The final climb of stage 12 had the potential to cause a change in leadership as it is the steepest of the 2010 Tour de France. At the end of a fast, hard day of racing, it did cause significant damage – with several pre-race favorites like Lance Armstrong never in the hunt for honors – but Andy Schleck never panicked and, despite an attack by his main adversary, he keeps the yellow jersey for another day at least.
The Croix Neuve climb was used as a launch pad for the first true attack from Alberto Contador in the 2010 Tour. He was prompted into action by an impressive surge in pace from Joaquim Rodriguez of the Katusha team and the Spanish pair raced past the remnants of an escape group – including former team-mates of the defending Tour champion Andreas Kloden and Alexandre Vinokourov – and into the lead. The pair raced to the line with Astana’s captain chasing time gains and the Katusha climbing guru looking for a stage win. Both achieved their objectives… Rodriguez claimed his first victory at the Tour and Contador gained 10 seconds in the race for the yellow jersey.
The Progress Report
The 12th stage of the 2010 Tour de France, from Bourg-de-Péage to Mende, started at 12.05pm with 177 riders at the sign on. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) was the non-starter. The 210.5km race included two intermediate sprints – in Mariac at 74.5km and Langogne 158.5km – and five climbs. The points for the polka-dot jersey were awarded at Saint-Barthelemy-le-Plain (cat-3 at 31km), col des Nonieres (cat-3 at 59km), Suc de Montivernoux (cat-2 at 96km), La Mouline (cat-3 at 133km) and the final test up the Croix Neuve – or ‘Montée Laurent Jalabert’ as it’s also known – two kilometers from the finish. The last climb carried double points.
A Few Escapes and A Crash
The peloton remained together until midway up the 10.5km long first ascent. It was here that the bunch split and Armstrong and Kloden (RSH) were caught in the second peloton that soon rejoined the first but not until Hejedal (GRM), Fedrigo (BTL) and Costa (GCE) had escaped. At 31km, this trio led by 22”, meanwhile, just before the top of the first climb, Pineau (QST) and Thomas (SKY) were caught up in a crash. They remounted and rejoined the peloton. Hesjedal waited for the peloton and was caught at 37km. RadioShack led the peloton’s pursuit of the other two who were reeled in at 39km. Cunego (LAM), Chavanel (QST) and Vaugrenard (FDJ) escaped next but they reached a maximum gain of 25” behind being caught at 50km. The average speed for the opening hour was 49.3km/h.
18 Riders Gain An Advantage…
On the second climb 18 riders worked up a lead of 22” by the top (59km) and they were able to breakaway from the peloton. The riders involved were: Vinokourov (AST), Kloden (RSH), Hesjedal (GRM), Casar (FDJ), Hushovd (CTT), Aerts (OLO), Sivtsov (THR), Santambrogio (BMC), Barredo (QST), Charteau (BTL), Kiryienka and Perget (GCE), Kern, Moinard and Pauriol (COF), Verdugo (EUS), Bole (LAM) and Valls Ferri (FOT). Hesjedal was the best of these on GC, starting the day in 12th place, 5’42” behind Schleck, while ‘Vino’ was 14th overall at 6’31” after 11 stages.
Hushovd was beaten to the line at the intermediate sprint by Bole but the Norwegian put himself on equal points with Petacchi in the green jersey competition with the four points he earned. The average speed for the second hour was 38.2km/h.
The Saxo Bank team led the peloton until after the fourth climb (when the deficit was 2’30”) and the Lampre team sent a rider to help the Danish squad with the pace setting.
Lead Group Splits
After Hushovd won the second intermediate sprint, Kloden went on the attack and prompted Kiryienka, Hesjedal and Vinokourov to follow. Hushovd and Kern waited for the peloton. With 40km to go, the four led 14 by 40” and the peloton by 2’50”. The maximum gain was 3’35” at the 169km mark but Liquigas, Cervelo and Saxo Bank all worked together at the front of the bunch and limited its losses…
Farrar (GRM) quit the Tour with 25km to go.
Rodriguez Beats Contador To Win His First Tour Stage
The 12 chasers were caught by the peloton in Mende (6km from the finish). Gadret was the first to attack the peloton, while up ahead Vinokourov surged ahead of his escape companions and led by 15” with 3km to go. At that moment, Rodriguez (KAT) attacked the yellow jersey’s peloton and only Contador could respond. This pair caught Vinokourov with 2km to go. Schleck didn’t panic, rather paced himself to the top of the climb, 15” behind. He sped to the finish in a group of five riders and crossed the line just 10 seconds after Rodriguez celebrated his first stage win in the Tour de France. The Katusha team earned it’s second stage win in two years by cunning riding from former Spanish champion. Rodriguez followed Contador once at the top of the climb and then darted into the lead with 150m to go and held off the defending Tour champion who is now closer to the yellow jersey that will be worn by Andy Schleck in stage 13.
