- The race 2011
- All about the race
This was a day when the GC guys were expected to shine. They did just that, with the rider who finished fourth in 2010, Samuel Sanchez speeding ahead of his rivals on the descent of the descent of the col du Tourmalet along with the Belgian revelation of 2011, Jelle Vanendert. This pair raced past all the early escapees and into the lead on the final ascent. They rode together all the way to the finish in Luz Ardiden when the Olympic champion was just too strong. He claimed his first stage win at the Tour but behind was a late charge by other overall contenders. Vanendert held on to second place just three seconds ahead of a surging Frank Schleck who benefitted from the one-two punch that his Leopard-Trek team could deliver to the others vying for the yellow jersey in Paris.
Cadel Evans was the best of the true GC riders in the overall standings after 11 stages and he was impressive again in the Pyrenees. He along with Ivan Basso, Andy Schleck and his brother Frank all taunted Alberto Contador with accelerations on the final climb. The defending Tour champion responded to each until Frank’s move with 4.5km to go. The surprise of the day, however, was Thomas Voeckler who – with the help of an impressive Pierre Rolland – only lost contact with the other GC riders in the final 1,800m. He finished ninth in the stage and still leads the Tour de France!
The Progress Report
The anticipated 12 stage, that took riders to the climbs of the Pyrenees, began at 11.19am. There were 176 riders at the sign on with the non-starter Romain Feillu (VCD). The 211km race from Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden featured three climbs – the cat-1 ascent of La Houquette d’Ancizan (at 141.5km), col du Tourmalet (‘hors categorie’ at 175.5km) and the final rise to the ‘hors categorie’ Luz Ardiden. The intermediate sprint was at Sarrancolin (119km).
Thomas Becomes The Virtual Leader...
At the 2km mark, six men jumped ahead of the peloton. The riders involved in the initial escape were: Perez Moreno (EUS), Gutierrez (MOV), Kadri (ALM), Thomas (SKY), Roy (FDJ) and Mangel (SAU). At 9km, they were 1’55” ahead. Europcar assumed position at the head of the peloton but they allowed the break to gain considerable time: 5’10” at 32km. Thomas was the best placed of the escape, starting the stage in 31st overall, 5’51” behind Voeckler. The average speed for the first hour was 41.9km/h. After 54km, Thomas became the virtual leader as the break was 6’20” ahead. At the end of the second hour (raced at an average of 41.5km/h), the escapees were 8’00” ahead. The maximum gain of the escape was 9’05” at 112km. Then Movistar and HTC riders went to the front of the bunch to set things up for the sprint. Mangel (SAU) led the escape over line in Sarrancolin and Cavendish claimed seventh place – as the first from the peloton at the site of the sprint – 8’20” behind Thomas’ group.
La Hourquette d’Ancizan
The peloton reached the first climb 5’50” behind the escapees. Gutierrez was dropped from the lead group early. Hoogerland positioned himself just behind the Europcar team that led at the foot of la Horquette d’Ancizan. Hoogerland (VCD) attacked the peloton after a kilometer of climbing; he was followed by Chavanel (QST), the next to attack the peloton was Kreuziger (AST). This trio joined forces with 7km to climb. With 4km to go, the five stage leaders were 4’20” ahead of Hoogerland’s trio and 4’50” in front of the peloton with the yellow jersey. At the top, Mangel too maximum points: 1’40” ahead of Gutierrez, 4’00” ahead of Chavanel and Kreuziger, 4’35” ahead of Hoogerland and 5’50” ahead of the peloton. Thomas went off the road twice early on the descent and lost contact with the lead group. On the first right turn of the descent (around the 142km mark) Voeckler, Velits and Kloden were caught in a crash. All remounted their bikes quickly but Kloden was the last to restart.
With 50km to go, Thomas and Gutierrez were back with the stage leaders. They were 2’35” ahead of Kreuziger and Chavanel and 5’50” ahead of Hoogerland. The peloton was at 7’40”.
Col du Tourmalet: Gesink & Martin Dropped...
