July 07, 2011

Boasson Hagen powers to Stage 6 win

Edvald Boasson Hagen won Stage 6 of the Tour on Thursday, holding off yellow jersey Thor Hushovd and Stage 1 winner Philippe Gilbert in the closing meters to take his first Tour stage and the first for his Team Sky.

The day's finish profile discouraged Cavendish, Farrar, and their ilk, favoring the torquier sprinters. With 1k to ride, Garmin-Cervelo's David Millar led the way, with Gilbert, Evans, and Hushovd close behind, and HTC trying to set up a leadout on the right of the pack, with Matthew Goss in its sweet spot. Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov tried to escape, but was countered by Rabobank's Bauke Mollema. With a few hundred meters to ride, Boasson Hagen launched off the wheel of teammate Geraint Thomas, outkicking Hushovd and Gilbert, stacked up behind him. At the line, in fact, it was Matthew Goss, closing fast, who would take 2nd on the stage, with Hushovd third.

Radio Shack's Levi Leipheimer suffered the only significant change in overall placing by a GC hopeful, limping in 1:05 back after falling on wet pavement late in the stage.

The break of the day at least factored in the jersey competitions, with Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil taking 3 King of the Mountain points to take over the jersey through Saturday, at least. Also in the break were Leonardo Duque, Anthony Roux, Lieuwe Westra, and Adriano Malori. The break surrendered bit by bit, with Malori holding out to about the 15k mark, and earning the most aggressive award for the day.

HTC's Mark Cavendish came out to play at the intermediate sprint behind the breakaway, easily taking 6th ahead of José Rojas, who was looking to get back into the green jersey after a nullification of points in Stage 5.

The selection at the finish demonstrates why Philippe Gilbert may be entertaining thoughts of competing for the overall green jersey:

Green Jersey Competition (after 6 stages):
1) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 144 pts
2) Jose Rojas, Movistar, 143 pts
3) Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, 112 pts
4) Cadel Evans, BMC, 98 pts
5) Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad, 94 pts
6) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo, 76 pts
7) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-DCM, 73 pts
8) Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky, 51 pts
9) Sébastien Hinault, AG2R La Mondiale, 48 pts
10) André Greipel, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 48 pts

Cavendish complained after this year's course was unveiled that organizers included stages like today's to limit his opportunities for victory. That may be, but I would rather see a battle like today's than the HTC train catapulting Cavendish to a 5-bike-length victory, an all-too-common sight the last few Tours.

Tomorrow, look for the HTC train to catapult Cavendish to victory, as Stage 7 is the flattest of the Tour.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2011 in 2011 Stage 6, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2011

Stage 5: Cavendish opens his account

Nobody was counting Mark Cavendish out of this Tour, except in Cav's imagination. But the well-oiled HTC-Highroad machine has sputtered at a couple of key junctures so far, and Cavendish has been unable to seal the deal.

Wednesday, the wheels again came off HTC-Highroad's leadout, but Cavendish wouldn't be denied, streaking easily through the competition to take his first win of the 2011 Tour.

The longest breakaway of the day featured José Ivan Gutierrez, Anthony Delaplace, Tristan Valentin and Sébastien Turgot, who escaped just after the racing began and were caught with about 45 kilometers to race. It was a nervous day in the field, with crosswinds threatening echelons that never quite formed, and narrow roads that wouldn't qualify as driveways in some parts of the United States.

The result was dozens of crashes. Radio Shack's Janez Brajkovic suffered a concussion and broken collarbone and abandoned the Tour after he was caught up in a crash that also injured Rabobank leader Robert Gesink. Sky's Bradley Wiggins and Quick Step's French road champion Sylvain Chavanel also spent time in the horizontal plane.

Defending champion Alberto Contador was down in two separate incidents, while Saxo Bank teammate Nicki Sørensen found his bike wedged against a photo motorcycle trying to edge past on a very narrow road. Sørensen flipped to the ground then slid to a stop in the roadside.

At the day's intermediate sprint, green jersey José Rojas and Tom Boonen got caught up and swept almost from edge to edge, leading Cavendish to gesture at what he thought was a flagrant foul. The pair were stripped of points earned in that sprint after the stage, dropping Rojas out of the green jersey lead (now led by Philippe Gilbert).

Boonen would also hit the deck quite hard and spent the rest of the stage fighting just to try to get in under the time limit for the stage.

The early capture opened the door for a pair of French opportunists, FDJ's Jeremy Roy and Europcar's Thomas Voeckler, who escaped with 32k to ride and yo-yo'ed off the front until less than 3k to ride.

HTC-Highroad throttled up its train, but the cars got scrambled late as Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen tried to escape. Separated from usual leadout man Mark Renshaw, Cavendish found the wheel of Geraint Thomas, then Philippe Gilbert and shot through the leaders in the final 200 meters to take the stage.

The stage had little impact on the overall race lead, but tossed the green a bit, with Gilbert inheriting the leader's jersey only late in the afternoon when Rojas was docked for the squirrely intermediate sprint, and Cavendish moving up to 4th overall.

