What became a rather rudimentary day for opportunists who would contest the race for stage honors began at a rapid rate. The speed was fast before the right combination of escapees muscled their way into the lead. Once a group of 12 got clear the only real bout of action came from a committed Cofidis rider, Amael Moinard who attacked over the last category-one climb in the Pyrenees but was caught in the final 10km. That‚Äôs when Kurt-Asle Arvesen mounted his bid for glory. He held off a late charge from Martin Elmiger to win by a handful of centimeters. Cadel Evans had a relatively calm day in the yellow jersey, finishing in the main bunch almost 15 minutes behind the escapees to retain his yellow jersey.
The Progress Report
The 11th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, a 167.5km journey from Lannemezan to Foix, began at 12.44pm. There were 168 riders in the race. The non-starter following the first rest day of the 95th edition was Moises Duenas Nevado (BAR) was the rider absent from sign on. There were three categorized climbs in the stage ‚Äď the cat-3 Col de Larrieu (at 49.5km), the cat-1 Col de Portel (at 110km) and the Co del Bouich (at 145km). The two intermediate sprints were in Saint-Bertrand de Comminges (at 19.5km) and in Prat-Bonrepaux (69km).
Into The Lead: 12-man Escape Group Forms
The first hour of the 11th stage was raced at an extremely rapid pace. Although several riders gained a small advantage none was allowed any leeway until the 35km mark when Wegmann and Arvesen started a move that was chased down by nine others. At the 39km mark, the peloton quit chasing down every more and 13 riders found themselves in the lead. They were: Arvesen (CSC), Ballan (LAM), Botcharov and Fofonov (C.A), Steegmans (QST), Elmiger (ALM), Wegmann (GST), Moerenhout and Velo (MRM), Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Moinard (COF), Pozzato (LIQ) and Fedrigo (BTL). The yellow jersey answer nature‚Äôs call and by the 45km mark, it was 4‚Äô00‚ÄĚ behind the escapees. The average speed for the first hour was 47.5km/h.
Botcharov was the best-placed in GC of the escapees, starting the stage ranked 35th, 20‚Äô47‚ÄĚ behind Cadel Evans. At the top of the first climb, the peloton was 5‚Äô50‚ÄĚ behind ‚ÄėBobo‚Äô and his posse, Steegmans was dropped from the lead group and several counter-attackers were reeled in by the bunch that was led by the Silence-Lotto team.
Longo Borghini (BAR) crashed, fractured his right collarbone and abandoned the race.
Building Their Advantage
The 12 escapees were able to gain a significant advantage: 8‚Äô10‚ÄĚ at 60km, 8‚Äô50‚ÄĚ at the site of the second intermediate sprint; 12‚Äô00‚ÄĚ at 76km; 14‚Äô00‚ÄĚ at the feedzone (84.5km)‚Ä¶ the average speed for the 2nd hour was 42.0km/h. At the base of the Col de Portel, the peloton was 15‚Äô15‚ÄĚ behind the 12 escapees. With 7.5km to climb, Moinard instigated an attack. The first surge from the peloton came from Pereiro (GCE). With 5km to climb the peloton was 16‚Äô10‚ÄĚ behind Moinard. Silence spread across the road with 8km to go
Moinard Goes Solo
At the top of the Portel, Moinard had an advantage of 1‚Äô50‚ÄĚ on the 11 others. Pereiro was at 14‚Äô40‚ÄĚ and the CSC-led peloton was at 16‚Äô30‚ÄĚ. These gains diminished and, by 20km to go, Moinard was just 50‚ÄĚ ahead. Ballan attacked 16km from the finish, prompting all others to respond and within moment Moinard was reeled in. Pereiro was caught by the peloton just after the third summit. Moinard was caught by the 11 others with 8km to go.
Arvesen Earns CSC‚Äôs First Stage Win In 2008
Kurt-Asle Arvesen surged ahead of the escapees with 4km to go; he was followed by Elmiger and later joined by Ballan, with 2km to go. This trio was caught by Moerenhout after the ‚Äėflamme rouge‚Äô. The Norwegian twisted the throttle and started his sprint about 200m before the finish line. Once in the lead there was no looking back. He celebrated with a salute before the line but quickly grabbed his handlebars again as Elmiger was coming up fast on his left side. Nonetheless it was a victory for the CSC rider and the second this year by a Norwegian.
Cadel Evans finished in 27th place in the peloton, 14‚Äô51‚ÄĚ behind Arvesen. The Australian will wear the yellow jersey for stage 12.
The stage winner wondered how Amael Moinard gained so much time with his attack on the final category-one climb in the Pyrenees but the Cofidis rider explained that his attack was part of a plan he‚Äôs considered well in advance.
‚ÄúI knew the course for the stage very well because I live in Toulouse and I came to do a detailed reconnaissance of the stages that are located in the region. I identified the climb that would suit me (Col de Portel) and I also said this morning that David Moncoutie that the rider who makes it in the escape group had to attack. That‚Äôs just what I did but I had hoped that two or three other riders would follow me.
‚ÄúI know very well the strength of Pozzato, Elmiger, Arvesen and Ballan and it was not possible for me to win in the finale against this selection. I was beaten well before the finish.
