Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 16: The Break We've Been Waiting For

July 20, 2010
It was the stage result we were waiting for, where Lance Armstrong of Team RadioShack would finally break away ahead of the peloton.

But after two hors categorie climbs over the top of Tourmalet and the Aubisque, in the end it was one of Armstrong’s nine fellow escape artists, Pierrick Fredrigo who would take first in the sprint at the finish in the town of Pau. 

It was the sixth stage win for the French in this year's Tour, amounting to something of a winning streak for the countrymen since 1997.

The final 5 km towards the finish were touch and go for a while with Carlos Barredo ahead of the break group after attempting a solo break at 43 km to the finish, and no one behind him willing to attack. But he was caught about 1 km from the line, spit coming from his mouth, as the band of nine took over. 

Armstrong and teammate Chris Horner sprinted from behind the group towards the finish but they started too late, and were beaten to the line by Fedrigo of BBox, Andy Casar (FDJ), Ruben Plaza (GCE), and “the Little Prince,” Damiano Cunego (LAM). Horner was 5th and Armstrong came in 6th.
After the stage Fedrigo said he joined the winning break with the intent of protecting teammate Charteau’s Polka Dot jersey. “Then I remembered a lot of stage last year, the moments where I escaped with [Franco] Pellizotti on the Tourmalet and the Aspin. In the end, Armstrong told me that he would not cooperate with me because he knew I was the fastest in the group,” he said.

The seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong started the day ranked 31st overall and 40 minutes and 31 seconds behind the leader, Alberto Contador. By the end of the day he was 25th overall, and 33 minutes and 46 seconds behind the Yellow Jersey.

Speaking to the press after the stage Armstrong said he and Horner had been seeking the stage win: “I had this day dog-eared in the book, but it was harder than I expected." He pointed out that he wasn’t the oldest in the break, an honor that goes to Christophe Moreau who is 39.

“The course was not ideal today to launch an attack and make it to the final…When you have 8 guys in the lead, you have 25 percent chance of winning,” said RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel. “We tried everything we could.”

Thor Hushovd who found himself with the General Contenders peloton in the mountains, stuck with them to the end, and won the group sprint behind the leaders at the finish, gaining back the Green Jersey. He has a strong chance of keeping the coveted sprinter’s prize in Paris now.

The 199.5 km stage from Bagneres de Luchon to Pau was billed as one of the most difficult, with two intermediate sprints – in Bielle (164.5km) and Gan (185.5km), and four huge passes over the towering Pyrenees, the cat-1 col de Peyresourde (11km), the cat-1 col d’Apsin (42.5 km from the start), the ‘Hors Categorie’ col du Tourmalet (72 km), followed by another ‘HC’ climb, the col d’Aubisque (138 km).
Armstrong attacked early in the stage at 5 km, and 16 went with him, including teammate Chris Horner (RSH), Bradley Wiggins (SKY), Roman Kreuziger and Sylvester Szymd (LIQ), Ryder Hesjedal (GRM), Nicolas Roche (ALM), Matt Lloyd (OLO), Carlos Barredo (QST), Egoi Martinez (EUS), Gorka Verduga (EUS), Eros Capecchi (FOT), Christophe Moreau, Vasili Vinokourov (AST), Carlos Sastre (Cervelo), Anthony Charteau (BBox), and Rui Costa (Caisse D’Epargne). 

This thinned out to 11 at the top of the Peyresourde with Roche one of the riders unable to follow.  

Behind the lead group, Van den Broeck attacked Contador’s peloton (which was down to 30 riders) in the final kilometer of the Peyresourde and crested the climb 30 seconds behind the stage leaders. 

Then Cunego attacked the peloton in the final kilometer and successfully caught the escape group at the 45 km mark on the Col D'Aspin. 

In the lead group, Casar attacked on the descent and arrived at the base of the Tourmalet with a lead of 20 seconds on Vinokourov, Armstrong, Wiggins, Kreuziger, Hesjedal, Sastre, Charteau, Costa, Cunego and Capecchi.
Armstrong caught Casar at 51 km, and his acceleration dropped Sastre, Kreuziger, Wiggins, Vinokourov, Hesjedal, Capecchi and Costa who retreated to the peloton between the 2nd and 3rd climbs. 

Fedrigo, Cunego, Moreau and van de Walle who had been left behind the lead break group formed a counter-attack at the base of the third climb on the Col du Tourmalet. They were 15 seconds behind Armstrong at 53 km and the peloton was 1 minute and 10 seconds behind. It was clear Armstrong was trying to shake as many riders as possible to clear the way for a strong finish.

Armstrong was caught by Cunego and Fedrigo at 62 km from the start, and the peloton was 2 minutes and 50 seconds behind, led by riders from Omega Pharma. 

With 9 km to climb on the Tourmalet, Casar, Moreau and Van de Walle joined the lead group, then came Horner, Plaza and Barredo who caught the lead group at 65 km from the start. 

