- The race 2011
- All about the race
This was meant to be a day to shake up the top order of the general classification and allow the favorites for the Tour to demonstrate how well they’re climbing. The finish at Super-Besse is not on a mountain but a hill but the conditions were such that it was perfect for gains in the general classification. On wet roads the main animators of the action were Tejay Van Garderen (THR) and Rui Costa (MOV) who had been part of a nine-man escape group that began its attack at the sixth kilometer. They would ignite the attacks on the closing climbs while the yellow jersey’s peloton steadily thinned out as it made its way through the mist on the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert and onward to the finish at Super-Besse.
Costa responded to Van Garderen’s testing moves and then, with 4.5km to go on the second last climb, the Portuguese rider was in the lead of the stage. He stayed there through to the finish and won by 12 seconds from the one rider who was able to break the grip of the yellow jersey and his peloton if title favorites: the one and only Philippe Gilbert who is back in the green jersey.
The Progress Report
It was cool at the start of the eighth stage of the 2011 Tour de France with a temperature of 15 degrees at the sign on. One rider was absent from the start; Chris Horner (RSH) was forced to abandon because of injuries sustained in a crash in stage seven. There were 189 riders at the start of the stage from Aigurande to Super-Besse. The stage featured four categorized climbs including the first cat-2 ascent of the 98th Tour. The climbs were: at 65.5km (cat-4 at Evaux-les-Bains), 119.5km (cat-4 at Rocher des Trois Tourtes), 164km (cat-2 at col de la Croix St-Robert) and the finish (cat-2 at Super-Besse). The intermediate sprint was in Auzances at 83km.
Riblon Instigates Nine-Man Escape
After six kilometers of racing at a fast pace, Riblon (ALM) launched an attack and drew eight others with him: Costa (MOV), Zandio (SKY), Engels (QST), El Fares (COF), Zingle (COF), van Garderen (THR), Gautier (EUC) and Kolobnev (KAT). By the 25km they were 1’25” ahead of a BMC-led peloton. Costa was the highest ranked of the escape after seven stages and by the 45km mark, he was the virtual leader as the break had 4’30” on the peloton. The average speed for the first hour was a rapid 48.4km/h. El Fares took the first climbing point; the peloton was led by BMC for the opening stanza of the stage. At the It was 5’15” behind the escape. The leaders ambled to the line for the intermediate sprint and only Riblon was prepared to race ahead for points. He took 20 for first in Auzances. The peloton had been 6’10” behind (at 75km and this was the maximum gain of the escape) but Omega Pharma-Lotto set up a lead-out train and delivered Gilbert to the line to take 10th place. Cavendish started to sprint but sat up before the line and took 13th place. All nine BMC riders were at the front for much of the stage. At the second climb the peloton was at 4’55”. The average speed for the third hour was 37.9km/h.
BMC Control The Peloton
Cadel Evans’ BMC team spent 100 per cent of the second and third hours with riders at the front of the peloton. At the start of the fourth hour, Astana put two riders into the paceline at the front when the bunch was 4’40” behind the escapees. With 40km to go, Garmin-Cervélo joined Astana at the front of the bunch that was at 3’05”. On the descent before the third climb, three Omega Pharma riders set the tempo with Gilbert keeping a close eye on what others near the front were doing.
Col de la Croix Saint-Robert: ‘Vino’ Becomes Virtual Leader
At the base of the third climb, the peloton was 1’55” behind. Van Garderen launched at attack in the first 100m of the ascent and only Gautier and Costa could chase him down. In the first kilometer, Tiralongo (AST) attacked and was joined by Txurrka (EUS) and Rolland (EUC). Hoogerland (VCD) was next to speed ahead of the peloton after 2km on the climb, he was followed by Flecha (SKY). At the top, Van Garderen got maximum points he was just ahead of Costa. Vinokourov surged ahead of the peloton with 3km to climb. He joined forces with Tiralongo, Flecha and Zandio just after the summit.
With 20km to go, Vinokourov’s quaret was 1’25” behind Van Garderen, Riblon, Gautier and Costa. The peloton was at 1’55”.
With 15km to go Riblon attacked the lead group but couldn’t shake the three others. Van Garderen tried a similar move with a similar result and the four were all together again with 10km to climb.
Costa Holds On To Win The Stage…
Vinokourov go to within 20” of the stage leader (inside the final 2km) but he just couldn’t close the gap to the inspired Portuguese rider from the Movistar team. Rui Costa maintained his advantage all the way up the final climb and although the GC guys started to attack each other – with Contador trying a move on the last hill, followed by Cunego, and then Evans, it was only Gilbert who could break free of the peloton that swallowed up Vinokourov somewhere in the final 2km. The second place for the Belgian champion propelled him back into the lead of the points classification. Hushovd finished 16th and will keep the yellow jersey for another day at the Tour de France.
The Movistar team had two recruits who were destined to lead at the Tour de France in 2011 but then tragedy struck: Xavier Tondo died in an accident and soon afterwards Mauricio Soler crashed and sustained severe head injuries. In stage eight, their Portuguese opportunist took an unexpected victory…
"Winning a stage of the Tour de France is a dream for me. I can not believe it. Since the start of the race I’ve felt very fit. I am confident, but you never know what can be done exactly. A stage win is amazing.
“Throughout the day the break worked well and when I found myself with Van Garderen, the agreement was good too and I thought we would go together. But when the two French riders joined us, the collaboration didn’t work so well, then it became a bit risky. And, in the end, when I attacked 4.5km from the finish, I felt that was the right time, and I was the strongest. Then Vinokourov was right behind me, and I thought he would catch me. But I gave everything, and I managed to keep my lead. It’s great.
