9 Big Photos from Stage 12sirotti

Stage 12 Results

General Classification after Stage 12:

Full Results (click on "Stage Standing") —
Sørensen speeds to super stage win for Saxo Bankcyclingnews
  Last Km (02:38 english) — versus
  Last Km (02:30) —
high-res victory salute
Saxo's Sorensen wins stage 12velonews
Nicki fik karrierens største
  Stage 12 Highlights (02:22) — eurosport
  Last Km (01:00 no commentary) — eurosport
  Nikki Sørensen Interview Post-Stage (01:07 english) — letour
  Versus 12 video clips (more to come) — versus
Can it be? A drug-free Tour de Franceespn
  Stage 12 Recap/Highlights (03:12) —
Graham Watson Stage 12 Photosgrahamwatson
ITV stage 12 podcast with Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting and Chris BoardmanITV
Armstrong eyeing Alps for aggressioncyclingnews
9 Big Photos from Stage 12sirotti
  Armstrong on staying focused (01:50) — eurosport
  Cavendish: You can't chase them all (00:49) — eurosport
  Lance less tense: "I'm having a good time" (03:12) — sbs
  Bob Stapleton: talks about his team's talent (03:30) — sbs
Lance Armstrong hits back at leniency allegationsbikeradar

Post Stage Analysis

Sørensen Goes Solo
Nikki Sørensen of Saxo Bank takes stage win, Nocentini still in Yellow

Nikki Sørensen of Saxo Bank celebrated his first ever Tour de France stage win today in Vittel. After joining a seven rider breakaway early in the stage, the Dane attacked with 5 kilometers to race. Sørensen timed his move perfectly, and rode solo to the line. Mark Cavendish, meanwhile, added to his lead in the Points classification by winning the first intermediate sprint and the bunch sprint for eighth. The general classification remains unchanged today, and Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale continues to wear the Yellow Jersey of race leader.

The Story

Fabian Cancellara correctly predicted the stage today, saying in the pre-race interview that the stage should unfold with a big break, who will “go to the end.” Cancellara said that the first two hours of the stage would go “full gas” and then a break would go when “everyone is really tired.” And that is precisely what happened today.

A group of eleven attempted an early escape, but they did not get far. Astana proved especially active at the front, and may not have liked the size of the early break. Mark Cavendish, meanwhile, won the first intermediate sprint, and increased his lead slightly in the points classification. On the second categorized climb of the day, the Côte de Gye-sur-Seine, Franco Pellizotti took the maximum points, and signaled his continued interest in chasing the Polka Dot jersey. Still, the race remained together, and in a nice bit of teamwork Roman Kreuziger took the third place points on the Côte de Gye-sur-Seine.

At last after about 65 kilometers of racing, a break of seven riders escaped on the category 4 Côte d’Essoyes. The break included: Nicki Sorensen of Saxo Bank, Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo, Laruent Lefevre of Bbox Bouygues, Rémi Pauriol of Cofidis, Sylvain Calzati of Agritubel, and Markus Fothen of Milram. AG2R-La Mondiale took up their position at the front in defense of Rinaldo Nocentini’s Yellow Jersey, but the sprinters teams proved uninterested in contributing to the chase.

Over the final three categorized climbs, Martinez and Pellizotti waged their battle for the lead in the moutains classification. Pellizotti won all three, but Martinez defended well by finishing second each time and limiting the advantage of the Italian. With 25 kilometers left to race, the group of seven still held an advantage of 4 minutes over the main field. It was now all but certain that the winner would come from the breakaway.

With 22 kilometers left to race, Nikki Sørensen attacked the group of seven. Sylvain Calzati of Agritubel soon joined the him. Though the two worked together steadily, they never achieved much more than a 15 second advantage over the chase. Rémi Pauriol of Cofidis soon found the effort insupportable, and dropped off the back. The remaining five continued to rotate through smoothly and with 6 kilometers to go, the gap had shrunk to barely 10 seconds.

With the catch imminent, Nikki Sørensen attacked and left Calzati behind. The Dane had plainly held some strength in reserve. His perfectly timed move proved decisive. The chase hesitated, and Sørensen steadily rode away from his former partners in the breakaway. At 4 kilometers to go, the Saxo Bank rider had 20 seconds over the chase, which never really organized. Franco Pellizotti commented after the stage that it seemed like no one really wanted to win. More likely, the remaining five riders were simply tired from the long way out and cracked by the sudden and unexpected attack from Sørensen. The experienced pro had timed his move to perfection.

Inside 3 kilometers to go, Laurent Lefèvre of Bbox Bouygues made an effort to lose his chase companions and set out on his own. The others proved quick to follow, and it was all back together for the remaining five. Up ahead, Sørensen crossed the line and celebrated his tenth ever professional victory. Sørensen typically plays a supporting role at Saxo Bank and has had few opportunities to ride for his own results. Today he received his reward.

