July 20, 2009

Contador takes Stage 15, race lead

Tour de France 2009 Stage Fifteen

Alberto Contador showed why he's the dominant stage racer of the moment on the climb to Verbier Sunday.

On the day's final climb, Saxo Bank and Garmin came to the front and Saxo Bank took charge. Jens Voigt did a withering 1.5 kilometers, forcing a major selection and putting the yellow jersey of Rinaldo Nocentini in jeopardy.

When Voigt was caught, Fränk Schleck came to the front, but soon after, the contenders reached Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, part of the day's breakaway, and Cancellara pulled so strongly that he briefly shattered the GC group, dispatching Nocentini. When he was done, he was really done, and there were only 5 men left standing: The Schleck brothers, Astana's Cane and Abel Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, and Bradley Wiggins. That's what I said, Bradley Wiggins.

After a couple of quick feints, Contador did his thing, almost instantly putting 10-15 seconds into the chasers. Andy Schleck set out in pursuit, while Armstrong tended Wiggins and Fränk Schleck. As Contador pushed his lead, some of the other GC hopefuls started to come back onto the Armstrong group, including Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Andreas Klöden, Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. Noticeably absent was Carlos Sastre, who was riding at his own pace well behind the leaders.

Vande Velde struggled at the rear of this elite group, and as he fell off, he was passed by none other than Carlos Sastre! Sastre, looking recovered now, bridged up to Armstrong's group.

By now, Contador had :45 on the Armstrong group, and Bradley Wiggins was the first to try to join Andy Schleck up the road. Frank Schleck bridged, matched by the rest of the Armstrong group, then attacked toward his brother. Contador was getting a little too much love from some of the fans, and swatted at them with about 2.5 kilometers to ride.

Wiggins was still feeling strong, and attacked out of the Armstrong group, with Nibali on his wheel. When they caught Frank Schleck, the three rode together, with Wiggins (Wiggins!) doing the majority of the work.

Sastre then attacked out of the Armstrong group, and Evans, who later said it was his worst day ever on the Tour de France, followed, leaving Klöden and Armstrong behind. Sastre would catch what protocol demands I call “the Wiggins group” in the final k, but nobody was going to pull back significant time on Contador on today's course.

He would cross the finish line in 5:03:58, enough to put him more than 90 seconds clear in the overall. As the stage winner, he also won a Saint Bernard.

Afterward, Lance Armstrong said Contador had shown he was the strongest rider in the race, and that Armstrong and Klöden would ride in support of Contador for the rest of the Tour.

Top 10:
1) Alberto Contador, Astana, 5:03:58
2) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at :43
3) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:03
4) Frank Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:06
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, same time
6) Carlos Sastre, Cervelo Test Team, s.t.
7) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at 1:26
8) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 1:29
9) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at 1:35
10) Kim Kirchen, Columbia-HTC, at 1:55

General Classification after Stage 15:
1) Alberto Contador, Astana, in 63:17:56
2) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at 1:37
3) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:46
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 2:17
5) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 2:26
6) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, at 2:30
7) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 2:51
8) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 3:07
9) Christophe Le Mevel, Française des Jeux, at 3:09
10) Fränk Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 3:25

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2009 in 2009 Stage 15, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Fabian Cancellara, Franco Pellizotti, Frank Schleck, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Rinaldo Nocentini, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2009

Haussler descends to Stage 13 victory

Tour de France 2009 Stage Thirteen

In the words of the immortal Tom T. Hall, I love winners when they cry.

Cervelo Test Team's Heinrich Haussler is 25, and an up-and-coming star. He took Stage 2 at Paris-Nice this year, and was surprised by Mark Cavendish in the last 100 meters, taking 2nd at Milan-San Remo. A lot of pundits had suggested that Cervelo should consider letting Thor Hushovd lead out Haussler, instead of the other way around, but tonight, Cervelo looks pretty smart indeed.

Haussler went in one of the day's first breaks, just 3k out of the blocks, with Christophe Moreau, Jens Voigt, Juan-Manuel Garate, Ruben Perez, Sylvain Chavanel, and Rigoberto Uran, but Garate was highly enough placed that the field wouldn't let him go, so Haussler, Perez, and Chavanel took off after about 60k ridden.

The peloton was happy to let these three go, and the lead kept growing out to around 7:30 with about 85 kilometers ridden. On the day's first climb, Egoi Martinez was able to just nip Franco Pellizotti for KoM points, but on the Platzerwasel Martinez was dropped and Liquigas' Pellizotti would come off the front as the field reached each summit to pick up a few KoM points. The three men up the road prevented Thor Hushovd from doing likewise in the intermediate sprints.

