Tour De France - Stage 16
Evans on jour sans in Pyrenees
French favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) added a second stage win to his 2012 Tour de France account with a masterful performance in stage 16, 197km from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon. The 33-year-old Frenchman emerged from a massive 38-rider early break to solo to victory on a legendary Pyrenean parcours, taking in the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde, and arrived at the finish with a 1:40 lead over former breakaway companion Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).
Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) outsprinted Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) for third, 3:22 behind Voeckler.
In addition to the stage victory, Voeckler swept up top honours at each of the day's four summits to unseat Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) as mountains classification leader, 107 points to 103 at the stage conclusion.
"I can't really figure out what I've done," said Voeckler. "It's the kind of thing I watched on television as a kid, and today it was me who did it.
"For me I had four races in my head today, each climb was a separate race. I know every metre of the climbs from training here in this region. There were 197 kilometers of racing here, and I knew all 197 kilometres by heart."
The top three riders on general classification, maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Chris Froome (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished together, leaving the top of the overall standings unchanged. Nibali led Wiggins and Froome across the finish line in 11th place, 7:09 behind Voeckler and the first riders not part of the early break to arrive at the finish. As a result, Wiggins continues to lead Froome by 2:05 and Nibali by 2:23 overall.
"I'm just glad that one's out of the way, the team were incredible today," said Wiggins. "It was hot out there, and everyone reacts differently to it. Everyone's going through different things with their body. The day after a rest day is always difficult, and I'm just pleased we passed the test as a team. I'm glad we got through it ok, it was tough going out there."
Less than a minute later Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) led the next group on the road across the finish line for 14th place, ahead of white jersey holder Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Nissan), Alejandro Valverde and Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), plus Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan).
Cadel Evans (BMC) was the big general classification loser on the day as was dropped on the final climb and conceded four minutes to the maillot jaune group. Van den Broeck now holds fourth overall (@5:46) followed by Zubeldia (@7:13) and Van Garderen (@7:55). Evans dropped from fourth to seventh overall, 8:06 back.
"I think now it's sort of a co-leadership, he's only one place behind me," said Van Garderen, in reference to his teammate Evans. "He could easily bounce back the next day, or I could crack."
Mass exodus on classic Pyrenean parcours
The legendary "Circle of Death", comprised of the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde ascents, awaited the peloton today as the Tour de France kicked back into gear after its second rest day. With the knowledge that the general classification contenders would likely keep their powder dry until the latter portion of the stage, seemingly every rider with an inkling of early aggression was given the freedom to form the early break in advance of the stage's first climb, the 16.4km, HC-rated Aubisque.
When the early break finally consolidated 25 kilometres into the stage, 38 riders formed the massive escape group: Steven Cummings and George Hincapie (both BMC Racing Team), Yaroslav Popovych and Jens Voigt (both RadioShack-Nissan), Thomas Voeckler and Yukiya Arashiro (both Europcar), Jorge Azanza, Egoi Martinez and Gorka Izaguirre (all Euskaltel-Euskadi), Danilo Hondo, Marco Marzano and Simone Stortoni (all Lampre-ISD), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) Maxime Bouet and Sebastien Minard (both AG2R La Mondiale), Rein Taaramae and Samuel Dumoulin (both Cofidis), Brice Feillu, Guillaume Levarlet and Jean Marc Marino (all Saur-Sojasun), Johnny Hoogerland and Rafael Valls Ferri (both Vacansoleil-DCM), Gianpaolo Caruso, Yury Trofimov and Eduard Vorganov (all Katusha), Sandy Casar, Pierrick Fedrigo and Matthiew Ladagnous (all FDJ-Big Mat), Steven Kruiswijk and Laurens Ten Dam (both Rabobank), Rui Costa, Vladimir Karpets, and Vasili Kiryienka (all Movistar), Sergio Paulinho and Chris Anker Sorensen (both Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Fredrik Kessiakoff and Alexandre Vinokourov (both Astana) and Matthieu Sprick (Argos-Shimano).
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was the best-placed rider on general classification, 18th overall at 18:04, but perhaps the most intriguing contest, in addition to vying for stage honours on the Pyrenean parcours, was the battle for the polka-dot jersey, held by Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) at the start of the day. Kessiakoff had amassed 69 points thus far, but the riders in third and fourth on the mountains classification also made the initial selection: Sorensen (39 pts) and Voeckler (37 pts).
The first two climbs of the day, the HC-rated Col d'Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet, each offered 25 points for the first rider across the summit. The latter two climbs of the stage, the Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde, are each category 1-rated and would reward the first rider across with 10 points. Totalled together, a maximum of 70 points were up for grabs, very much a potential game changer for the mountains classification.
The breakaway group knocked out a steady tempo up the Aubisque with the only ripple in the proceedings occurring at the summit with the day's first KOM points up for grabs. Arashiro played the perfect teammate for Voeckler as he led-out the Frenchman in the climb's finale. Voeckler crested the summit first with Kessiakoff on his wheel for second place. Arashiro took third at the summit, followed by Sorensen for fourth.