After a day when the Leopard-Trek team impressed, thanks to a long breakaway from five-time Criterium International winner Jens Voigt, Frank Schleck eventually flew to victory at the top of the Col de l’Ospedale. The Luxemburg rider captures the first yellow jersey of the event ahead of Kyrienka and Taaramae.
Like last year for the first edition of the event on Corsican soil, a bright sunshine welcomed the 122 riders at the start of the hill stage from Porto Vecchio to the Col de l’Ospedale. The first kilometres were fast and furious and despite quite a few attempts the pack remained bunched for the first 60 kilometres.
The first intermediate sprint at kilometre 25, at Pianottoli-Caldarello, was claimed by Jens Voigt (LEO), already eager to battle it out, ahead of Drujon (AUB) and Pineau (FDJ) while at the top of the first climb, the Côte de Roccapina (km36), Japan’s Doi (SKS) beat Herrada (MOV) and Dion (BSC) to the line.
Breakaway attempts continued occurring but the presence of riders like Vinokourov (AST) and Voigt (LEO) in the front groups forced the pack to carry on chasing. At the top of the second hill, the Côte d’Orasi (km 46.5), Ligthart (VCD) started collecting climber’s points, ahead of Geschke (SKS) and Kessiakoff (AST). Ten kilometres further down the road, the second bonus sprint, at Sartene was claimed by Jeannesson (FDJ) ahead of Bonnin (SKS) and Ligthart.
At last, at kilometre 60, a group of 6 men managed to take off, for good or almost. Pineau (FDJ), Champion (ALM), Lighart, Bonnin (SKS), Fouchard (COF) and Dion (BSC) saw their lead grow from 2’15 at km 72 to a maximum 6’ at km 80.
At the Col de Celaccia (km 82), Dion beat Ligthart and Bonnin while the pack remained 5’30 adrift. It was then Ligthart’s turn to conquer the most points at the Col de St Eustache (km 102,5), in front of Dion and Pineau.
In the climb up the Côte d’Aullene, Jens Voigt managed to take off from the pack at km 112. At the top, while Ligthart once again beat Dion and Pineau, the German rider, a five-time winner of the race was only 1’25 behind and the pack was at 2’10. Voigt eventually caught the leaders at km 125.
At kilometre 140, Voigt decided to take off, taking with him Dimitri Champion. The Leopard-Trek veteran continued his effort on his own as Champion was dropped behind. Voigt reached the summit of the Col de Bacinu (km 156.5) with a 1’40 lead over Champion, 2’30 over Ligthart, third, and 2’40 over the pack.
Moving closer back to Porto Vecchio, for the third and final intermediate sprint, the chasing riders were caught by the pack. Voigt made it clear to the sprint line with a 1’50 lead over a group of 18 men including the likes of Vinokourov (AST), Wiggins (SKY), Taaramae (COF) and Coppel (SAU).
In the first few kilometres of the ultimate climb of the day, Jens Voigt was finally caught by the bunch that had gathered together again. After a first attempt by Remy Di Gregorio (AST), Frank Schleck and Rein Taaramae managed the decisive move. With 5 kilometres to go, the front two could enjoy a 25” advantage over a group of favourites including Andy Schleck, Kloden, Peraud, Sanchez and title-holder Fedrigo (FDJ).
With under 3 kilometres to go, Schleck took off alone and eventually flew to victory at the Col de l’Ospedale. He reached the line with a 16” lead over Kyrienka (MOV), and 20” over Taaramae. The Luxemburg yellow jersey holder will count on that time advantage for tomorrow’s flat stage in the morning and 7.8km time-trial in the afternoon. The best climbers’ jersey goes to Pim Ligthart (VCS), while the white jersey for the best young rider is for Taaramae.