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July 21, 2009

Stage 16 on the road

Attacks went straight off the gun, and Astana was happy to let most of them go. King of the Mountains apirants Franco Pellizotti and Egoi Martinez, Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara, José Ivan Gutierrez, Vladimir Karpets, and about a dozen others all went clear.

On the climb to the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, the breakaway group was 16 strong until Franco Pellizotti attacked. He was matched by Vladimir Karpets, and briefly by Egoi Martinez, who didn't look ready to concede the polka-dot jersey to Pellizotti. At least, at first. With a few k to the summit, Martinez was dropped, and rejoined the big chase group.

Nearing the day's first summit, the highest point of the Tour, a number of riders tried to get another chase group established, but it never really achieved critical mass, and was absorbed on the day's first descent, as were a number of the early breakaway riders (including Martinez). A few of these escapees would join the leaders as the day progressed, including Euskaltel-Euskadi's Mikel Astarloza

Two surprises at the back of the pack early in the day were Columbia-HTC's Tony Martin and current white jersey Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank.

HC Col du Grand-St-Bernard
1) Pellizotti, Liquigas, +20 pts
2) Karpets, Katusha, +18 pts
3) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, +16 pts
4) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +14 pts
5) Igor Anton, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +12 pts
6) Jens Voigt, Saxo Bank, +10 pts
7) Miguel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +8 pts
8) Peter Velits, Team Milram, +7 pts
9) Laurens Ten Dam, Rabobank, +6 pts
10) Stephane Goubert, AG2R-La Mondiale, +5 pts

Fedrigo has declared his intention to ride for the KoM jersey.

The leaders gained time on the descent, with Karpets riding to gain GC time. He started Stage 16 5:56 behind Contador and the break was out beyond 4:00 as the pair led the race across the valley floor.

At the day's first intermediate sprint, the leaders didn't even break rhythm, with Pellizotti leading Karpets across.

Sarre Intermediate Sprint:
1) Pellizotti, Liquigas, +6 pts
2) Karpets, Katusha, +4 pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +2 pts

After the feed zone, Karpets and Pellizotti eased their efforts, and drifted back into the chase group, which then included Pellizotti, Karpets, Voigt, Roche, Casar, Fedrigo, Ten Dam, Van Den Broeck, Astarloza, Anton, Velits, Vogondy, Trofimov, Goubert, Laurent Lefevre, Verdugo, and Jose Angel Gomez Marchante.

Pre-Saint-Didier Intermediate Sprint
1) Nicolas Roche, AG2R-La Mondiale, +6 pts
2) Nicolas Vogondy, Agritubel, +4 pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +2 pts

Back in the field, Andy Schleck moved to the head of the field after a puncture. Soon after the final climb began, the lead group began to splinter, with teammates Trofimov, Lefevre, and Fedrigo setting the pace and Silence-Lotto's Jurgen Van Den Broeck covering every attack.

When Pellizotti finally went for broke, only Van Den Broeck could match his initial acceleration, and Moinard and Gomez Marchante set out in pursuit.

Nicki and Chris-Anker Sørensen were meanwhile whittling the GC group down to only the strongest riders. When Chris-Anker Sørensen was done, Andy Schleck launched a tremendous acceleration, paced only by Contador, Wiggins, Klöden, Nibali, and Fränk Schleck.

With Armstrong, Evans, Kreuziger and Sastre together and falling away, the Schlecks pushed the pace.

With 4k to the summit, Pellizotti and Van Den Broeck still rode together, but Mikel Astarloza slowly crossed the gap, followed by Moinard.

Armstrong, riding alongside Christian Vande Velde, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, and Roman Kreuziger, then launched an explosive attack. First Kirchen, then Vande Velde, tried to grab his rear wheel, but neither could hold on. Soon, he would ride past Frank Schleck, now suffering and falling off the back of his brother's group.

Armstrong rejoined Contador's group at almost the same time that Schleck caught Jens Voigt, and Voigt took over on the front. The group swelled with a combination of early breakaway riders like Laurens Ten Dam, and riders catching up from behind as the pace moderated, including Sastre, Vande Velde and David Zabriskie, but not including Cadel Evans, who labored 2+ minutes back down the road.

At the summit, Pellizotti completed the sweep, taking maximum King of the Mountains points over both of the day's big climbs:

1st Cat Col du Petit-St-Bernard
1) Franco Pellizotti, Liquigas, +30 pts
2) Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Silence-Lotto, +26 pts
3) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +22 pts
4) Amaël Moinard, Cofidis, +18 pts
5) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, +16 pts
6) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +14 pts
7) Stephane Goubert, AG2R-La Mondiale, +12 pts
8) José Angel Gomez Marchante, Cervelo Test Team, +10 pts

On the descent toward the finish, Jens Voigt took a very hard fall, possibly because of an equipment failure, and went down very hard on his right side. He was taken directly to the hospital, and an update is expected this afternoon, US time.

David Zabriskie went to the front and led the field through almost the entire 30k descent, nibbling steadily away at the leaders. A chase group, including Nicolas Roche, Stephane Goubert, Sandy Casar, and Pierrick Fedrigo, was also gaining on the stage leaders.

Moinard was the first to try to escape the lead group with less than 4k to go, with the chasing foursome driving just behind. As Moinard was caught (by Van Den Broeck), Euskaltel-Euskadi's Mikel Astarloza, a pro who has never won a one-day race or a stage in his entire career, made his move. With less than 2k to ride, and the groups coming together, Astarloza's move was perfectly timed, and he would TT to the finish, coming around the final bend with the chasing riders clearly visible behind.

Sandy Casar would take the sprint from the bunch for his 6th career 2nd-place in Tour stages. The yellow jersey group, now including everyone who mattered but Evans, would finish at :59, with Contador sprinting to the line just behind Christophe Moreau.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2009 | Permalink


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