They had over six minutes ahead of the GC chase group who had more or less neutralized the race behind them, the contenders holding their strength for two days ahead in stage 17, over the other more challenging side of the Tourmalet.

The peloton arrived at the base of the col d’Aubisque 6 minutes and 25 seconds behind the 10 in the break, which included Armstrong, Horner, Casar, Konovalovas, Barredo, Van de Walle, Fedrigo, Moreau, Plaza and Cunego. 

On the climb of the col d'Aubisque, Armstrong tried to get rid of the other riders when he attacked, attacked again, and then again with only Barredo, Cunego, Fedrigo and Plaza able to follow.  

Barredo then counter-attacked on the final climb but he couldn’t shake his rivals and the eight arrived at the top of the Aubisque together. Between the Soulor (128.5km) and the Aubisque, Horner, Moreau and Van de Walle returned to the lead group. 

Armstrong rode out in front for a good part of the 199.5 km stage, taking 15% of the pulls according to leTour.fr. That would later hurt him when they reached the final sprint to the finish line.

You could see the exhausted and sweaty faces of the Astana team riders who pulled in front as they led Contador over the summit of the col d’Aubisque, and they were 9 minutes and 42 seconds behind the leaders .

In the front, the lead group came back to 10 riders, as Casar rejoined Armstrong, Fredrigo, Cunego, Horner, Barredo, Van de Walle, Fedrigo, Moreau, Plaza and Cunego. 

Then at 42 km to the finish, Carlos  Barredo attacked at the front in the Town of Eau Chaud, and developed a lead of 20 seconds which broadened to 42 seconds at 22.9 miles to the finish.

Behind Barredo the Armstrong break group did very little to chase, but the gap was slowly narrowing.

At 3.8 km to go, Barredo was still ahead, even as a small hiccup of a hill was coming up as they entered the town of Pau. Barredo took the hill with all his last remaining strength, hoping not to be caught by the riders behind him. 

But at 3 km to go, the gap had narrowed to 19 seconds.

Armstrong no. 21 was sitting in the back, Cunego was sitting in third place, and the gap was narrowing quickly, soon to 11 seconds, and at one km to the line, Barredo was caught. 

General Classification Standings End of Stage 16

1. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 78h 29' 10"
2. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 78h 29' 18" + 00' 08"
3. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 78h 31' 10" + 02' 00"
4. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 78h 31' 23" + 02' 13"
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 78h 32' 49" + 03' 39"
6. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 78h 34' 11" + 05' 01"
7. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 78h 34' 35" + 05' 25"
8. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin 77 KATUSHA TEAM 78h 34' 55" + 05' 45"
9. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 78h 36' 22" + 07' 12"
10. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 78h 37' 01" + 07' 51"
11. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 78h 37' 08" + 07' 58"
12. PLAZA MOLINA Ruben 168 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 78h 37' 12" + 08' 02"
13. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 78h 37' 29" + 08' 19"
14. HORNER Christopher 23 TEAM RADIOSHACK 78h 38' 02" + 08' 52"
15. SASTRE Carlos 91 CERVELO TEST TEAM 78h 38' 12" + 09' 02"
16. KLÖDEN Andréas 24 TEAM RADIOSHACK 78h 40' 24" + 11' 14"
17. LÖVKVIST Thomas 37 SKY PRO CYCLING 78h 41' 19" + 12' 09"
18. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 78h 41' 44" + 12' 34"
19. DE WEERT Kevin 133 QUICK STEP 78h 43' 17" + 14' 07"
20. GADRET John 85 AG2R LA MONDIALE 78h 43' 34" + 14' 24"

Stage Standings at the End of Stage 16

1. FEDRIGO Pierrick 154 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 5h 31' 43"
2. CASAR Sandy 62 FDJ 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
3. PLAZA MOLINA Ruben 168 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
4. CUNEGO Damiano 201 LAMPRE - FARNESE 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
5. HORNER Christopher 23 TEAM RADIOSHACK 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
6. ARMSTRONG Lance 21 TEAM RADIOSHACK 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
7. VAN DE WALLE Jurgen 138 QUICK STEP 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
8. MOREAU Christophe 166 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 5h 31' 43" + 00' 00"
9. BARREDO Carlos 132 QUICK STEP 5h 32' 11" + 00' 28"
10. HUSHOVD Thor 95 CERVELO TEST TEAM 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
11. ROJAS Jose Joaquin 169 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
12. CAPECCHI Eros 211 FOOTON-SERVETTO 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
13. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
14. CIOLEK Gerald 142 TEAM MILRAM 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
15. ELMIGER Martin 84 AG2R LA MONDIALE 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
16. KUCHYNSKI Aleksandr 45 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
17. VAUGRENARD Benoît 69 FDJ 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
18. MONFORT Maxime 116 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
19. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
20. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
21. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"
22. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 5h 38' 28" + 06' 45"


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