On a stage that boasted the highest pass in Europe, the winner was truly determined by the riders who established an escape at the end of the first hour of racing. Cyril Dessel may not have claimed many climbing points on a day with two âHCâ cols â that honor went to an aggressive Stefan Schumacher and an inspire John-Lee Augustyn â but the French AG2R rider dropped all but three riders on the final descent and outwitted them at the finish to win his first stage of the Tour de France. Augustyn was first at the top of the Cimme de la Bonette-Restefond but his speed on the descent was too much: he crashed over the edge and would limp home on a spare bike. The battle for general classification standings did take a shake with Menchov losing time on the descent and Vande Velde slipping down the rankings after being shed on the ascent. But Frank Schleck retains his yellow jersey after finishing 12th, one place shy of Cadel Evans.
The Progress Report
The 157km 16th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, from Cuneo in Italy to Jausiers in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, began at 12.32pm. There were 153 riders in the race with no riders retiring on the second rest day of the 95th edition. The itinerary featured two âHors Categorieâ mountains, the Col de la Lambarde â a 2,351m high pass that peaked at the 72.5km mark â and the highest road in Europe, the 2,802m Cime de la Bonette-Restefond with the summit at 133.5km. While the final 23.5km were essentially all downhill, the finish was still at altitude of 1,210m. The intermediate sprints were both in Italy: Vignolo (at 20.5km) and Vinadio (50km). The return to France was at the 73km mark.
Fast First Hour & 29 Eventually Break Free
Before Christian Prudhomme could even announce the official start of racing, Sylvain Chavanel attacked. He was one of the most insistent in a rapid volley of escape attempts in the first hour of racing. It wasnât until the 42km mark, however, that anyone was able to gain a real advantage. Then the aggressor was Dumoulin (COF) who was soon joined by Stefan Schumacher (GST), Le Mevel (C.A), Rosseler (QST). A counter attacking group of 24 was composed of: Popovych, Arvesen, Voigt, Zubeldia, Txurruka, Arroyo, Gutierrez, Portal, Burghardt, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Cheula, Fischer, Tiralongo, Dessel, Lequatre, Flecha, Freire, Knees, Gilbert, Syl. Chavanel, Pate and Hesjedal. At the base of the climb, the five led 24 by 40â at the peloton by 4â25â. The average speed for the first hour was 49.2km/h.
Col de la Lombarde
Schumacher was the strongest of the lead group; after 5km of climbing he was on his own at the front of the stage. Cunego attacked the peloton early on the first ascent along with Szmyd, Valjavec, Monfort and Casar. CSC was in control of the peloton and allowed numerous other riders room to move when they attacked. Astarloza (EUS) was the highest ranked rider on GC to attack and he did so with about 8km to climb. At the summit the situation was: Schumacher in the lead; Le Mevel at 2â10â; Voeckler at 3â15â; Popovchâs group at 4â35â; Cunegoâs group at 5â05â and the yellow jerseyâs peloton at 9â35â.
There was a general regrouping on the descent. Schumacher led a group of 30 riders including: Popovych, Arvesen, Voigt, Txurrka, Arroyo, Gutierrez, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Cheula, Fischer, Cunego, Szmyd, Tiralongo, Pauriol, Dessel, Valjavec, Lequatre,
Flecha, Tschopp, Voeckler, Knees, Casar, Chavanel, Dumoulin, Moncoutie, Monfort, Hesjedal and Pate by 5â50â at the 93km mark. The peloton was at 10â50â.
Cime de la Bonette-Restefond
Schumacher had a lead of 4â40â on a group including Popovych and Cunego at the base of the final climb and the peloton was at 11â45â. Schumacher led until six kilometers from the 2nd summit when he was caught by Popovych, Arroyo, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Valjavec, Schumacher and Casar. They had a lead of 2â35â on the yellow jerseyâs group which had dwindled to eight: Frank and Andy Schleck, Sastre, Evans, Menchov, Valverde, Samuel Sanchez and Kohl. In the last 700m of the climb Augustyn attacked and claimed the 40pts and âSouvenir Henri Desgrangeâ but he would tumble over the end on the descent and lose his chance of winning the stage.
Dessel Wins After Speedy Descent
Dessel, Casar, Arroyo and Popovych gained an advantage on all other escapees early on the climb and raced into Jausiers in that order after a dramatic, rapid descent. Dessel burst into the lead in the final kilometer after brief attacks from Popovych and Arroyo. It is his first stage win at the Tour de France. In the yellow jerseyâs group, Menchov lost ground and descended with Cunego and Kirchen, losing 29 seconds to the yellow jersey. Frank Schleck finished 12, 1â28â behind the stage winner and will retain his lead in the general classification.
The winning advantage was built early in the stage but Cyril Dessel finished off the job on the downhill of the highest pass in Europe, a road he traversed with his father as a 14-year-old.
âFrom the outset, the tactic was to put myself in the escape but my feelings have not been very good since the start of the Tour and Iâve never had the legs in the morning. I was in very good shape in may, but my preparation was disrupted by saddle sores. Despite this, I confess that the very day was really good for me and I therefore felt ready this morning.
