July 11, 2009
Stage 8: Sanchez loves Saint-Girons
Today's Stage 8 was one for the breakaway men, while two contenders launched testing attacks that ultimately came to nothing.
On the day's first big climb, right out of the gate, Cadel Evans set off, with Vladimir Efimkin, David Zabriskie, Egoi Martinez, and Christophe Kern in pursuit of Sandy Casar. The group would grow to include Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, and Thor Hushovd, who had seen Mark Cavendish off the back, and collected enough intermediate sprint points to take the green jersey for tomorrow.
The presence of Evans in the break put Astana on the defensive, and they slowly reeled it in. Cancellara exchanged words with Cadel Evans, and the broadcasters felt he was accusing Evans of not working, but I think Cancellara wanted Evans to go back to the field, and give the fairly strong escape a chance to make a break that could stick (Evans confirmed on his site: “Pro cyclists start carrying on like 3 y.o's in a temper tantrum when a G.C contender in their break is no longer to their advantage. Oh well, that's racing, and a little bit to do with why you don't often see serious GC threats in breaks - usually a waste of energy... Landis and Rasmussen have been the exceptions in the last few years.”) As Evans was recaptured, Luis Leon Sanchez and Mikhail Inatiev bridged to the escape, which was finally given some room to roam by the peloton.
Later, early on the climb of the Col d'Agnes, Andy and Frank Schleck turned up the heat, shedding riders faster than Rock Racing, Yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini was among those dropped, but none of the overall contenders, so the Schlecks came off the front and the peloton reformed.
As the climb progressed, the leading group shrank, until over the top, 4 riders rode alone at the front of the stage: Sanchez, Efimkin, Mikel Astarloza, and Sandy Casar. Efimkin refused to work in the break, since his teammate Nocentini could potentially lose his race lead if the break gained 4:10 on the field, so he looked to the freshest on the run-in.
With 5k, Astarloza was the first to attack. When Sanchez responded, Efimkin went hard up the left curb, and gained about 5 seconds on his former breakmates. Closing to the line, it looked like Efimkin might have the stamina to hold the trio off to the line, but well into the final kilometer, Sanchez finally got across.
As he did, Casar attacked hard, but Sanchez expected it, grabbed his wheel, checked the back door for Astarloza or Efimkin, and powered by for the stage win.
The field came in at 1:54, led in by Sanchez teammate Jose Rojas.
Stage 8 Top 10
1) Luis-Leon Sanchez, Caisse d'Epargne, 4:31:50
2) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, same time
3) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, same time
4) Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R-La Mondiale, at :03
5) Jose Rojas, Caisse d'Epargne, at 1:54
6) Christophe Riblon, AG2R-La Mondiale, same time
7) Peter Velits, Team Milram, s.t.
8) Sebastien Minard, Cofidis, s.t.
9) Jeremy Roy, Française des Jeux, s.t.
10) Thomas Voeckler, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 30:18:16
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :06
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :08
4) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :39
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :46
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :54
7) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 1:00
8) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:24
9) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:49
10) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:54
The King of the Mountains jersey also changes hands, moving over to Christophe Kern of Cofidis.
Astana falls out of the team classification lead, now trailing AG2R-La Mondiale by a scant 3 seconds.
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