Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011 Tour de France, Stage 18

Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) surprised all the GC contenders by executing a perfect Leopard Trek strategy in which he attacked early on the Col d'Izoard, 60 km from the finish, which led to stage victory atop the Galibier and a small 15 second deficit to a courageous Thomas Voeckler. Arriving second was brother Fränk followed by Cadel Evans (BMC).

Of Schleck's attack from the GC group the group must have been thinking, "He's crazy" and "We will catch him on the Galibier". But Andy Schleck had other plans, one that he had been thinking about for a few days. In a breakaway group, ahead of the GC group, were two Leopard Trek riders: Poosthuma and Monfort. When Andy Schleck attacked he first bridged to Poosthuma. Then, at the start of the Izoard descent he bridged to Monfort who then sacrificed himself for Andy until 17 km to the finish. From there it was up to Schleck to maintain his lead of approximately 4 minutes. By the summit he had lost some of that time to Evans, Basso, Voeckler, Cunego and Fränk Schleck (who was happy to follow until the final meters when he sprinted for 2nd); Alberto Contador could not stay in contact.

"This is a dream come true," said Andy Schleck. "I am very proud of this win. I like to have a plan and I like even more when it works out like that. The team has worked incredibly so far in this Tour. I said this morning 'no guts, no glory'. I took the race by the horns and went all in. I just tried to concentrate on the pain I had in my legs, and believe me I had a lot. Without Maxime (Monfort) this wouldn't be possible. We've been working a lot to get a win like this. Without these guys, it would not have been possible. Now I'm in second overall and it's a perfect position for tomorrow."

How the GC contenders figured in the stage:
1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 6:07:56
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:07
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:15
4 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:18
5 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:02:21
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:02:33
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:03:25
15 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:03:50
18 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:42

Top 10 GC:
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 79:34:06
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:15
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:08
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:12
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:46
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:44
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:05:20
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:07:08
10 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:09:27

Thomas Voeckler keeps the yellow jersey, for the 10th day (same as 2004). “I lacked oxygen, it was hard for me to recover, my legs hurt badly,” said Voeckler. "On three occasions, I lost some seconds but from different riders, that’s why I’m still in yellow. I wasn’t aware of the time gaps when I was climbing the Galibier. I got to know at the top that I was three minutes behind Schleck with 3km to go. It was my goal to keep the jersey today but it didn’t depend on me but also on what the other riders were doing. I suffered but I followed the favorites. To keep the yellow jersey was beyond my expectations at Luz-Ardiden, then again at the Plateau de Beille, and now here at the Galibier. I’m not the kind of guy to congratulate myself. I do my job. I give everything. I can’t guarantee anything else to the fans other than the fact that I’m fighting. The suffering is enormous."

"This was queen stage of this Tour and in effect the race was very tough but also very interesting," said Damiano Cunego. "Me and all the other riders made huge efforts, but at the end of the stage I received a very pleasant prize: 5th place in the overall standings. This position gives me even more morale for facing the next stage. Tomorrow, Alpe d'Huez will be another key moment of the Grande Boucle and I hope to quickly recover my energy because the stage will be short and very tough, a very dangerous mix".

Ivan Basso, now 6th in GC with he same time as Cunego (Cunego 5th due to a better position in points classification), said, "For me, it was a good stage, arriving with the strongest in the front chasing group. Nothing special, but it was a good stage. Schleck attacked very strongly. You have to evaluate it in the moment. Sometimes you chase, sometimes you don't. I believe that knowing the tactical choice, the strongest rider won. Now, I'll rest a bit. Tomorrow's another day, two truly tough climbs, but you've seen that today some riders have suffered so everything is still possible. I have to be realistic. I can't talk any longer about the yellow jersey, but it's an important sign. I feel, until now, I've given the best of my possibilities."

Stage 19, Friday:

The TdF official analysis of this stage:
"Today’s route runs in the opposite direction to yesterday’s. The riders tackle the successive climbs of the Col du Télégraphe and the Galibier, and then finish with the climb to Alpe d’Huez, which returns after an absence of three years. It is a short stage. Nevertheless, all of the riders will be afraid of it. Those who aren’t going so well will be concerned about the cut-off time for elimination and the favorites will know that they will pay a heavy cost for any sign of weakness. The shortness of the stage allows the climbers to attack from very early on, which is not something they will be used to. This stage will be thrilling and, bearing in mind that it comes on the back of two other tough days, there is a chance that a lot of damage will be done today."

Photos: Bettini

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