Friday, July 22, 2011

2011 Tour de France, Stage 19

Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar), Thomas Voeckler's constant aide, dropped Alberto Contador, and Samuel Sanchez to win stage 19 on the summit of Alpe d'Huez. It was France's first stage victory of the race, and the first time a French rider won on that summit since Bernard Hinault won in 1986 (the year Rolland was born). "On the Galibier Voeckler told me: 'Don't worry about me any more.' I realized that I could play my own card. I wanted to get a gap going onto the final climb, which is an ascent I know extremely well. I climbed it 10 times during a training camp. When I got to bend number one I knew that I could put it in the big ring and ride à bloc to the finish." Rolland also became the leader of the Young rider (white jersey) competition.

The shortish 109 km from Modane to Alpe d’Huez had plenty of drama:
-Thomas Voeckler lost the yellow jersey after wearing it for 10 stages, now in 4th,
-Andy Schleck is now the yellow jersey, an advantage for tomorrow when he will start last; Frank Schleck is 2nd,
-Cadel Evans was glue on the Schlecks, is now 3rd, and starts tomorrow only 57 seconds to Andy Schleck and 4 seconds to Frank Schleck,
-Contador began attacking from km 15 on the Col du Télégraphe, racing for a stage win and hoping to take enough time back to make the ITT tomorrow a factor; he has a deficit of 0:03:55 to Andy Schleck,

How the GC contenders figured in the stage:
1 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 3:13:25
2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:14
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:00:23
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:57
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
8 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
11 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:15
15 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:06
20 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:03:22

Top 10 GC:
1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 82:48:43
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:53
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:57
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:02:10
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:31
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:03:55
7 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:22
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:04:40
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:07:11
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:08:57

"Looking at the riders that reached the arrival with me in this tough stage, reading the overall standing, I can only think to myself that my team and I are performing a very, very good Tour de France," Cunego explained. "Today's stage was very dangerous, and in fact, many tried a big attack. I preferred to race like I have been until now and the results were satisfactory today too. I decreased my pace for a while at 10 km to go, but then I quickly recovered energies and I could pedal with the Schlecks and with Evans, trying also to attack in the final part of the climb since I felt my energies were good. I'll face tomorrow time trial with top morale, I'll give my best".

Stage 20, Saturday, Individual Time Trial

The TdF official analysis of this stage:
"This is the race’s only individual time trial, as the one in the first week was a team time trial test, while putting another one into the middle of the race didn’t really serve any great purpose. The profile is rolling and the road does climb, although there aren’t any cols as such. Victory won’t automatically go to a specialist because the final time trial of the Tour is a very physical test that suits a strong man – last year’s Bordeaux-Pauillac test won by Cancellara was an exception. In this solitary exercise, there is no way a rider can bluff or hide in the wheels of their team-mates."

Cadel Evans, one of the best time trialists, will also have an advantage in that he raced the same course one month ago in the Dauphine. Bernard Hinault's assessment:
"57 seconds is a very narrow margin. Cadel Evans has always proved to be a superior rider in the time trial. But I really can't make any prognosis because it's so tight between them that we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out!".

Photos: Bettini; Cunego photo: Sirotti

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