‚ÄúI thought that others would have the same perspective of the situation but I found myself on my own. Then I tried, hoping they would look at each other and leave me alone.
‚ÄúAnyway, I have no regrets. I prefer to finish 11th and to have tried. We must try to win, this is the beauty of this sport and that is what I like in all sports, even if its football or rugby for example.‚ÄĚ
The leader of the points classification actually increased his advantage over second place but Oscar Freire was concerned about losing a few points to the winner of the green jersey in 2005.
‚ÄúI think that from today we‚Äôll see plenty of breakaways succeeding. This is the first very hot day and, in my case, I was suffering a lot because the first category climb was really hard. There were also points for the 20 first riders so I tried to get some points at the finish. I lost some of my advantage over [Thor] Hushovd but there is still a long way to go. I hope to be better tomorrow.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think it‚Äôll be a bunch finish tomorrow in Narbonne because it‚Äôs really difficult to control the race now. Everybody wants to be in the break and nobody wants to control once it‚Äôs gone. I think tomorrow it‚Äôll be like that again.‚ÄĚ
The Silence-Lotto team has been readying itself for the challenge of defending the yellow jersey since the start of the season. Today was the first true test and Cadel Evans was not only satisfied with the tactics employed but also admits that he had fun in the lead of the Tour.
‚ÄúWearing this jersey certainly makes it easier to move through the group. Everyone lets you go where you want to go. To be honest, I look ahead and from my point of view I have normal colored gloves and the same color bike as usual so it all looks the same to me. It‚Äôs winning in Paris that matters to me and until then I‚Äôll enjoy the experience that comes with the maillot jaune, that‚Äôs for sure, but I‚Äôm proud to have it on when I see so many Australian flags flying by the side of the road.
‚ÄúTo be the leader of the Tour de France is probably one of the most enviable positions for any cyclist to have and I had a lot of fun today.
‚ÄúI feel better and better each day since the crash. Hopefully by the Alps I‚Äôll be 100 per cent. It‚Äôs mainly some swelling and bruising that‚Äôs causing some problems but I‚Äôm coping.
‚ÄúI‚Äôll have to do some calculations when I see the result sheet to really understand why it was that CSC took on so much responsibility in the chase, but I think it might have had something to do with the team classification. It was difficult, almost impossible to bridge to the group in front so we just stayed calm and let the other guys do the work. We‚Äôre using our heads as much as our legs in this situation and I‚Äôm happy with the tactics we employed today.‚ÄĚ
A rapid start made things difficult for the riders on the first truly hot stage of the 2008 Tour de France. Even the stage winner, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, admitted that it was hard to make the selection and catch the aggressive Amael Moinard but at the end he was satisfied with his sprint, finishing just ahead of Martin Elmiger.
‚ÄúI was struggling in the first 40 kilometers just to get up to the front because it was so fast early today. Luckily we have Jens Voigt riding for our team because he was unbelievably strong; he covered all the breaks and then when I came up to the front I said, ‚ÄėSorry Jens, I‚Äôll try to help you now.‚Äô Then I went with a couple of moves and one of them got clear.
‚ÄúWhen the group formed, I thought we‚Äôd be in for a day in front of the stage.
‚ÄúIn the final I felt strong, attacked a couple of times and then got away with [Martin] Elmiger. [Alessandro] Ballan came up‚Ä¶ I wasn‚Äôt really in a good position for the sprint but once I opened it up, I felt good so it was just enough. Lucky day for me!
‚ÄúIt was close at the finish, sure. It was just about five centimeters but that‚Äôs enough when you‚Äôre in front. I‚Äôve been that far behind in the past so today was my day.
‚ÄúI was pretty worried about [Amael] Moinard because he got two minutes pretty quickly. I wonder how he did that because we were riding pretty hard behind him so he must have been good on the climb and the descent. We worked well together and were then confident we‚Äôd catch him.‚ÄĚ
The sprint for 13th place was won by another Norwegian; Thor Hushovd led the peloton across the line, 14’50" behind Kurt Asle Arvesen.
The peloton is still about 15 minutes from finishing the 11th stage so here is a summary of who from the escape group finished where in Foix.
1. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (NOR) CSC - 167.5km in 3h58’13"
2. Martin Elmiger (SUI) ALM - at same time
3. Alesssandro Ballan (ITA) LAM - at same time
4. Koos Moerenhout (NED) RAB - at 2"
5. Alexandre Botcharov (RUS) C.A - at 11"
6. Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA) BTL - at 14"
7. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) LIQ - at 14"
8. Benoit Vaugrenard (FRA) FDJ - at 14"
9. Fabian Wegmann (GER) GST - at 14"
10. Marco Velo (ITA) MRM - at 14"
11. Dmitriy Fofonov (KAZ) C.A - at 14"
12. Amael Moinard (FRA) COF - at 29"
Arvesen has given CSC its first stage win. He has held off a late challenge by Elmiger and Ballan. It’s the second Norwegian stage win for the 2008 Tour.
There was a Norwegian, an Italian and a Swiss riding together in the final kilometer of the 11th stage. They were joined by a Dutchman, Moerenhout... how will this story end. Stay tuned the sprint has begun.
Arvesen has just done a strong turn of pace. It didn’t drop Elmiger or Ballan, rather just limited the chance of others from the escape group bridging before the final kilometer.