Saturday, 23 July 2011
2011 Tour de France: great 19th stage and all set up for grande finale
Yesterday's race to and up the Alpe d'Huez is likely to be remembered as a legendary stage, especially as in Pierre Rolland it featured a French win for the first time this Tour and on top of the famous Alpe. The racing by the favourites started on the lower slopes of the Col du Télégraphe when Contador attacked. Cadel Evans was unlucky to have had a mechanical problem soon after and lost time when he had to change bikes. However, despite the best efforts of Alberto everything came back together at Bourg d'Oisans at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez. Contador attacked again got away and looked to be heading for the stage victory having passed Pierre Rolland, team mate of Thomas Voeckler, who had been allowed to attack just before the start of the climb. However, as Contador started to fade, Samuel Sánchez and Rolland caught Contador. Soon the Frenchman proved to be stronger than the two Spaniards and Pierre rode away for a famous first Tour stage victory.
Cadel Evans and the two Schlecks finished together with Andy taking the Yellow as Thomas Voeckler had been unable to follow the pace of the leaders up the Alpe. Even so he has done an amazing job defending Yellow since he won the jersey in Saint-Flour.
Mark Cavendish and most of the rest of the field just failed to make the cut but were reinstated. However, the riders all lost 20 points off their Green Jersey totals. Mark Cavendish now has 280, Rojas 265 and Gilbert 230 points. Mark should still win the Green but it is not quite as comfortable for him as it was before these two brutal Alpine stages.
So it is has come down to time trial to decide the outcome of the 2011 Tour. Andy Schleck has 53 seconds on brother Frank and 57 on Cadel Evans, who starts as favourite to overhaul Andy. However, in the Bordeaux time trial last year Andy did much better than expected, so it could well be very tight. I'd like to see Cadel win but Andy Schleck might just hang on.
'Sculpture' from the finishing line of last year's time trial at Pauillac