Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TDF 2009: Stage 16: Contador, I didn't need Lance today

Pic: ASO

After one of the most difficult stages of the Tour today that included two major climbs, Yellow Jersey holder Alberto Contador said “Armstrong did some great work today, but I didn’t need his help.”

Mikel Astarloza of Euskatel, pulled away from a group of four riders at about 3 km to the finish, and became the winner of the stage. “It has been a tradition with my family that we row, but I decided to become a cyclist, and I think it was a good decision,” said the Spaniard who was nineteenth overall when this stage started, and moved up to 11th place.

Sandy Casar of Francais de Jeux was second and Pierrick Fedrigo of B Box was third in the stage.

Pic: Astarloza coming to the finish (Benepe (c))

Jens Voigt of Saxobank abandoned the tour after a crash in the final descent, where he injured his head. Bjarne Riis, his team manager said of Voigt’s injury, “It’s not good, but it’s okay.”

In addition to the punishing heat that hovered around 90 degrees, this stage included some of the worst climbs in the tour, first the Col du Grand Saint Bernard at 2478 meters, followed by the second Col du Petit Saint Bernard at 2188 meters.

Cofidis, Liquigas and Caisse D'Epargne riders coming to finish (Benepe (c))

Several other riders finished right behind Astarloza and all of them were from an original chase group of about 17 riders that earlier in the stage had chased two breakaway leaders, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas and Vladmir Karpets of Katusha.

Speaking at a press conference directly after the stage, Alberto Contador who still holds first place in the overall classification because he came in 59 seconds after Astarloza, established that he only needs himself to win—a statement that might have burned Armstrong’s ears.

Though Armstrong could not follow Andy Schleck’s attack on the climb to the second Col du Petit Saint Bernard, and Contador did, it was quite clear from video footage that Armstrong and other Astana teammates provided team protection for the Yellow Jersey holder throughout the stage.

It was a tough race today, particularly for Pellizotti and Karpets who got ahead and stayed ahead until the second climb, where they were overcome by Van den Broeck, Astarloza and Moinard who had pulled away from the group of 17.

At the same time and about 4 minutes behind, Andy Schleck of Team Saxobank attacked the peleton about 7 km from the top of the second col, and the Astana team replied with a chase, but only Contador and Andreas Kloden could pull away, accompanied by Frank Schleck of Saxobank, Bradley Wiggins of Garmin Slipstream, and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas. On the descent, the Schleck brothers cooled their heels, and 19 riders in pursuit including Armstrong caught them.

Still, four riders were ahead, Astarloza, Van den Broeck, Moinard and Pellizotti, but they were soon joined by four others at 5 km to go, Sandy Casar, Nicolas Roche, Goubert and Pierrick Fedrigo—who had been left behind in the original group of 17.

At 3 km to go, Amael Moinard tried to pull away, but Mikel Astarloza counter-attacked, and finished the last 2 kilometers by himself.

Behind him were the five other riders who were six seconds behind, Sandy Casar, Pierrick Fedrigo, Nicolas Roche, Jurgen Van den Broeck, and Amael Moinard. Franco Pellizotti, and Stephane Goubert were 11 seconds behind, and a much larger group of 18 riders that included Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins, Christophe Moreau and the two Schleck brothers came in 59 seconds later.

All of the other jersey holders remain the same, with Thor Hushovd in Green, Andy Schleck in White, and Franco Pellizotti with the Polka Dot jersey.

Cadel Evans finished 46th in the stage, about 3 minutes and 55 seconds behind the Alberto Contador, though he was 14th yesterday, he is now 17th overall.

The crowd at Bourg Saint Maurice

People from all over the world came to see this stage because many of them have come for the preview to Le Ventoux, the last and perhaps most punishing stage before the ride into Paris.

Chris and Lance from Devon, England attached the flag of their region to the side of the barricade near the finish. They had hoped to see Mark Cavendish of Columbia HTC—a Manx man, come through and after most of the peleton had come through they were still waiting to seem him.

The mood was boisterous, with children screaming wildly as the Caravane de Publicite came through, and threw giveaways. A German couple nearby became very good at catching everything that came their way.

Others weren’t so lucky to catch the coveted red polka dot caps being thrown by supermarket chain Carrefours, or the red and white gingham children’s caps being tossed out by a sausage snack company.

Another group of men dressed in dark tee-shirts threw water at children across the barricades, eliciting screams of delight.

It was one of those days when no one seemed to mind broiling in the hot sun.

Stage Standings
1. ASTARLOZA Mikel 61 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 4h 14' 20"
2. CASAR Sandy 101 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 4h 14' 26" + 00' 06"
3. FEDRIGO Pierrick 144 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 14' 26" + 00' 06"
4. ROCHE Nicolas 89 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 14' 26" + 00' 06"
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 17 SILENCE - LOTTO 4h 14' 26" + 00' 06"
6. MOINARD Amaël 128 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 4h 14' 26" + 00' 06"
7. PELLIZOTTI Franco 91 LIQUIGAS 4h 14' 31" + 00' 11"
8. GOUBERT Stephane 85 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 14' 31" + 00' 11"
9. MOREAU Christophe 171 AGRITUBEL 4h 15' 19" + 00' 59"
10. CONTADOR Alberto 21 ASTANA 4h 15' 19" + 00' 59"
11. NIBALI Vincenzo 95 LIQUIGAS 4h 15' 19" + 00' 59"
12. ARMSTRONG Lance 22 ASTANA 4h 15' 19" + 00' 59"
13. WIGGINS Bradley 58 GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 4h 15' 19" + 00' 59"
14. KLÖDEN Andréas 23 ASTANA 4h 15' 19" + 00' 59"

General classification standings after 16th Stage:
1. CONTADOR Alberto 21 ASTANA 67h 33' 15"
2. ARMSTRONG Lance 22 ASTANA 67h 34' 52" + 01' 37"
3. WIGGINS Bradley 58 GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 67h 35' 01" + 01' 46"
4. KLÖDEN Andréas 23 ASTANA 67h 35' 32" + 02' 17"
5. SCHLECK Andy 31 TEAM SAXO BANK 67h 35' 41" + 02' 26"
6. NIBALI Vincenzo 95 LIQUIGAS 67h 36' 06" + 02' 51"
7. LE MEVEL Christophe 106 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 67h 36' 24" + 03' 09"
8. SCHLECK Frank 36 TEAM SAXO BANK 67h 36' 40" + 03' 25"
9. SASTRE Carlos 1 CERVELO TEST TEAM 67h 37' 07" + 03' 52"
10. VANDE VELDE Christian 51 GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 67h 37' 14" + 03' 59"

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