Green Jersey (after Stage 5)

1) Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 120 pts
2) Jose Rojas, Movistar, 112 pts
3) Cadel Evans, BMC 90 pts
4) Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad, 84 pts
5) Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, 82 pts
6) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo, 68 pts
7) André Greipel, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 48 pts
8) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-DCM, 47 pts
9) Borut Bozic, Vacansoleil-DCM, 47 pts
10) Geraint Thomas, Sky, 44 pts


Cyclingnews.com | Cavendish gets his win the hard way | photos

GrahamWatson.com | Tour de France Stage 5 Photo Gallery

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2011 in 2011 Stage 5, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Janez Brajkovic, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel, Tom Boonen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2011

Evans the master in Mur-de-Bretagne

For a number of years, you wouldn't have raised an argument saying Cadel Evans was Australian for ‘Levi Leipheimer.’ Like the Montanan, Evans could keep it close in the mountains and gain time in the time trials, but he seemed to lack panache, racing defensively with his head instead of his legs.

The last few years, Evans has become a rider with some brio, winning the world championships with a perfectly timed attack in 2009, and taking Fleche Wallone and a powerful stage win at the Giro in 2010. On Tuesday, he again showed power and grit, climbing to a stage win ahead of Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov, and picking up time on most of his rivals for the overall win in this year's Tour.

Jeremy Roy of FDJ spent another long day in a doomed break, today with Movistar's Imanol Erviti, Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Gorka Izagirre, and AG2R's Blel Kadri. The five escaped about 9 kilometers/5.5 miles into the stage, and were captured with about 4.5 kilometers/2.7 miles to the finish.

Omega Pharma's Philippe Gilbert, the winner of Stage 1, was the pre-stage favorite to double up on his 29th birthday, and Omega Pharma did a lot of work to pull back the break and set Gilbert up for the climb of the Mur-de-Bretagne, but with less than 4k to the finish, BMC took over, with George Hincapie playing locomotive, as he has for hundreds of miles through the French countryside in July in 16 Tours.

At 1.5 kilometers to the summit, Saxo Bank's Alberto Contador was the first to attack, followed by Gilbert and Evans. Thor Hushovd, holding the yellow jersey by a narrow second over Evans, battled onto the back of this high-octane group as rider after rider put on a burst to try to break clear for the win. Jurgen van den Broeck, Rigoberto Uran, and Gilbert all pressed attacks, but Contador and Evans matched them all, and Evans led in the final 100 meters as Contador quickly closed the gap.

At the line, there was no telling who had won. Contador gave a celebratory fist pump, but the photo finish cameras showed it was Evans at the line by a tire's width. Evans had taken the stage, but Hushovd finished 6th in the same time, so the big Norwegian holds the leader's jersey for another day.

While Evans's victory shows style and form, it also may signal that Evans thinks he'll have trouble in the high mountains, and needs to make time wherever he can from now until then. Contador, finishing alongside Evans, put at least a few seconds into everyone but Evans, and showed he's far from conceding, despite trailing by 1:42 after 4 stages.

In the green jersey competition, Tyler Farrar took the intermediate sprint for 6th, picking up 10 points ahead of José Rojas, Borut Bozic, and Mark Cavendish, but the pure speed riders were shut out of the finish, where Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd picked up 22 and 20 points, respectively, with high finishes. Here are the overall standings in the geen jersey competition so far. Cavendish seems bound to pop through for a stage win soon, but the Wenatchee Wonder looks fast enough to limit the damage from the Manx Missile this year.

Stage 4 Top 10:

1) Cadel Evans, BMC, in 4:11:39
2) Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank, same time
3) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, s.t.
4) Rigoberto Uran, Sky, s.t.
5) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma, s.t.
6) Thor Hushovd, Garmin, s.t.
7) Frank Schleck, Leopard, s.t.
8) Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
9) Jurgen van den Broeck, Omega Pharma, s.t.
10) Andreas Klöden, Radio Shack, s.t.

In the overall, there was a bit of a shakeup, as a number of riders lost a few seconds, including Andy Schleck, who was in a group of 28 riders eight seconds back.

GC, after Stage 4

1) Thor Hushovd, Garmin, 13:58:25
2) Cadel Evans, BMC, at :01
3) Frank Schleck, Leopard-Trek, at :04
4) David Millar, Garmin-Cervelo, at :08
5) Andreas Klöden, Radio Shack, at :10
6) Brad Wiggins, Sky, at :10
7) Geraint Thomas, Sky, at :12
8) Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Sky, at :12
9) Andy Schleck, Leopard-Trek, at :12
10) Jakob Fuglsang, Leopard-Trek, at :12


VeloNews | Cadel Evans wins stage 4 of the 2011 Tour de France, Hushovd retains overall lead | Video: Finish-line analysis: tenacity and surprise on stage 4

cyclingnews.com | Evans takes photo finish over Contador | photos

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2011 in 2011 Stage 4, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, David Millar, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Frank Schleck, Jurgen van den Broeck, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack