Le Tour – Pyrenees


After the phoney war of the opening week and a half of the Tour de France, the real hostilities began with three huge climbs and the first mountaintop finish on Luz Ardiden:



The summary:
Beyond all expectation a Frenchman (Thomas Voeckler) keeps yellow on Bastille day. Dragged up by teammates. Jubilation.

Sammy Sanchez wins the first Pyrenees stage in front of Basque flags. Jubilation. The Basque based Euskaltel-Euskadi team was once described by Matt Lloyd as “bleeding carrots” in reference to their crash-ability.

(This is a weedy GC rider’s impression of the Incredible Hulk)

The analysis:

Jens set a fast pace up the Tourmalet

Finally on the last climb, the elite group of usual suspects turn out to play tag:
Fränk, Alberto, Cadel, Ivan, Andy.

Missing are Tony “Der Panzerwagen” Martin

and Levi “Let Levi Ride” Liepheimer:

both dropped big time – we won’t be seeing them again this year – out of contention.

In Cadel’s insightful words:
“On the first real mountain top finish, there’s always something you don’t expect and something you do expect,” Evans said, although he was reluctant to discuss the specifics of the overall picture. “There are some who do and don’t make it, some who do more or less, but I’ll have to see the results.”

He later blogged:
“From where I sat, it looked like very good Sanchez, and a good Fränk Schleck and Basso. So that will be interesting to see over the next few days for the General.”

Interesting who he doesn’t mention. From where I sit Andy Schleck looks like Cadel’s biggest threat. The Schleck brothers toyed with Contador, Andy says “look, over there…” and Fränk launches a withering attack on the other side.

Meanwhile, Andy spends most of his time studying the faces of the other riders:

He really, really likes to look into their eyes:

Of course this is the reason that Cadel is perfecting the deathstare. He’ll be ready for Andy’s look when it comes.

The supremely confident Andy Schleck:
“I would like to win the Tour but if my brother wins the Tour I’ll be as happy as if I had,” he said. “The question is not if we can win the tour, but how can we.”

Ivan Basso puts in a good ride:

Contador hasn’t lost much time, but he is left contemplating how several kilometres of vertical ascent each day is going to affect his sore knee.

The adjusted top 10 after stage 12:

1

Thomas Voeckler

51:54:44

2

Fränk Schleck

1:49

1

3

Cadel Evans

2:06

4

Andy Schleck

2:17

5

Ivan Basso

3:16

2

6

Damiano Cunego

3:22

7

Alberto Contador

4:00

8

Samuel Sanchez

4:11

9

Thomas Danielson

4:35

10

Nicolas Roche

4:57

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