- The race 2011
- All about the race
It was a transitional stage of sorts and an escape was expected to succeed. That’s just what happened but it took 100 kilometers before the peloton allowed the breakaway any room to move. They would reach a maximum gain of six minutes and it was this margin that allowed three men to race ahead of seven other escape companions and contest the sprint for the win in stage 16. Thor Hushovd proved that he is a force that isn’t fading with age – or success... and he claimed his 10th Tour stage win in Gap just ahead of his compatiot Edvald Boasson Hagen and team-mate Ryder Hesjedal. This was one story of the day, the other involved The GC Guys.
Alberto Contador attacked the final climb and began to taunt his overall rivals who initially matched his acceleration but then they came again and again... the third time it was enough to shake Voeckler from his group as well as Andy and Frank Schleck. But the Australian who was in third overall moved up to second by the end of the day with Cadel Evans not only matching Contador but speeding ahead of him on the wet descent to Gap.
The Progress Report
It was fine at the start of the 16th stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap. There was 162.5km of racing with the intermediate sprint at Veynes (117.5km) and the only categorized limb of the day coming 11.5km from the finish, the col de Manse (category-two). There were 170 riders at the sign on. Despite storm in the morning, the race started in fine, warm conditions with a temperature of 24 degrees Celsius at the start of the stage which was at 1.13pm.
Everyone Wants To Lead...!
The first hour was raced at 51.4km/h with numerous riders trying to be part of the escape group on a day of undulating terrain. In the opening hour some of the aggressors were Devenyns (QST), Chavanel (QST), Flecha (SKY) and Millar (GRM). They all launched bids to break free but nothing could succeed until 73km into the stage. Westra (VCD) was the first rider to gain a significant advantage but he was caught at 75km. Then Hesjedal (GRM) was the driving force of an escape. The average speed for the second hour was 46.4km/h. Finally, at 100km the peloton allowed the escapees to gain an advantage. By then it was a selection of 10 – with the move instigated by the Canadian Garmin rider. The escape was comprised of: Perez Lezaun (EUS), Hushovd (GRM), Hesjedal (GRM), Grivko (AST), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Devenyns (QST), Roy (FDJ), Martin (THR), Ignatiev (KAT) and Marcato (VCD). It started to rain at the start of the third hour and the roads were very wet. At the same time the 10 joined forces in the lead three others were caught between the lead and the peloton: Dumoulin (COF), Mollema (RAB) and Jeandesboz (SAU) couldn’t bridge the gap to the leaders but they insisted with their move. By the intermediate sprint, the 10 led the three by 2’10” and the peloton by 6’00”. AG2R and Europcar riders led the peloton.
Ignatiev The Early Aggressor
The three counter-attackers were caught at the 125km mark. Meanwhile, up ahead, Ignatiev started to attack the escape group. He made his first surge 25km from the finish but Hushovd chased him down. At the base of the 9.5km long climb, he Russian attacked again and led under the 20km to go sign by 15” while the peloton was at 5’55”. Devenyns was the one to respond to the Katusha rider’s acceleration, while Grivko was the first to be dropped from the lead group on the only climb of the stage. BMC led the peloton from 25km to go until the final climb, with Leopard-Trek just behind Evans’ team-mates.
Two Norwegians & A Canadian
While a battle between overall title contenders was going on behind, the race for stage honors became a three-man race with Hesjedal aggressive on the climb and also the final descent. It was wet and treacherous but there was just one fall (involving Arnold Jeannesson, who quickly got back up after sliding on a sweeping left turn). The leading trio included two compatriots but, more importantly, two team-mates. And it was the helping hand that Ryder could give Thor that gave the world champion a winning advantage. Hushovd followed his two escape companions under the ‘Flamme Rouge’ and then timed his sprint to perfection to claim his 10th stage victory in the Tour de France and his second for the 2011 edition. This trio was 4’45” ahead of Evans and Contador at the top of the climb, the yellow jersey’s group was at 5’10” when it began the descent.
Contador An Uphill Attack; Evans Ahead Going Down...
With 7km to climb there was an attack from Alberto Contador. He opened up a decent lead but Cancellara paced an elite group across to the Spaniard and there were six in the lead of the peloton. Voeckler (EUC), Evans (BMC), Frank and Andy Schleck (LEO) were all able to respond. But then the defending champion attacked again several times. Only Evans and Sanchez (EUS) could respond. Voeckler lost time in the stage because he couldn’t follow every move although he did try. Meanwhile the Schleck brothers both suffered time losses to their main rivals in the race for GC honours. Fränk was 22nd in the stage, in the same time as the points classification combantants Gilbert (OLO) and Rojas (MOV) and Voeckler was also in this group, finishing 18th. Voeckler’s advantage is dwindling but he retains the yellow jersey with an advantage of 1’45” to Evans who finished an impressive 11th place after attacking Contador on the descent and gaining three seconds but, more importantly, a win in the psychological battle of the title favorites.