“We have gone through very difficult times in the team this year, so I’m happy to bring a little happiness with the win. I dedicate it to everyone who supported me, but especially to Xavier Tondo who died, and Mauricio Soler, who is currently in hospital."
By placing three riders in the first peloton of the third stage (Christian Vande Velde, Thor Hushovd and Tom Danielson), Garmin-Cervélo finished with the same time as the winner of the day, Leopard-Trek, which had an impressive, tight group with the Schleck brothers finishing ninth and 10th, and Jakob Fuglsang 18th – each of them were within 15 seconds of the winner, Rui Costa.
The US formation of the overall leader remains at the top of the overall classification four seconds ahead of his counterpart in Luxembourg. RadioShack, which was stripped of Chris Horner, lost ground and is now at 35 seconds behind Garmin-Cervélo. The third US team, HTC-Highroad, was still preparing for an ambush just 13 seconds behind in the morning, but it’s now 2’10” behind. As soon as the road climbs, the gap increases.
Although he was adamant that he’s surrender his lead in the general classification, the world champion is still in yellow after stage eight.
“I really didn’t believe that I could keep this yellow jersey. I knew that the final was very hard but I’ve got incredible form right now and also the motivation to keep the lead, so I’m very happy with the result today.
“I’m jealous about Philippe Gilbert having the green jersey. I wish I was him! But I think he’s probably also jealous about me holding the yellow jersey.
“We train together a lot around the hills near Monaco and it’s good. He’s a guy who likes to push the limits very hard and then I’ll follow him and that’s good training.
“Today was a really big surprise. I’m tired after this week. It takes a lot of energy out of you to always be up there and defending the jersey so I really did not believe I could manage this today.”
The winner of stage one was the runner-up a week later. Philippe Gilbert isn’t getting tired but he understands that he’s got to use his resources well and not get too tired before working the next objective of the team: trying to put Jurgen van den Broeck in the lead….
“At the start we decided not to work today because we did a lot this week already and the Tour is still long. Maybe we have to defend the yellow jersey one day with Jurgen van den Broeck or something like this so we need to keep something in reserve and so today we tried. We gambled and it worked out well for us; sometimes you have to play poker and that’s how it was for us today.
“I tried on the last climb. My first acceleration was with the 39 – the small gear – but when I wanted to put the chain in the big gear, I had a problem. I had to sit down on the saddle to go a little easier and then I eventually got the 53 and I could go harder but it was too late but I’m happy to get this nice jersey.”
On his first day in the white jersey, Robert Gesink’s strength faded. His advantage over second in the youth classification was almost halved but with the injuries he’s sustained from crashes, he knows that a difficult race is even harder.
“It was difficult after a few hard days already. As I’ve said before, I hope that I could stay in the front group today but it was really difficult. After the crash, it’s become a difficult Tour. Since then my body has been hurting a lot. I don’t know what to expect from the coming days. Right now I can’t really consider what’s going to happen… I can’t even comment on who is going well because I didn’t see who was in the front today – I was having my own problems.
“I’ve got to keep on trying. I’ve been in pain for a few days and it’s difficult for me to recover. The legs won’t do what I’d like them to do. The Tour is a very hard race and naturally I’m hoping that I’ll overcome my problems in the coming days and then we’ll have a look at where we’re at.”
At 22 he’s considered one of the bright young hopes for US cycling and today at Super-Besse Tejay Van Garderen demonstrated that he is one of the stronger riders in the bunch. He won the ‘Fighting Spirit’ award and inherited the polka-dot jersey but his strength made him a marked man…
“The break wasn’t quite working so well together in the kilometers leading up to the category-two climb so I figured that we were not going to be able to just riding around for the rest of the way and that I would have to go… so I went at the bottom and going up the climb and going down the descent we were able to hold the time gain and keep it pretty steady. Then the attacks started coming – one-two, one-two… and I just didn’t quite have the legs to go with the last one.
“This is a super nervous race. I was glad to be in the breakaway today. It’s hard to be out there in the wind all day but at least it’s safer than locker-boxing everyone in the bunch. It was fun to actually have a relaxed day and not have to worry about the crashes.
“It would have been nice to get the stage win but the group just wasn’t working so well together. So we split it up but then everyone saw that I was one of the stronger ones and that meant that every time there was an attack, I was the one others were looking at to close it down.”
He was virtually certain that he would lose the lead of the general classification today but Thor Hushovd never surrenders but always surprises. The top five after eight stage so the 2011 Tour de France is: 1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM 2. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 1" 3. Frank Schleck (LUX) LEO at 4" 4. Andreas Klöden (GER) RSH at 10" 5. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) LEO at 12"
Alberto Rui Costa has given his Movistar team its first win in the Tour de France. The top 10 in stage eight is: 1. Alberto Rui Costa (POR) MOV - 189km in 4h36’46" 2. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) OLO at 12" 3. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 15" 4. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 15" 5. Peter Velits (SVK) THR at 15" 6.Dries Devenyns (BEL) QST at 15" 7. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM at 15" 8. Alberto Contador (ESP) SBS at 15 9. Andy Schleck (LUX) LEO at 15" 10. Fränk Schleck (LUX) LEO at 15"
Vinokourov faded at the end and was caught by the yellow jersey’s peloton. The Australian BMC rider was third.
Despite all the attacking it seems that Thor Hushovd will keep the yellow jersey after stage eight.
Rui Costa has won the stage. It’s the first victory for Movistar in the Tour de France.