Monday, July 19, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 15: A Breakaway and a Slipped Chain Claim the Day

July 19, 2010
Crowds cheered along the roadway into Bagnieres de Luchon as French Champion Thomas Voeckler won the stage handily more than 4 minutes ahead of the two Tour leaders.

But behind him a battle was taking place that started on the final climb to the finish when Andy Shleck lost his chain, allowing Alberto Contador to attack and take an advantage of 8 seconds, and capturing the Yellow Jersey.

"My stomach is full of anger and I want to take my revenge," said Schleck after the race, admitting that he would not have raced that way if the mishap had happened to Contador.

It was on the last and most difficult climb up Port de Bales about 25 km from the finish. Schleck quickly got his chain back on, but despite a magnificent chase, his mechanical difficulty allowed Contador to speed away to the finish and take the lead by gaining 39 seconds.

Paul  Sherwin commented on Versus that he thought Contador was not correct in taking advantage of Schleck's mechanical difficulty, but I would have to disagree. In a race when two contenders are so equally matched, every advantage should be exploited.  It also wasn't even clear if Contador had known that Schleck had had a mechanical failure.
But anyone who has seen how Contador operates never puts anything past him. Wait for a mechanical breakdown? No way. After all, he left his team leader Armstrong on the road to Verbier with nary a glance behind him, the first of his moves that would secure him the Yellow Jersey in 2009.

On the downhill, it was a strange party of three, as Schleck, Jurgen van den Broeck and Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov chased the leaders in front of them. 


Ahead was Contador, Denis Menchov, Samuel Sanchez, Luke Roberts and Francesco Reda. Contador's  lead to the Yellow Jersey grew to 30 seconds.  Ahead of them was Voeckler, taking his own risks as he came tightly around the corners, and almost crashed into a roadside barn on the curve. He had a lead of four minutes and 20 seconds over the second chase group.

Alessandro Bellan and Altor Perez were behind Voeckler and ahead of the Contador chase group, and came in second and third. 

This 187.5 km stage from Pamiers to Bagnieres de Luchon near the border of Spain featured two intermediate sprints – in Clermont (55km) and Fronsac (136km) – and four categorized climbs: the Carla-Bayle (cat-4 at 30km), col de Portet d’Aspet (cat-2 at 105km), the col des Ares (cat-2 at 126.5km) and the ‘Hors Category’ Port de Bales (166km).
It was the right profile for a breakaway if the riders could stay away through the last climb. The move started at 93 km from the start and included Vandborg (LIQ); Van Summeren (GRM); Ivanov (KAT) ; Mondory (ALM) ; Ballan (BMC) ; Reda (QST); Roberts (MRM); Voeckler (BTL); Turgot (BTL); and Perez Arrieta (EUS).

At the 100 km mark the peloton was five minutes and 40 seconds behind the escape that was within the final 2km of the Portet d’Aspet and was being led by 2008 World Champion Alessandro Ballan (BMC).

At the front of the peloton were the polka-dot jersey (Charteau), the Spanish national champion (Gutierrez), the three-time winner of the green jersey (McEwen), the second Australian to wear the yellow jersey (O’Grady) and the seven-time Tour champion (Armstrong).

Later the gap had widened for the lead group to nine minutes and 10 seconds, which included Vandborg (LIQ), Van Summeren (GRM), Ivanov (KAT), Mondory (ALM), Ballan (BMC), Reda (QST), Roberts (MRM), Voeckler and Turgot (BTL), and Perez Arrieta (FOT). At 50 km to go, the lead was 10 minutes ahead as the gap continued to widen.

Behind them, the Saxo Bank team led the charge up the mountain, with Andy Schleck tucked in behind them.
There were five men in the front group when Ivanov attacked with 10 km to climb. He was then caught by Voeckler, Vansummeren, Vandborg, Perez Arrietta and Ballan. They are were 50 seconds ahead of Roberts, Reda and Mondory.

Then Voeckler attacked the lead group with 8 km to go. He was 6 minutes 40 seconds ahead of the peloton which had just dropped Cunego. Voeckler established a lead ahead of Ballan by 10 seconds, Vansummeren by 15 seconds, Perez Arrieta by 20 seconds, Vandborg by 30 seconds, Ivanov by 45 seconds and the peloton by 6 minutes and 10 seconds..

Meanwhile at 5 km to go on the climb and still behind the lead group, Astana sat behind the lead riders in the peloton just waiting for their chance to attack.

