Saturday, 16 July 2011
2011 Tour de France: Stage 13: Hushvod wins in Lourdes + Stage 14: the showdown
Yesterday saw a remarkable win by the big Norwegian rider Thor Hushvod on a day when the overall favourites bided their time in an intermediate mountain stage. Thor managed to climb up over the hors category Col d'Aubisque in third place. Losing only a fraction over two minutes to his fellow escapee – Jeremy Roy. Possibly tired after being the escape the day before over the Tourmalet, Roy was caught easily within the last two kilometres. Roy did have the consolation of taking the Polka Dot Jersey – best climber.
No change to the overall standings although Philippe Gilbert underlined his abilities as an all round rider by moving up to 9th place overall – 4.35 mins behind Thomas Voeckler but less than three behind Frank Schleck. In the Green Jersey both Rojas and Gilbert nibbled at Cavendish's lead. Cav is currently on 264 points, Rojas has 251 and Gilbert 240. Mark and HTC were too casual over the intermediate sprint with Mark losing out to Rojas. Then as both Rojas and Gilbert are better climbers they picked up a few additional points at the finish. Fortunately mountain stages carry fewer points at the finish so Cav didn't lose too much. However, his Green Jersey could be under threat from Rojas today as the intermediate sprint (20 points for first place) comes after the first mountain climb – the 2nd category Col de Portet d'Aspet, which is short but steep – 4.3k at 9.7%.
Today's stage – 168.5 kilometres from Saint Gaudens to the Plateau de Beille – is crucial for the overall favourites. There are six climbs starting with the 2nd category d'Aspet, then Col de la Core (1st), Col de Latrape (2nd), Col d'Agnes (1) and Port de Lers (3) before the final showdown to the finish on the top of the Plateau de Beille (H) 15.8k at 7.9%. I expect that there will be a gradual attrition over the earlier climbs before the favourites fight it out on the climb to Beille. Hopefully the attacks will start earlier than they did at Luz Ardidenon on Thursday, so that some significant time gaps open up.
Can the Schlecks take time from Evans? Will Contador attack and recover some time? What of Basso and Cunego? Although leader Thomas Voeckler and his Europacar team will fight hard to hold on to Yellow, I can't see it happening. Whatever, it has been great to see Voeckler first take Yellow and ride so well to keep hold of it.