Voeckler will wear the yellow jersey in stage 17.
Two our of three riders in the break which went on to contest the sprint for the stage win at the finish in Gap means that Garmin-Cervélo has scored big time on two fronts: Thor Hushovd won a stage for the second time, with the help of Ryder Hesjedal who finished third, and as Tom Danielson remained in the group that contained many title favorites – to help defend his place in the top 10 overall – the team has won the stage as a collective as well. The different is also significant: 4’57” better than the next-best, Sky.
While the overall seemed destined to go to Leopard-Trek the Luxembourg-registered team is now second 7’01” behind the US-registered squad while Europcar is third at 8’14”. The gaps are growing...!
The race leader after 16 stages says he lost “a lot of time” to the favorites for the title but Thomas Voeckler is still in the yellow jersey and still one minute and 45 seconds clear of the rider in second...
“We didn’t expect the attacks from Alberto but in the Tour, especially when the last stages are being contested, you have to be very careful. That’s the sport – sometimes you expect things to happen and they don’t, sometimes you think that nothing is going to happen and there are many gaps between the various riders.
“Today, the beginning of the stage was very fast and that combined with the final, made it interesting. The legs weren’t so bad today but I lost a lot of time on three favorites so that means that I’ve possibly reached my limit. We’ll see what happens from here.
“It’s not a good day for me but that’s the way it is for me. I have no regrets. I tried to follow them when they attacked and I couldn’t. That’s all there is. It’s like that. I’ve got no regrets.”
It’s considered a ‘medium mountain’ stage so there weren’t maximum points for the green jersey but Cavendish’s rivals still earned a little extra on a day he surprised himself on the final climb.
“We wanted a big group to go in the escape and that actually helped us. I didn’t have to sprint for maximum points at the intermediate and, anyway, the break went and stayed away. If you have a look at the finish, I wasn’t too far down the order consider how close the final climb was to the end. We’ll keep on trying to keep the green jersey.
“I thought I was going to get back on to the main peloton going over the top that’s why I gave it everything in the last kilometer but I couldn’t quite get back on. Normally, with a longer descent, I would have gotten back on but I’m pleased with how things went today.”
On the two days this year that the peloton has refused to let an escape form easily, the world champion has put himself in the one move that finally managed to get some leeway. And each time he gets in the right escape, Thor Hushovd is able to win. Today he claimed his 10th stage victory in the Tour de France.
“At the start of the last climb, Ryder
Hesjedal was riding for me at the bottom just to keep a steady pace and I felt that
he was going very strongly so I told him to just go. He went alone and it was looking
good for him for a while and then, at some point, Edvald Boasson Hagen attacked
when I was on his wheel and, in the end, he chase Ryder down. I was sitting there
to control him and I feel a little sorry for Edvald... he did not have an easy
job in the end with two Garmin-Cervélo guys in the front.
“This year everything seems to be working one
hundred per cent for me at the Tour. I chose my good days, where I can win, and
today I really got the reward again so you could not believe how pleased and
happy I am.
“The first win [in Lourdes] was better than
this one because I was able to win alone but today is another nice one...
“It’s always difficult to get in the good
breakaway but I felt strong and then, when it came to the sprint, I think I did
a perfect sprint thanks to the good help I got from Hesjedal. I timed it well
today and I’m not a bad sprinter... but to beat Edvald Boasson Hagen in a
sprint like this is not easy.”
Norway earned first and second in the 16th stage. The top 10 in Gap is: 1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM - 162.5km in 3h31’38" 2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY at same time 3. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) GRM at 2" 4. Tony Martin (GER) THR at 38" 5. Mikhail Ignatiev (RUS) KAT at 52" 6. Alan Perez Lezaun (ESP) EUS at 1’25" 7. Jeremy Roy (FRA) FDJ at 1’25" 8. Marco Marcato (ITA) VCD at 1’55" 9. Dries Devenyns (BEL) QST at 1’55" 10. Andriy Grivko (UKR) AST at 1’58" 11. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 4’23" 12. Alberto Contador (ESP) SBS at 4’26" 13. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 4’26" 14. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) MOV at 4’44" 15. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) OLO at 4’44"
Voeckler has finished about 24" behind Evans. It means the Frenchman will keep the yellow jersey for another day. The biggest loser of the late attacks today is Andy Schleck who is yet to finish the stage.
Could it be that today is the moment when Cadel Evans will get another yellow jersey? He is 10" ahead of Contador and 1’06" ahead of Andy Schleck. The Australian is going to get 11th place in the stage. He is inside the final kilometer...
Contador danced ahead on the climb but he was matched by Evans. The Australian is now 7" ahead of the Spaniard as they reach the 5km to go sign.
It’s the Tour de Thor! The world champion has led the race for a week, won in Lourdes and now he’s won again... beating Boasson Hagen and Hesjedal.