- The race 2011
- All about the race
It was flat and a sprint was expected. A slow start was animated by a spate of accidents that slowed down some of the favorites for the Tour but that was then the speed was relatively tranquil. Then a tailwind started to blow and when the speed picked up at the 180km mark of the 218km stage from Le Mans to Châteauroux, Sky’s hopes for a good position in the general classification for Bradley Wiggins ended. The leader of the British squad crashed to the ground and was taken away from the race in an ambulance.
The accident that ruined Wiggins’ bid to improve on his fourth place overall from two years ago split the peloton and only 61 riders held position in the front group while everyone else fought to minimize their losses but it was a futile battle as they finished over three minutes behind HTC’s dominant sprinter who reaped another reward for the express delivery that his team conjured for him. This is the 17th time that the Manxman has won at the Tour since the stage to Chateauroux in 2008.
The Progress Report
The long, flat stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux began at 12.22pm with 193 riders at the sign on. The Belorussian Movistar rider, Vasil Kiryienka finished outside the time limit in stage six and didn’t start stage seven. The 218km journey from the Sarthe department to Chateauroux in the Indre department featured no climbs. The intermediate sprint was late in the stage, at the 192.5km mark. It was overcast but dry at the start with a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius.
In the first kilometer four riders broke free of the peloton and quickly built a solid advantage in a fast start to the seventh stage. The escapees were: Urtasun (EUS), Talabardon (SAU) and two from FDJ – Delage and Meersman. The best of this quartet on GC after six stages was Meersman who was 56th overall at the start of the day, 3’22” behind Hushovd on GC. The average speed for the opening hour was 37.9km/h. By 35km, the peloton was 7’00” behind the four escapees. Garmin was at the front of the peloton essentially since the start of the stage. The average speed for the second hour was 38.9km/h. Around the 75km mark the escapees had their maximum gain: 8’10” and then HTC joined forces with Garmin to set the pace of the peloton.
At the 90km mark, Tom Boonen (QST) stepped off his bike and got into the team car. The peloton was down to 192 riders. It rained a little at the midway mark of the stage but it wasn’t anything like the downpour of stage six. The sun began to shine again but little else changed in the race: there were four men at the front, the peloton hung back about 4’30”- 5’00” behind them for much of the stage and the pace was calm: 35.5km/h for the third hour and just 33.1km/h for the fourth hour.
Kreuziger (AST), Popovych and Zubeldia (RSH) and Gallopin (COF) were caught up in a crash at the 167km mark but all got back on bikes quickly and rejoined the peloton relatively quickly.
Wiggins Ends His Tour In An Ambulance…
At the 180km mark, just as the pace had increased to around 60km/h thanks to a tailwind, there was a crash near the middle of the peloton. Involved were a range of riders including the rider in sixth overall Bradley Wiggins (SKY). He was forced to abandon because of injuries sustained. Others caught in the crash were Horner (RSH), Pauriol (FDJ) who also had to abandon because of his injuries, Boasson Hagen (SKY), Farrar (GRM)… only about 60 men made the front group. With 20km to go, the escapees were 30” ahead of the yellow jersey’s peloton that was led by Leopard-Trek and BMC. There was 1’33” between the front peloton and the second one. The escape was over with 12km to go. Liquigas, HTC and Leopard-Trek led the peloton at that point.
With 10km to go the lead peloton had a lead of 1’40” over the second group. There were 61 in front group at the finish including the yellow jersey and most of the surviving GC favorites. The HTC team controlled the lead-out to the line as we’ve been accustomed to seeing: ie. Eisel first, then came Velits, then Martin, then Goss, then Renshaw and finally Cavendish who opened up his sprint with about 250 meters to go after a perfect delivery to the line. He was pushed all the way by Greipel on the far right of the road, Feillu in the centre and Petacchi who took second place in what is the Manxman’s 17th stage victory at the Tour de France.
Rojas finished ninth in the stage and is back in the green jersey with a lead of 167points to Gilbert’s 156pts. Cavendish now has 150 points but he’s yet to spend a day in the lead of the points classification in 2011. Robert Gesink (RAB) took over the lead of the youth classification as Thomas (SKY) was in the group that finished 3’06” behind the stage winner.
Thor Hushovd finished sixth and retains the yellow jersey for stage eight but there was a significant change to the top 10 of GC with Wiggins eliminated from the Tour because of his accident and Thomas, and Boasson Hagen slipping down the rankings.
It was meant to be a stage for the
sprinters and an uneventful one for other teams but Sky has lost everything
after the victory of Edvald Boasson Hagen. A crash took out the leader Bradley
Wiggins who was forced to abandon, and two others broke their bikes. Then there
were some who couldn’t break the habit of waiting for their team leaders… and
they tried to chase by it was too late as the battle for the stage win had been
launched and they couldn’t return to the front peloton.
Team Sky is 9’38” in stage seven and they’ve
lost the second place in the team’s general classification which is still controlled
by Garmin-Cervélo who are four seconds ahead of Leopard-Trek and 10 seconds up
The seventh stage saw a return of Omega
Pharma-Lotto with André Greipel third in Châteauroux, Philippe Gilbert 14th
and Jurgen van den Broeck also avoiding the carnage to finish 19th.
The Spaniard who leads the points classification wasn’t able to beat Cavendish in the sprints but he won’t concede his green jersey easily.
“Tomorrow I don’t think that Cavendish will
take a lot of points. And, in the stages ahead, I have more chances to find
myself in front of him. I know that, for now, he is the most dangerous rival
for the green jersey for me, but the road is still long. In any case, he still
showed that he is the fastest of all in the sprints.”