Two Spaniards raced to the line at the top of the climb in Mende and both moved closer to the yellow jersey. The winner of the stage explains his take on the race…
“My relationship with Alberto is very good. We’ve known each other since we raced together for the ONCE team in 2003, and he also raced with my little brother. But at the end of today’s stage, there was no agreement possible. Especially since I was very confident because I know that my top speed is greater than his.
“I was very clear at the start of the Tour: I wanted to win a stage and get the best possible position in the general classification. I’m glad to see that today, the two objectives have come good at the same time. I find myself with a stage victory and a very good place on GC.
“Regarding the fight for the title between Contador and Schleck, I feel that the stages that are coming up are more favorable for Alberto. I also think Andy Schleck has already spent a lot of energy in the first part of the Tour. In my opinion, Alberto has biggest chance for the final victory.”
Thor Hushovd only ever allows Alessandro Petacchi one day in the green jersey at a time. The Italian led the points classification again in stage 12 but then Thor joined an escape to collected second and first at the two intermediate sprints…
“The biggest threat to the green jersey is Petacchi, because he’s the closest on points but of course Cavendish is really fast now – I would say the fastest of us all – but he’s still a few points behind. Still, I expect it to be a big battle until Paris.
“I felt good this morning when they started to go fast. Then, when they attacked for a while there on the climbs, I thought to move up and monitor the important attacks. I was strong enough to follow the right one – at the top of the second climb – and that put me in the escape group.
“I just tried to fight for every point. I’m happy with my 10 points, that’s more than what I dreamed of last night.”
It took over an hour for an escape group to go clear and when it did, the Astana representative was the ever-aggressive Alexandre Vinokourov. He led most of the way up the final climb but his team had to settle for second and third... and the ’Fighting Spirit’ award for stage 12.
“I remember this climb from the Tour in 2005 and also from when I won here in the GP Midi Libre early in my career. The last climb of the stage is only a little part of the way but I believe it was a good chance to get some time back on Andy.
“It is a little disappointing not to win the stage but again it was a good gain in the general classification. We certainly the team would have like to win the stage with either Alberto or myself but the circumstances didn’t allow that. There are still plenty of stages to come and I have complete confidence in Alberto.”
When a rider like Alberto Contador attacks on a steep climb like the one in Mende, it would normally be cause for serious concern for he who wears the yellow jersey. Andy Schleck is not an ordinary rider though, he kept his cool, mapped out a plan and stuck to it. Yesterday he may have said that he like the ‘Montée Laurent Jalabert’ but his appraisal had changed by the end of stage 12 even if he lost only 10 seconds to his main rival.
"This morning I counted on losing a couple of seconds to Alberto today because I really don’t like this climb. It’s on my black list. It’s really short and you cannot really find a rhythm so my plan was to just stay on his wheel but he never came past me. I tried to play it a little bit cool at the bottom but he just stayed behind me. Then he attacked at just the right moment and I was not able to follow.
“I just kept calm and I told myself, ‘Right, on the steep part I’ll hold my rhythm’… then at the top I wanted to speed up. And at the end he only gained 10 seconds, and that’s like what I took out of him at Morzine-Avoriaz.
“There’s no real lesson from today’s stage. I could not have done anything differently. The team did a really great job today. The race went really fast right from the start this morning and, after a while, there was a group out there with riders who were quite close in the classification but I said to the team, ‘Right, we ride and we keep them at a certain limit, but the riders who are out there are ones who I’ll gain time on in the Pyrenees… so even if I lost the yellow jersey, it’s okay’. If one of them took the lead, I would not really have cared because I am still only aiming to have the yellow jersey in Paris.”
The final climb provided some drama. The yellow jersey couldn’t respond to the acceleration by Contador but he’s limited his losses... The top 10 in stage 12 is: 1. Rodriguez (ESP) KAT - 210.5km in 4h58’26" (42.3km/h) 2. Contador (ESP) AST at same time 3. Vinokourov (KAZ) AST at 4" 4. Van den Broeck (BEL) OLO at 10" 5. Schleck (LUX) SAX at 10" 6. Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 10" 7. Kloden (GER) RSH at 10" 8. Menchov (RUS) RAB at 10" 9. Gesink (NED) RAB at 15" 10. Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ at 15"
Andy Schleck has finished fifth in the stage and conceded only 10 seconds to Contador. The Luxembourger will wear the yellow jersey again tomorrow.
Joaquim Rodriguez has won his first Tour de France stage. Followed Contador in the final kilometer and then attacked him in the final 150 meters to take a fine victory...
Contador and Rodriguez are going to contest the sprint for stage honors. They have less than 1km to go and have a lead of 11" on Schleck, Van Den Broeck Sanchez....
The team tactics have worked perfectly for Astana. Vinokourov has been caught and passed by Contador and Rodriguez who are now 15" ahead of the yellow jersey.