While Leopard-Trek led on the descent of the Horquette d’Ancizan, Europcar was back in charge of the main pack at the foot of the col du Tourmalet but Schleck’s squad then took charge with Posthuma speeding along ahead of Cancellara. With 14km to climb, they were 6’50” behind the six stage leaders. With 11km to climb, Chavanel and Kreuziger were 1’50” behind the six stage leaders. In La Mongie (4.5km from the top) Thomas led, then came: Roy at 10”, Perez Moreno at 22”, Kadri at 52”, Kreuziger and Mangel at 1’10”... and the peloton with the yellow jersey at 3’20”. Voigt and Monfort led the peloton all the way to the top of the second climb. Some of the casualties of their pace were: Gesink and Martin. Andy Schleck changed a wheel with 2km to climb. Hernandez (SBS) launched a brief attack but that was the only real sign of aggression from the main pack.
At the top Roy danced ahead of Thomas (SKY) for the 20 points and Souvenir Jacques Goddet. Kadri was third (at 1’05”). Kreuziger was 2’12” behind. Ten Dam moved ahead of the peloton and took sixth at 2’50”. The peloton was over the top 3’12” behind Roy.
Setting Up For Final Climb
Sanchez attacked on the descent of the Tourmalet along with Vanendert. Before the final climb they caught . Perez Moreno waited for his group which also included Gilbert, Kreuziger, Trofimov and Ten Dam. The combination that escaped on the descent would eventually overtake all the early attackers and ride together until the final 300m when Sanchez raced into the lead to take his first Tour de France stage win 10 years after Euskaltel first claimed a stage in the race. Vanendert and Sanchez raced into the lead with 8km to go. Meanwhile, the battle for overall honors was on in earnest behind with the real fighter of the stage Voeckler who had expected to lose the yellow jersey but thanks to his spirit and the assistance of his team-mate Rolland he minimized his losses and finished just seven seconds behind the defending champion Alberto Contador.
There were several accelerations in the group of GC riders, first from Andy Schleck (with 4km to go) and Alberto quickly follow him. Then came a move from Cadel and Alberto followed him too. Then Frank went once... before being chased down but he surged again and opened a gap as there was little reaction to his second surge. This prompted him to speed ahead to gain time and try to reel in the earlier escapees. Only in the final 1,800m did the GC guys really start attacking each other and this is when Voeckler lost contact and Alberto ran out of puff and failed to follow the accelerations of Basso, Evans, Cunego and the younger Schleck who all finished ahead of him.
Sanchez’s win earned him 40 points in the climbing classification and he will wear the polka-dot jersey for stage 13.
Voeckler finished ninth, 50” behind the winner and will wear the yellow jersey in stage 13.
The Tour de France has a new leader of the youth classification: Arnold Jeannesson finished 12th in the stage, he’s 13th overall... and the FDJ rider has taken the white jersey off Robert Gesink in the Pyrenees.
"The white jersey is not something I believed I could take when the race started this morning, even though I knew it was actually possible. I saw that Gesink had been dropped, and then Taaramae also lost contact on the final climb. So my main rivals were behind me. In fact it the rider who held the longest in the group of favorites was, ah... well, apparently it’s me!
“I was selected at the last moment in the team, I was not meant to do the Tour de France but I got a last-minute call-up. Now I think Marc Madiot will not regret that he selected me. I’ll have to try to keep this jersey and, if possible, to move a little in the overall standings.”
Samuel Sanchez was fourth overall in the 2010 Tour and he’s a rider with the capacity to challenge for the yellow jersey but after 11 stages he was ranked 20th over five minutes behind the race leader and he believes this helped allow him to get some room to move...
"I knew it was an important day, and I had to try something because I was late to my position in the general classification meant that I was not a dangerous rival for some of the GC riders. I had my chance and I decided to go. On the descent after the Tourmalet, Gilbert helped widen the gap [to the peloton with the yellow jersey] along with one of his team-mates. As I had also a team-mate in front, Ruben Perez Moreno, I knew it was the right time to attack. I was also aware that Andy Schleck had lost a lot of team-mates and so did Alberto Contador, so they were not able to reel in our escape.
“Then we had to keep up and push on with our attack. I knew that if I kept a lead of around 30 seconds for the last kilometers, then I would be able to arrive at the finish and be able to win.
“It’s a day full of emotion, as I rode in the "orange wave" with the cheers of ‘our’ audience – it was very impressive! And here we are celebrating the [10th] anniversary of the victory of [Roberto] Laiseka, so it’s a very special victory.
“I can not believe it. Compared to my Olympic title this is totally different, because that victory [in Beijing in 2008] happened a long way from here. But we must enjoy all the good moments of happiness, because in this job we also have our difficult moments.
“The only goal of the day was to win this stage. Now I have the polka-dot jersey, but that is just a bonus. Otherwise, I hope to recover well first and share a good celebration of this victory with my team-mates. Then the race will put everyone in his respective place."
Europcar has kept the yellow jersey through Thomas Voeckler, the French squad has lost the leadership team rankings which now sees Leopard-Trek in command. Still, the host nation can still relish the strength of another team that has emerged with a consistent performance in the Pyrenees: AG2R-La Mondiale may habe lost its climber John Gadret who didn’t start the 11th stage but the team managed by Vincent Lavenu placed three men in the top 30: Hubert Dupont 15th, Nicolas Roche 17th and Jean-Christophe Peraud 26th. It means that the only French team in the WorldTour won the stage to Luz Ardiden.
Leopard-Trek is in the lead of the general classification with Europcar at 1’05” and AG2R-La Mondiale at 2’21” – while the outgoing champions, RadioShack has slipped down the rankings and is 4’08” behind the squad from Luxembourg.
The leader of the Europcar team, Thomas Voeckler, has built a reputation as a rider who never concedes. He expected to lose the yellow jersey on the first day in the Pyrenees but he promised to fight... he did just that, finishing ninth, only seven seconds behind Alberto Contador at Luz Ardiden.
“What a stage! It was very hard and today the Europcar team really made a great job and I was a little bit afraid when I crashed at the top of the first climb. I’m normally not so bad in the downhill but I was very scared this time. The road was very slippery and I decided to change my bike and that helped.
“On the final climb, I was still in the race along with the best climbers. I told myelf, ‘Keep going! Keep going!’ And Pierre Rolland gave me a great hand in the final – he really helped me. My legs felt good but it was the great job done by the Europcar team that really helped me today. In the 10 last kilometers I surprised myself. It’s been hard but I’m very pleased.
“Since 2004 there’s been a lot of love from the French people. Since I took the jersey again four days ago, there’s been even more.”
The former leader of the youth classification lost time in stage seven when he waited for his fallen leader Bradley Wiggins... but Geraint Thomas was on the attack again and proving what a bright future he has. He won the ‘Fighting Spirit’ award in stage 12.
“In the first crash, I just slipped. Both wheels slid and I ended up crashing. The second one happened because there was a bit of mud on the tires and I just lost the plot a bit. I skidded and just went straight on. I changed my bike and it was a bit better after that.
“As for keeping the break alive to the end... nah, it wasn’t realistic. We only had about two and a half minutes at the bottom of the final climb so I didn’t really fancy my chances to be honest but I’ll keep plugging away, keep on trying. I thought that being caught with seven kilometers to go wasn’t too bad but it seems as though I finished about half an hour behind. It was quite a long way to ride.
“Obviously, we miss Bradley. I think he would have gone really well today but we’ll keep on attacking and keep on trying. Rigoberto rode well today and hopefully we can help him get a decent GC position and the rest of us, in the meantime, can try and go for stage victories.
“There’s nothing we can do about Bradley now. Everyone is going really well; morale and confidence is good in the team. We’re all having a laugh and I’m still ahead of Edvald on GC and I remind him of that every night.”
After 12 stages of the 2011 Tour de France, the top 10 of general classification looks like this: 1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) EUC 2. Frank Schleck (LUX) LEO at 1’49" 3. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 2’06" 4. Andy Schleck (LUX) LEO at 2’17" 5. Ivan Basso (ITA) LIQ at 3’16" 6. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM at 3’22" 7. Alberto Contador (ESP) SBS at 4’00" 8. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 4’11" 9. Tom Danielson (USA) GRM 4’35" 10. Nicolas Roche (IRL) ALM 4’57"
It’s 10 years since Roberto Laiseka won Euskaltel’s first Tour de France stage and today the Basque team celebrates another success. The top 10 in stage 12 is: 1. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS - 211km in 6h01’15" 2. Jelle Vanendert (BEL) OLO at 7" 3. Frank Schleck (LUX) LEO at 10" 4. Ivan Basso (ITA) LIQ at 30" 5. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC 30" 6. Andy Schleck (LUX) LEO at 30" 7. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM at 35" 8. Alberto Contador (ESP) SBS at 43" 9. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) EUC at 50" 10. Pierre Rolland (FRA) EUC at 50"
Voeckler has finished 50" behind the stage winner. The Frenchman will keep the yellow jersey after stage 12.
Frank Schleck is third in the stage, and Andy and Cadel have put time into Alberto.
It’s going to be a victory for Samuel Sanchez. It’s his first win in the Tour de France.