At 15 miles to the finish, Schleck started off with Contador on his wheel, joined by Euskaltel rider Sanchez, Jurgen van den Broeck, and Denis Menchov. They were 4 minutes and 5 seconds behind the leaders.

Behind them were Vinokourov, Gesink, and Leipheimer. Ahead of both chase groups was Voeckler, who had a minute over Alessandro Ballan.

Then came the defining moments of the stage at 13.6 miles to the finish. Schleck took off, then dropped his chain. Contador responded and starting attacking from behind, passing him and pedaling off ahead of him. It was just the kind of break that Contador was looking for to get distance between himself and the Luxemburger.

Schleck got back his chain and took off behind the escaped Contador, powering past all the groups that had passed him, Armstrong, Rodrguez, Gesink, Hesjedal, but picking up Leipheimer and others as he raced to catch Contador. He had lost 40 seconds, and only 31 seconds were keeping the Yellow Jersey on this back.


As he approached the summit of Port de Bales, Contador looked behind him to see how much time he had put between himself and Schleck. Hot on the chase, Schleck pushed the pace to catch up.

Both riders were heading for one of the most dangerous descents of the Tour with speeds of about 100 km per hour and a twisting chicane part way down the 21 km distance. Schleck needed to take back about 40 seconds that has been put between him and the 2009 Tour winner.

On the downhill, it was a strange party of three, as Schleck, van den Broeck and Vinokourov flew down the mountain, with Vino in for the ride, but definitely not helping the Luxemburger get back to his Astana teammate.

Ahead was Contador, Menchov, Sanchez, Roberts and Reda whose lead grew to 30 seconds,and just one more second, Contador would be taking the Yellow Jersey at the end of the day. Still in the lead was Voelcker, taking his own risks as he came tightly around the corners, and almost crashing into a roadside barn on the curve. He had a lead of four minutes and 20 seconds over the second chase group.

At 10 km to go and one minute and 25 seconds behind him was Ballan with Altor Perez Arrieta.

As he headed in the last two kilometers, Voeckler was to become the 5th stage victory for the French and the first French Champion to win a stage.

At one km to go, the time difference was 38 seconds, with the seven seconds advantage going to Contador, and Contador taking the Yellow Jersey. By the finish, that deficit had grown to 8 seconds.

Ryder Hesjedal took advantage of the battle, and moved up to the top 10.  Charteau remained in the Polka Dot jersey, while Petacchi retained the Green.

Overall Standings at the end of Stage 15

1. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 72h 50' 42"
2. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 72h 50' 50" + 00' 08"
3. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 72h 52' 42" + 02' 00"
4. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 72h 52' 55" + 02' 13"
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 72h 54' 21" + 03' 39"
6. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 72h 55' 43" + 05' 01"
7. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 72h 56' 07" + 05' 25"
8. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin 77 KATUSHA TEAM 72h 56' 27" + 05' 45"
9. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 72h 57' 54" + 07' 12"
10. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 72h 58' 33" + 07' 51"
11. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 72h 58' 40" + 07' 58"
12. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 72h 59' 01" + 08' 19"
13. SASTRE Carlos 91 CERVELO TEST TEAM 72h 59' 44" + 09' 02"
14. BASSO Ivan 41 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 72h 59' 57" + 09' 15"
15. KLÖDEN Andréas 24 TEAM RADIOSHACK 73h 01' 56" + 11' 14"
16. LÖVKVIST Thomas 37 SKY PRO CYCLING 73h 02' 51" + 12' 09"
17. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 73h 03' 16" + 12' 34"
18. DE WEERT Kevin 133 QUICK STEP 73h 04' 49" + 14' 0


Stage Standings at the end of Stage 15:

1. VOECKLER Thomas 151 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 44' 51"
2. BALLAN Alessandro 122 BMC RACING TEAM 4h 46' 11" + 01' 20"
3. PEREZ ARRIETA Aitor 218 FOOTON-SERVETTO 4h 46' 11" + 01' 20"
4. MONDORY Lloyd 87 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
5. ROBERTS Luke 146 TEAM MILRAM 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
6. REDA Francesco 136 QUICK STEP 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
7. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
8. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
9. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
10. VANDBORG Brian 49 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
11. VAN SUMMEREN Johan 58 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 4h 47' 41" + 02' 50"
12. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 4h 48' 20" + 03' 29"
13. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 4h 48' 20" + 03' 29"
14. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 4h 48' 20" + 03' 29"
15. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 4h 48' 46" + 03' 55"
16. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 4h 48' 46" + 03' 55"
17. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 4h 48' 46" + 03' 55"
18. GADRET John 85 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 48' 46" + 03' 55"










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