The world champion has enjoyed five days in the yellow jersey but he admits that it’s time for him to stand aside as race leader after the stage to Super-Besse…
“We did everything
we could to respect this [yellow] jersey. It’s a fight every day at the Tour de
France. Everybody is getting tired physically but also tired of this stressful
racing. Today, unfortunately for Sky they lost Wiggins.
“If I had to chose
who to hand my jersey to after my time in the lead, I would nominate my
team-mate David Millar. He has worked hard for me all week and he’s only eight
seconds behind. If he can take it from me, that would be nice… that would be
the dream scenario.
certainly a different week to what I’m used to at the Tour. Wearing the yellow
jersey for five days makes it feel like it’s ‘mission accomplished’. This, plus
the win in the team time trial made it a perfect week. All I need is a stage
“Today HTC did a
lot of work all day and we know they are among the best in the world to set up
a sprint. They also showed this again today but that’s not a surprise. What’s
more, Sky wasn’t there to compete against them.
“The first week of
the Tour is always nervous but this year the weather made it even more so,
especially the wind. Everyone wants to be at the front and that’s what causes
“Tomorrow we will
not defend the yellow jersey because I know that I cannot follow the best at
Super Besse. It’s time for others to take over and it’s now time for the
favorites for the overall to step up.”
The Rabobank team has a real shot at the title of the Tour de France in 2011. Robert Gesink is now ranked 10th overall but first in the youth classification. The Dutchman crashed a few days ago but he believes he’s getting better every day…
“Tomorrow is a really important day and I
get to wear this white jersey all because of the team. They made sure I was
there in the important kilometers today, the last 70 were so stressful and they
kept me out of the wind and in a good position so I’m really happy with that.
“It’s going to be a big day to Super-Besse.
There will be big differences and it’s going to be important to be there for
the final. I’m glad I was there today and able to get to the finish without any
troubles. I think I’m getting better every day after the crash and hopefully I’ll
be fine on time for the critical stages of this Tour.
“With the wind today everyone in the
peloton was very nervous and I haven’t been feeling too good because of my fall
a few days ago but it was thinks to the others from Rabobank that I could stay
out of the wind and avoid the crashes today.”
He doesn’t just know how to win, he can do it again and again… etc. Mark Cavendish now has 17 Tour stages to his credit and as thrilled as he was with his second victory in Châteauroux (after his maiden Tour success in 2008) he was also devastated to get the news about the crash of compatriot Brad Wiggins…
"The guys were incredible to hold the pace
that they did in the last 15 kilometers just with our team… that is super,
super special. And to pull it out and keep the pace so high at the finish meant
that I didn’t have to accelerate too much because we were already travelling so
fast to the line. It’s incredible victory and I can’t wait to celebrate with
the guys tonight.
“This is a special place. I’ve got special
memories from here. It’s where I won my first stage back in 2008 and the first
of 17 wins is important.
“My whole season goes into this race. It’s
all about building up to be on my best form with the best team and to win
consistently here. You can see how well the guys rode today – this was the HTC
train of the old days, completely drilled and working tirelessly all day and
holding onto the front until the end. I’ve got an incredible bunch of guys
working for me.
“It was hard because we had to go for the
intermediate sprint with just over 25km from the finish and it was a dangerous
sprint because there were a lot of guys bashing about there. Someone hit my
shoe [in Buzançais] and I had to tighten it up with about 500 meters to go…
and, after that, it was about trying to recover when we were in the cross winds
and my team looked after me. I was able to recuperate enough to be able to get
to the front and ride behind them to the finish.
“I’m gutted for Brad [Wiggins]. He was on
the form of his life! And, despite what some doubters might think, he was going
to do something big here. I’m really upset for him. I hope he gets better soon.”
The drama in the closing hour and a half eliminated some of the GC favorites for the 2011 Tour. The new top 10 after the crash of Wiggins et al is: 1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM 2. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 0’01" 3. Fränk Schleck (LUX) LEO at 0’04" 4. David Millar (GBR) GRM at 0’08" 5. Andreas Klöden (GER) RSH at 0’10" 6. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) LEO at 0’12" 7. Andy Schleck (LUX) LEO at 0’12" 8. Tony Martin (GER) THR at 0’13" 9. Peter Velits (SVK) THR at 0’13" 10. Robert Gesink (NED) RAB at 0’20"
Thor Hushovd finished in the front group and is assured of another day in the yellow jersey. The top 10 in the stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux is: 1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR - 218km in 5h38’53" 2. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) LAM 3. André Greipel (GER) OLO 4. Romain Feillu (FRA) VCD 5. William Bonnet (FRA) FDJ 6. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM 7. Sébastien Turgot (FRA) EUR 8. José Joaquin Rojas (ESP) MOV 9. Sebastien Hinault (FRA) ALM 10. Jérôme Pineau (FRA) QST
The HTC team absolutely dominated the lead-out and Cavendish worked wonders with the help he got from Goss ahead of Renshaw... The winner began his sprint at the same time as Feillu and Greipel and it was pushed all the way to the line by Petacchi. His 17th win in the Tour was impressive if not as emphatic as usual. Only a bike length or two was between Cavendish and the runner-up.
Greipel had a good run to the line. Feillu was trying his hardest up the center but no one could match the speed of Cavendish who has held off a late charge from Petacchi. This is the Manxman’s 17th stage win in the Tour de France!
The lead-out specialists are doing their thing. Right on the wheel of Cavendish are Gilbert, Feillu, three Katusha riders... Sieberg is now trying to put his rider into the right position. Hushovd is also mixed up in the front as the sprint begins.