Meanwhile, Perez was dropped by the leaders, and once over the top of the Platzerwasel, Haussler dropped like a rock on the wet roads. He pushed his advantage in just about every mile, prompting our Tweet of the day from Cycle Sport, “It's a good move by Haussler. You could say, a ‘Heinrich manoeuvre.’ ”

Amets Txurruka and Brice Feillu attacked out of the field, gradually closing on the leaders, but Haussler was not going to be caught on this stage, about 30 kilometers from his home. Behind, Chavanel just ran out of gas, and was caught by Txurruka, then Feillu as the riders approached Colmar.

As Haussler came to the line for his first Tour stage win, he was in tears.

Haussler's teammate Thor Hushovd finally could take advantage of Mark Cavendish, riding in the autobus, on the field sprint, but was nicked at the line by Peter Velits of Team Milram. Still, the 15 points for 6th catapulted Hushovd back into the green jersey for tomorrow.

Top 10:
1) Heinrich Haussler, Cervelo Test Team, in 4:56:26
2) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 4:10
3) Brice Feillu, Agritubel, at 6:12
4) Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step, at 6:30
5) Peter Velits, Team Milram, at 6:46
6) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, same time
7) Vladimir Efmikin, AG2R, s.t.
8) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, s.t.
9) George Hincapie, Columbia-HTC, s.t.
10) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, s.t.

General Classification:
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 53:30:30
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :06
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :08
4) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :46
5) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :54
6) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 1:00
7) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:24
8) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:49
9) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:54
10) Luis Leon Sanchez, Caisse d'Epargne, at 2:16

Thanks to Fritz at Cyclelicious, who turned me on to PicApp, a new service to use editorial art on your weblog. That's the provider for the Haussler picture above; you can click on the Gallery button to go to a Stage 13 gallery from Getty Images and others.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2009 in 2009 Stage 13, Amets Txurruka, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Brice Feillu, Egoi Martinez, Franco Pellizotti, George Hincapie, Heinrich Haussler, Mark Cavendish, Sylvain Chavanel, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2009

Sorensen adds some sizzle in Stage 12 win

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Saxo Bank's Nicki Sørensen used his head and his legs to outfox 7 breakaway compatriots and take Stage 12 of the 2009 Tour de France.

The breakaway that mattered featured Sørensen, Sylvain Calzati of Agritubel, Milram's Marcus Fothen, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas, Laurent Lefevre of Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, and Remi Pauriol of Cofidis. Each rider took out one team for chase purposes, and it soon became apparent that Columbia-HTC, which has been chasing breaks to set up Mark Cavendish, had no interest today, so the pool of riders to drive the capture was pretty small, and never brought the gap inside of about 3:30.

With 22.5k to ride, Sørensen decided he didn't like his chances against his breakmates, attacked, and was joined by Calzati. The pair rotated smoothly and built a gap of almost 20 seconds, but the 5 behind slowly closed the split.

Nearly caught with around 5.5k to ride, Sørensen turned his guts absolutely inside out, dropping Calzati, and briefly throwing the chase into disarray. Within a kilometer by himself, he had built a 22-second lead, which he stretched to 34 seconds with 1k to ride. At that point, it was a done deal, and Sørensen saluted the crowd as he crossed the line with a victory for the often-unheralded “pack fodder” of the Tour.

Sørensen's primary role for Saxo Bank at the Tour was expected to be taking long pulls on the front of the peloton, hunting down breaks to protect Andy Schleck's race lead. Today, he took a turn as the hunted, and took home the stage win.

With no General Classification risks being taken, the green and polka-dot jerseys each took a turn in the limelight today, with Cavendish and Hushovd going head to head at the day's 1st intermediate sprint, won by Cavendish, and in the field sprint, led out by Cervelo, but still won by Cavendish. Cavendish had been reluctant to name the green jersey as a goal here, but if he's chasing intermediate points, there's no doubt.

Pellizotti and Martinez engaged in a few rounds of sprint the mini-mountains, with Pellizotti getting the upper hand, and moving within 18 points of Martinez in the competition. It's still very possible that someone else entirely takes the climber's jersey with a long Alpine escape, but it looks like Pellizotti and Martinez plan to cover those moves.

Levi Leipheimer was involved in a late crash that also claimed Michael Rogers and Cadel Evans, but all three continued. Leipheimer was banged and scraped up, and should be able to continue, but there could be lingering effects as the Tour heads to the Vosges tomorrow.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2009 in 2009 Stage 12, Cadel Evans, Egoi Martinez, Franco Pellizotti, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Nicki Sørensen, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack