- The race 2011
- All about the race
Was there ever any doubt? If there’s a sprint, Mark Cavendish delivers a victory in the Tour de France more often than not. And on a day when there was just one little climb and a strong wind that blew the bunch from Limoux to Montpellier the HTC Express again delivered their captain to the line where he duly performed his winning dash to the line ahead of Tyler Farrar, Alessandro Petacchi and Daniel Oss. Other sprinters didn’t stand a chance and the winner in Carmaux wasn’t a factor today: André Greipel got squeezed out of contention after missing the wheel of his lead-out man, and Philippe Gilbert – while he tried to steal an advantage after capturing the escapees of the day only three kilometers from the line – couldn’t do better than 28th place, one ahead of Cadel Evans.
There was a threat of the wind causing some havoc but there wasn’t any of the chaos that we saw in some flat stages in the first week of the 98th Tour. The winner of the 193km stage increased his advantage in the race for the green jersey while Thomas Voeckler rolled over the line in 71st place to keep his yellow jersey.
The Progress Report
It was raining before the start of the 15th stage but dry by the time the race got underway at 12.59pm. There were 170 men at the sign on of the race from Limoux to Montpellier which featured on categorized climb, the cote de Villespassans (cat-4 at 82km) and an intermediate sprint in Montagnac (at 146.5km). The temperature at the start was just 15 degrees Celsius and the weather conditions were expected to have an influence on how the stage was contested as it was particularly windy in the Aude and Hérault departments with the wind blowing from a north-easterly direction (ie. side/cross for the race to Montpellier) at about 50km/h.
Once again, as soon as the flag fell to signal the start of the stage, an FDJ rider attacked. By 3km there were five in the lead by 1’05, they were: Delage (FDJ), Tepstra (QST), Ignatiev (KAT), Dumoulin (COF) and Delaplace (SAU). The peloton allowed them to build an advantage of 3’55” at 16km but then two HTC riders were put on the front and the quintet was kept within a reasonable distance: 3’10” at 40km, for example. The average speed for the opening hour was 45.1km/h. The peloton was pushed along by a favorable wind in the opening stanza of the stage. Eventually, after one hour and 50 minutes of racing, the advantage of the escapees grew to over four minutes (4’15” at 80km – this was the maximum gain of the break). Ignatiev jumped ahead to take the one point at the climb when the peloton was at 3’10”. At 85km nine from HTC moved to the front of the peloton. The average speed for the second hour was 41.9km/h.
Giving Five Escapees A Day At The Front
It was status quo for the time gains for most of the stage with HTC team essentially keeping the escapees within three minutes of the escapees. This dropped to 1’55” after three hours of racing. The average speed for the third hour was 43.5km/h. There was a photo finish required for the intermediate sprint with Delage just taking the 20 points ahead of Dumoulin. The usual suspects jumped ahead of the peloton the race for sixth place points in Montagnac and Cavendish beat Rojas and Gilbert 1’00” behind the escapees. The advantage grew to 1’40” with 40km to go.
Setting Up A Sprint...
With 30km to go, the HTC team retreated momentarily from it’s position at the front of the peloton and Saxo Bank-SunGard rode in the wind for a couple of kilometers. Then HTC rode back into the lead with Bak doing the most work, 1’15” behind the escapees. With 22.5km to go, Ignatiev launched an attack from the front group. Terpstra chased him down after a one-kilometer chase. With 20km to go they were 18” ahead of the other three and 55” ahead of the peloton. Delage, Dumoulin and Delaplace were caught 16km from the line when Ignatiev and Terpstra had an advantage of 40”. Ignatiev sat up and waited for the bunch with 6km to go when Tepstra’s advantage was just 10”. The Dutchman was caught 3km from the line and, immediately after his capture Gilbert (OLO) attacked. He had Roux (FDJ) and Marcato (VCD) with him briefly but they were caught by the bunch 2km from the line.
Cavendish Delivered Again...
In Lavaur, after his third win in the 2011 Tour, Mark Cavendish said there were just two more days that he could win a stage: Montpellier and Paris. His team spent most of the 15th at the front of the peloton and they duly delivered their sprint maestro to a winning position with Renshaw the last lead-out before the race for stage honors truly began. Cavendish pounced at the same time that Oss (LIQ) and Farrar (GRM) began sprinting but the Italian and American were always playing catch up after the work done by Renshaw. ‘Supermanx’ won his fourth stage in a tight sprint ahead of Farrar and Petacchi with Oss rounding out the top four in Montpellier.
Thomas Voeckler finished 71st, with the same time as the stage winner. The Frenchman will wear the yellow jersey in stage 16 after a day of rest in Drôme department.
