make it his day by attacking on the very first mountain and being joined by Mayo and Soler, but by the Aubisque their lead was less than a minute -- it didn't last very long with Discovery's assault on Rabobank. The break was worthwhile for Soler, who took most of the KOM points on the day to move into the KOM lead (he no longer has to wear a borrowed jersey from Rasmussen). Soler moved into the tenth overall.

Valverde moved into seventh place while Kirchen dropped to eighth. Astarloza lost his top-ten placing.

The stage was harsh on the peloton today. It was whittled down to 25 riders on the very first climb and many riders spent their time chasing back on the descents.



CyclingNews Stage 16 Preview: After the well-earned final rest day in Pau and with five days still to go to Paris, the riders are not yet done with the Pyrenees, or rather, the Pyrenees are not yet done with the Tour riders. For stage 16 has four difficult climbs on the program, including the hors catégorie Port de Larrau, a steep 14.5-kilometre monster that leads the Tour for a short visit into Spain, then a finish atop the hors catégorie Col d'Aubisque.

All the Vino news distracted from the fact that Stage 16 should be really, really exciting. All the Pyrenees fireworks thus far have increased the potential: a mountain-top finish with the top 2 positions occupied by the Tour's best climbers trying to hold off a TT charge from Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. It's good script.

My prediction: Valverde. Based on his Pyrenees performance thus far, he may be a really, really bad pick. But the time he has lost gives him an advantage: he's less of a threat in the overall. At 10:41 back, he can get a couple of minutes without stirring Rabobank or Discovery. Behind him I'm really hoping that Levi launches a big attack -- I need to justify the framed photo I have of him at the Tour of California. It will be hard with Rasmussen and Contador attacking so explosively. At the very least, he needs to put some time to Evans to jump onto the podium, plus enough padding to hold him off in the final time trial. I'm also hoping that Rasmussen cracks, because after all the Vino news, Rasmussen isn't the face of the Tour that I'd like to see.

Live coverage links

Versus Picks

  • Phil: Contador
  • Al: Soler
  • Paul: Rasmussen
  • Bob: Evans stage log

Rider's protest

Port de Larrau

Auge (Cofidis), Verdugo (Euskatel), Garcia (Caisse), and Rinero (S-D) are in the lead

Soler went solo early on the Larrau and Sastre caught up with him. Paulinho, Popo, Mayo, Barredo, and Arroyo are trying to bridge. Rabobank is setting tempo in the peloton, which is splitting. Mayo bridged up to Soler and Sastre.

Garcia and Verdugo put a gap on Auge and Rinero as go for the KOM

Its whittled down to 25 riders in the Rasmussen group. Riders are scattered across the mountain.

Garcia takes the KOM. The Soler/Sastre/Mayo group go across 3 minutes later with Soler taking fifth-place KOM points. That gives soler the true polka dot lead -- he's borrowing the jersey from Rasmussen today. The yellow jersey is at about 4:35 -- Sastre isn't getting much time on them yet.

Alto Laza, Cat 3

Soler went through in fifth again -- no points as this is Cat 3

Col de la Pierre St-Martin

Levi brings Contador back on the descent after a flat, so it's clear who's working for whom.

The lead group has come together to seven: Soler/Sastre/Mayo/Garcia/Verdugo/Auge/Rinero

Auge is getting dropped... and now Rinero

The KOM points are all for Soler now. Sastre has built up 4 minutes on his rivals

Voigt took the 8th place KOM points -- was this a dig at Rasmussen to take away the remaining points?

Ballan crashed -- he low-sided on a left hander on the descent. He appears mostly fine.

Voigt appears to have crashed as well. He gets a chance to catch the wheels of Gusev/Gerdemann/etc to chase back, but gives it a pass. He's riding with a sizable gap between him and the bridgers. ... He gets some treatment from the doctor ... Ballan gets treatment as well.

Col de Marie-Blanque

The break starts the climb with about 3:48 on the peloton. Sastre has been doing almost all the work. ... Garcia Acosta is being dropped by them. ... lead falling to 2:51 due to the pace of Rabobank

Discovery is losing all their riders from the peloton here: Martinez, Paulinho, Gusev, Hincapie. It looks just like Popo/Levi/Contador.

Kirchen and Astarloza are being dropped from the yellow jersey group. Valverde may move up in the standings.

Verdugo is being dropped by the leaders.

Soler gets even more KOM points

Rasmussen takes fifth-place KOM points. Only 12 riders are left with the yellow jersey.

Lead is down to 1:49. Sastre needs 1:21 just to move up one spot in the GC (Levi). It appears his efforts are for naught.

Popo is on bottle duty on the descent.

Col d’Aubisque

The lead of 4 riders has only 0:44 on the yellow jersey group with 17k to the summit

Menchov and Boogerd are driving it

Sastre attacks! Soler gets on his wheel. Mayo is slow to react but slowly bridges up. Now Soler gets gapped as Mayo passes.

Mayo catches on Sastre's wheel as Soler is way back.

Yellow jersey group is tense as the contenders still have their lieutenants with them

Mayo finally does a turn at the front. That only took all day.

Menchov explodes -- will the other teams attack now that it's down to Boogerd protecting the Chicken?

Sastre attacks again!

Mayo has caught back on.

Now it's Popo at the front. Horner is popped. No sign of Boogerd.

Rasmussen is in a Disco sandwich

7th-place Zubeldia is cracked. Soler is caught

It's just six riders in the yellow jersey group and three of them are Discovery!

Sastre and Mayo are getting caught

Levi attacks! He zooms past Mayo and Sastre

Popo is done -- job well done as he shredded the field.

Rasmussen grabs Levi's wheel and Contador+Evans are there as well.

Sastre's day is done.

Levi, Rasmussen, Contador, and Evans at the front, sorting out the podium

Contador attacks out of the tunnel.

Contador decides to pull up and its back to four.

Levi attacks again! Rasmussen is pulling back in.

Evans is content to watch Discovery hit Rasmussen back and forth.

Levi pulls aside to let Contador attack

Rasmussen again has to chase it back with Levi and Evans on his wheel

Levi is cracked and Evans jumps onto Rasmussen's wheel

Rasmussen attacks and Contador is on his wheel. Evans can't follow. Contador counters!

Rasmussen gets back on his wheel. Evans is able to get back as well.

Levi almost catches back on but Contador attacks again

Contador+Rasmussen with Evans+Levi behind

Levi's real opponent is Evans for podium, so this breaks down well for him if he still has legs.

Levi drops Evans! This is for podium, Levi needs 1:25 in the remaining 5k over Evans

Levi is catching Contador and Rasmussen

Levi accelerates through the corner but everyone sticks on his wheel. This may just be to keep Evans from catching back on.

Rasmussen pats Levi to try and keep him at the front. Evans is dangling just behind.

Levi pulls off the front and lets Rasmussen go through. No, Levi goes back to the front.

Evans is slowly losing time.

3k to go. 0:13 to Evans

Rasmussen keeps waving off the motos. Chicken Wave.

Evans now at 0:20

1k to go. Evans at 0:19. Rasmussen takes over at the front and raises the pace.

Rasmussen is leaving Contador behind. Levi passes Contador. Rasmussen will take the stage.

Video connection lost so no idea of Evans timegap

related articles: Tour de France 2007
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