âI was not easy to put myself in the breakaway, which took a very long time to establish, but I was able to get there by joining the counter-attack after the initial move. At first I left the work to be done by the others and when I found myself with Tadej Valjavec, we rode together, both to catch [Stefan] Schumacher and to gain time for my team-mate in the overall standings.
âThen, on the climb to the top of the Bonette, one which I already have done with my father at the age of 14, I saw the rider from Barloworld attack and I have given everything to try and reel him in but didnât succeed. I went to the second position and we found four men in the lead. Iâm good on the downhill but I also knew that, with Popovych there, it would be very difficult to attack on the descentâŚ so, in the last kilometers I waited for the right moment to go. I saw a turn at 400 meters to go which was perfect for speed. Then I saw Arroyo shaping up to go, so I gave it everything and it worked. I was told that I had won 50 meters before the line but I wasnât going to raise my arms.â
The rider in second place appreciates the fact that one of his rivals lost half a minute on the final descent. Denis Menchov lost ground but Bernhard Kohl doesnât believe it was because he and his cohorts took excessive risks in the final 28.5km of an exciting stage. Heâs retained his climbing crown for another day and thatâs the prize heâs targeting for the Tour.
âIt was a difficult day especially as beforehand I thought weâd arrive with about 30 of 40 men but it was quite a selection with the Schlecks and Sastre doing an impressive job but I generally felt capable of following.
âThe descent was dangerous but itâs only what you make of it. Youâve just got to try and limit the risk and be wary; the good thing from the downhill is that Denis Menchov lost 30 seconds in the general classification and that buys me a bit of time. Itâs an important 30 seconds.
âIt makes sense that there werenât any big attacks on the Bonette-Restefond. Itâs a huge mountain of over 2,800 meters, there was a descent to follow, the wind was blowing and I donât think that big gains could have been made especially as the whole CSC team was so strong. We had to be practical about what could have been done against them. As for happens now, winning the Tour? I donât think so but hopefully after tomorrow Iâll still have this jersey with the beautiful spots.â
By default Andy Schleck has found himself back in the lead of the youth classification. It wasnât part of the original plan and his advantage over Vincenzo Nibali is just six seconds behind the brother of the overall leader came about just because the CSC was doing his job.
âItâs like a dream. Who would think that two brothers could have a prize jersey each at the same time at the Tour de France? Iâm really happy right now. There wasnât actually a thought about this white jersey before the stage but in the end I saw that Vincenzo Nibali was no longer there but I didnât know how far behind he was. I just did my race, focused on what I had to do and this is the reward.
âWe didnât feel so good today. It wasnât the right stage to really attack. Cadel knows that his opportunity will come to take time out of us but today wasnât the right time to attack. Tomorrow is the hardest stage and weâll try and make the race as difficult as possible for the others.â
On a day with two enormous mountain passes, there was an opportunity for the yellow jersey to increase his advantage over some key rivals. Frank Schleck was happy to gain time on Denis Menchov but he knows more must be done before the time trial if heâs to keep his overall lead.
âWe did a good job today. At the top of the last climb there were just a few riders left and everybody was struggling. When I say everybody, I mean all of us! It was very fast and we had a really quick downhill. I was scared a bit on the descent but I managed and was pretty confident about how it would end. Of course, I thought back about the crash of [Oscar] Pereiro and about the crash that I had in the Tour de Suisse but it was good to be able to stay upright and up there at the finish.
âI have to say thanks to Bernard Hinault talked to me and he gave me a few little tips for the downhill and they worked out pretty well. I had a lot of confidence and have every reason to be satisfied.
âI absolutely have to attack tomorrow and try and break the others. We tried it today but I have to give a big compliment to Carlos [Sastre] who made a really good decision at the beginning. He said, âOkay, weâll let everybody go and weâll just have to stay with the team together.â We rode a good tempo and it worked really well. Tomorrow, weâll have to go!
âCarlos did try to get clear at the top but there was a really strong headwind.
âToday is as nice as the stage before for me. Not just because I kept the jersey but as Andy now has the white jersey. We didnât expect that. We didnât ride for it but heâs got such class. He is the future and heâs going to win the Tour one day.â
Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck finished 11th and 12th in the stage. The yellow jersey will stay with the CSC rider from Luxembourg after 16 stages.
The top 10 in the 16th stage is:
1. Cyril Dessel (FRA) ALM - 157km in 4h31’27" (34.702km/h)
2. Sandy Casar (FRA) FDJ at same time
3. David Arroyo (ESP) GCE at same time
4. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) SIL at 3"
5. George Hincapie (USA) THR at 24"
6. Nicolas Portal (FRA) GCE at 24"
7. Tadej Valjavec (SLO) ALM at 24"
8. Stefan Schumacher (GER) GST at 1’03"
9. Andy Schleck (LUX) at 1’28"
10. Bernhard Kohl (AUT) GST at 1’28"
The yellow jersey has arrived in Jausier safely, about 1’28" behind the stage winner Cyril Dessel of the AG2R La Mondial team.
Menchov lost 30" to the yellow jersey.
He’s worn the yellow jersey before but now Dessel also has a stage win to his name! He has beaten Casar for to claim the 16th stage!
Arroyo has attacked and now Dessel comes to the front.