July 19, 2006
Stage 16: The Battle of La Toussuire
With 27 kilometers to ride, Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen leads all riders, 4:40 ahead of Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer and Lampre's Tadej Valjavec, and 7:21 ahead of a very dangerous group that includes Floyd Landis and all his rivals.
Valjavec has gapped Leipheimer on the descent by a few seconds. Landis sits 4th wheel on the descent, while Matthias Kessler is having a hard time hanging on the back of the descending yellow jersey group.
Leipheimer has gone through the banner for 25 kilometers to ride. Maybe 3 minutes later, Rasmussen is through 20 kilometers to ride.
Kessler has lost sight of the leaders' group. Leipheimer catches Valjavec, and Rasmussen is back on the rise, as he starts up the 18-kilometer climb to the finish line atop La Toussuire.
Leipheimer won here during his Dauphiné Libéré win in June. I don't think he'll catch Rasmussen, though.
Moreau, Goubert, and Calzati are dropped with Sylvain Calzati as the yellow jersey group hits the climb. Merckx leads the group, with Landis sitting just behind. Boogerd sits next to Merckx.
Moreau has caught back on. Now Leipheimer attacks, dropping Valjavec. He's got 2:00 on the Landis group.
Kessler chased back on, but he's done; pulls to the side, and he's off the back. Schleck has come to the front, and sets pace as Merckx falls to the back. Fothen is also sitting on the back, with Cunego comfortably in the group. Merckx is gone, Patxi Vila is gone.
Rogers has gone to the front, with Boogerd, then Landis on his wheel. Cyril Dessel (!) is still in this group, while Christophe Moreau has struggled.
Leipheimer is 4:00 behind Rasmussen, as T-Mobile's Guerini falls off the leaders group.
There goes Menchov hard, with Rogers and Oscar Pereiro. Evans and Azevedo attack. Landis doesn't counter; he's marking Klöden.
Menchov, Rogers, Pereiro and Evans ride, just up the road from Klöden. Azevedo falls back into the Landis group, and once again T-Mobile is attacking their own rider. Boogerd is off the back; T-Mobile is going to destroy this break. Mazzoleni has towed Klöden and Landis back to Menchov, Rogers, Evans, and Pereiro.
Cunego sits at the back of the select group now.
That attack has put some time into Rasmussen; he's only 5:42 up the road now.
There goes Sastre; he's 2:17 back in the GC. Landis is cracked. He's off the back! There's 10 kilometers to ride; he's back with Azevedo, and he can't match Sastre's attack.
Landis is just dead. He's got to find somebody to work with. Zubeldia is off the back. Sastre is riding hard. Boogerd has passed Landis, who can't match him. They're running the team cars past Landis, who's suffering mightily at the back.
Sastre's already got 55 seconds on Landis; and 30 seconds on Kloden's group.
With about 7 kilometers to ride (4.5 miles) Leipheimer is 3:33 behind Rasmussen, with Sastre only 20 seconds behind Levi. Landis is only passing under the 10 kilometer banner. Marcus Fothen passes, along with Frank Schleck, and Landis can't get on their wheel.
Sastre catches Leipheimer. Leipheimer sits in, and there's a chance that this pair could catch Rasmussen. Not anymore: Sastre drops Leipheimer, while Rasmussen is starting to look like he's hurting with less than 5 kilometers to ride.
Rogers has dropped back to the rear of Klöden's group, where Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov, Oscar Pereiro, Cyril Dessel, and Michael Rogers are still sitting behind Eddy Mazzoleni.
Landis now looks like he's found another gear; he's turning the pedals again, but he's going to lose a lot of time today.
Menchov raises the pace, and Mazzoleni and Rogers are gone. The Pereiro/Klöden/Menchov group overtakes Leipheimer. Moreau and Caucchioli are gone, and Menchov is off the back. Dessel is gone, leaving only Klöden, Pereiro, and Evans at the front.
Rasmussen has 3 k to ride. Sastre is 2:36 behind. Pereiro has gone to the front, with Klöden sitting in, and Cadel Evans trying to hang on the back.
Moreau, Dessel, Caucchioli, Leipheimer and Menchov have formed a chase group. First Menchov, and now Leipheimer have been dropped. They'll ride alone to the finish.
At 5k to ride, Landis is 9:23 back of Rasmussen. Rasmussen passes under the flamme rouge, and his epic stage-long breakaway will pay off; he'll take the stage, and a commanding lead in the King of the Mountains competition. Sastre is within sight of Klöden, Pereiro and Evans, maybe 30 seconds up the road.
There's the finish line, and Rasmussen is almost in tears. He throws out his arms, and he's won the hardest day of the 2006 Tour.
Sastre is 2nd, at about 1:42. Pereiro is sprinting away from Evans and Klöden for 3rd through 5th. Pereiro moves back into the yellow jersey. Here comes Cyril Dessel at 2:37, alongside Christophe Moreau and Pietro Caucchioli. Leipheimer is 9th at about 3:23. Zubeldia leads Menchov around 3:47, with 2 others. Cunego comes in at 4:21; he's gained time on Fothen for the white jersey.
Merckx has gotten back up to Landis and is pacing him in.
Azevedo comes in at about 7:54. Here's Fothen with Schleck at about 8:36. Still awaiting Landis at the finish.
There's 10 minutes; he's through at about 10:03. It's a disaster for Landis, who will fall to about 8 minutes behind yellow jersey Pereiro.
Merckx has really put in a yeoman-like effort for Landis the last couple of days.
Posted by: Dave at Jul 19, 2006 10:49:08 AM
Landis hit the wall today..
Pereiro in yellow, again..
Posted by: Said at Jul 19, 2006 11:26:08 AM
What a total debacle for Landis. He'll need a miracle to finish top five now. Well, at least the questions about letting Perriero gain half an hour on him the other day can come to an end.
Posted by: Dave at Jul 19, 2006 11:43:29 AM
For Super-Oscar to not only be able to hang with the best but actually beat most of them in monster mountain stages like today's is simply amazing.
Too bad for Floyd - I was thinking to myself at the start of the Alpe d'Huez yesterday that (in contrast to Landis) that was precisely the kind of scenario where Armstrong used to blow the field apart and put big time gaps on all his serious GC rivals, but apparently Floyd's poker face was masking the fact that he was riding at his absolute limit yesterday and for much of today's stage. These 3 consecutive brutal days in the alps are all about recovery - sometimes all it takes to blow like Floyd did is to not sleep well. He must be absolutely gutted.
Posted by: ewmayer at Jul 19, 2006 1:11:41 PM