In a race created for the sprinters, the 15th stage has logically concluded with a status quo in the overall team classification with all the riders finishing in the same time in Montpellier. The sum of the places once again falls in favor of the Garmin-Cervélo team with Tyler Farrar second to Mark Cavendish, then came Julian Dean (18th) and Thor Hushovd (22nd).
The modest French formations, Cofidis and Saur-Sojasun got no relief in this stage where a prize was still on offer – and Tony Gallopin (COF) took eighth while Jimmy Engoulvent (SAU) scored 11th.
In the general rankings for teams Leopard-Trek retains the lead ahead of two French squad that performed well in the mountains Europcar and AG2R La Mondiale.
When asked if he read the newspapers this morning and the commentary about how he could win the Tour, Thomas Voeckler responded with a smile: “I have a scoop for you, I’m not able to win the Tour de France.” He was reminded that he kept his lead in the Pyrenees but he laughed and said, “Yes but there are higher mountains yet to come...”
“It was a good day for us but I don’t think that the teams of the sprinters did their job to make us happy. It was in their interest and it was normal that they do a good job. For us it was a good day and, as it was a flat stage, and it was welcome because yesterday’s stage was very hard.
“Yesterday evening when I came back to the hotel the whole team really congratulated me but I said to them, ‘It’s because of you...’
“Everyone is happy and I feel that the guys are really proud to ride for this jersey so I have to do... try something. I’m not obliged to keep the jersey but I must give all I can to hold onto it.
“This is my ninth Tour de France. Since 2003, I’ve been doing this race and obviously I’m not able to win it. I’ll give all that I’m able to – as I’ve said since I took the jersey – but when I saw the guys who were just behind me in the overall classification, when I saw the different stages that are yet to come – I don’t know how I could keep on to the lead.”
A flat stage profile is all it takes to prompt the HTC-Highroad team to put the lead-out train on the rails. Wind blew the bunch around between Limoux and Montpellier but one thing remained steady – Mark Cavendish’s crew never waivered, they delivered their sprinter to the line and another win in the Tour de France.
“I didn’t feel that good today to be honest but I don’t think anybody else did either. It was a really nervous day, you saw everyone fighting for the front the whole day. I’m lucky that I’ve got a group of guys like I have to keep me out of trouble at the front and that kind of took the pressure off a bit but it’s still hard. It was up and down, there were crosswinds the whole day; it was a difficult stage but it was a sprint and the guys controlled it. They delivered me perfectly to the last 200 meters.
“It means a hell of a lot to me to see what the guys do. They work incredibly hard for me, they helped me get through the mountains and it wasn’t easy to be able to get here and do that [win... again] is all about respect.
“We were fighting with the GC teams at the end. We had a bit of an attack from Sky at the end but it was Matt Goss who took Mark Renshaw to 700 meters to go and then Mark Renshaw took me really long – it was uphill, 600 meters to 200... and I had to go then. I wanted to leave it later because there was a bit of a headwind but, ah, I had to go because I didn’t want anyone to get the jump on me. It was difficult but I was able to win so I’m really happy.
“I don’t know if I’ve secured the green jersey just yet. If you look at the results from two years ago, it seemed like I had it but Thor got it back and you can’t guarantee anything. We’ll keep trying and get as many points in the bank as possible and see what happens on the Champs-Elysées.
“When Gilbert was attacking the guys were in control. They kept calm when normally it’s easy to panic when that happens... but they brought him back slowly and that kept me in contention and I was able to sprint for the win. I’m really proud of the guys today.”
He’s the master of the sprint and he always says that he just has to finish off the job that his team starts well out from the line and today Cavendish has won again. This is his 19th stage victory in the Tour de France and the top 10 in Montpellier is: 1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR - 193km in 4h20’24" 2. Tyler Farrar (USA) GRM 3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) LAM 4. Daniel Oss (ITA) LIQ 5. José Joaquin Rojas (ESP) MOV 6. Ben Swift (GBR) SKY 7. Gerald Ciolek (GER) QST 8. Tony Gallopin (FRA) COF 9. Francisco Ventoso (ESP) MOV 10. Sebastien Hinault (FRA) ALM
There was a late challenge from Farrar and Oss but Cavendish has claimed another win, his 19th in the Tour de France.
Renshaw did as he always does in the sprint stages: deliver his man Mark Cavendish to the 300m to go mark. This is when Supermanx turns on the turbo and takes on the others. He has won his fourth stage this year.
There are two teams in control of the peloton as the sprint begins: Sky versus HTC...
With 1,800m to go, the escape by Gilbert is over. Hondo is now at the front of the peloton and the Sky team is moving forward, just to the right of the HTC train.