Stage 17: All on Sastre, Was it Enough?

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.

related articles: Tour de France Tour de France 2008
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