Sørensen looked astonished after the stage to have actually won, after riding many kilometers in the wind in his ten year career. “For sure, I wanted to go in the break this stage,” the Dane explained and mentioned that he had tried yesterday to get in the move, but hadn’t succeeded. “I think I did a perfect race, and I felt strong at the end. I feel very satisfied, though it hasn’t probably sank in for me that I have won a stage at the Tour de France,” Sørensen said. Stuttering a bit, he managed, “Wow, I am happy!” Thanks to Sørensen’s efforts, Saxo Bank also takes over the lead in the teams classification.

Behind Sørensen, Laurent Lefèvre of Bbox Bouygues finished second, while Franco Pellizotti crossed the line third. Mark Cavendish won the bunch sprint for eighth ahead of Thor Hushovd and added to his lead in the points classification. A crash inside the 3 kilometer mark took down Levi Leipheimer, Cadel Evans, and Michael Rogers, but all three finished. Because the crash occured inside 3 kilometer to go, it will not alter the standings in the general classification.

General Classification Update

Here is the current top ten:
Rinaldo Nocentini AG2R-La Mondiale
Alberto Contador Astana :06
Lance Armstrong Astana :08
Levi Leipheimer Astana :39
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream :46
Andreas Klöden Astana :54
Tony Martin Columbia-HTC 1:00
Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream 1:24
Andy Schleck Saxo Bank 1:49
Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Doimo 1:54

The general classification remained unchanged for one more day, but tomorrow’s hilly stage in the Vosges mountains should noticeably alter the standings. Still, Rinaldo Nocentini celebrated another day in Yellow, while Alberto Contador sits second at 6 seconds, and Lance Armstrong is third at 8 seconds. Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer both had a bit of a scare, crashing in a wide left-hander near the finish. Fortunately for both riders, the incident occurred within 3 kilometers to go, and they will not lose time in the general classification.

Other general classification riders: 13) Fränk Schleck of Saxo Bank @ 2:25, 14) Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo @ 2:40 15) Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam @ 2:52, 18) Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto @ 3:07, 23) Vladimir Karpets of Katusha @ 3:49, 24) Denis Menchov of Rabobank @ 5:02.

Other classifications: Mark Cavendish added to his lead in the points classification today. The Columbia-HTC sprinter won the first intermediate sprint of the day ahead of Thor Hushovd. Cavendish also won the bunch sprint for eighth, again ahead of Hushovd. The two remain tightly matched in the points classification with Cavendish leading Hushovd by 10 points. Their nearest challenger, José Joaquín Rojas, sits 84 points behind, and it’s all but certainly a two-man battle to Paris.

The mountains classification is also increasingly a two-way battle. Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo both joined the break today in the effort to pick up points over the six categorized climbs. Pellizotti won the sprint for four of the six climbs with Martinez right behind him. With the high mountains yet to come, Martinez leads Pellizotti by 17 points, but the Italian is steadily chipping away at that margin.

Tony Martin of Columbia-HTC, meanwhile, still leads the Young Riders classification ahead of Andy Shleck and Vincenzo Nibali. Nikki Sørensen received the combativity prize today, and Saxo Bank takes over the lead in the teams classification. Saxo Bank leads AG2R-La Mondiale by 34 seconds and Astana by 44 seconds.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage runs between Vittel and Colmar, and heads into the Vosges Mountains along the border of France and Germany. The course runs over five categorized climbs, including the category 1 Col du Platzerwasel. The stage should finish with a breakaway victory. From the summit of the final climb, the 8.4 kilometer Col du Firstplan, there remains 20 kilometers to race. It will take a determined escape to make it to the finish from such a distance. Still, the hilly terrain should lead to some changes in the overall classification and perhaps a new rider will take over the Yellow Jersey of race leader.

Tomorrow’s stage was originally planned to run without radios but the UCI and the race organizers have decided to allow the riders their earpieces.

For more details about tomorrow’s stage, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

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Terrain Type: Hilly, but not mountainous. Breakaway country.
GC Importance: None, though the GC teams should keep an eye on the breakaways today.

Côte de Baon 2.2 km, avg. 4.2 %, Catégorie 4
Côte de Gye-sur-Seine 2.4 km, avg. 4.4 %, Catégorie 4
Côte d'Essoyes 2.2 km, avg. 5 %, Catégorie 4
Côte des Grands-Bois 2.3 km, avg. 5 %, Catégorie 4
Côte de Morlaix 2.1 km, avg. 4.2 %, Catégorie 4
Côte de Bourmont 0.8 km, avg. 11.1 %, Catégorie 3

The Tour continues its eastward journey across central France with this stage running between Tonnerre and Vittel. The advantage shifts to the breakaways as the race climbs six categorized climbs. None of the climbs on the menu are especially difficult. The constant up and down should enable the attackers to elude capture and contest the stage victory. The general classification teams will need to remain vigilant to ensure that the wrong rider doesn’t sneak up the road and that the inevitable breakaway doesn’t run up the clock too far.

It’s a day of wine and water, as Tonnerre is famous for its white wine and Vittel for its mineral water. Tonnerre is a new start town for the Tour, which typically traces the outline of France, rather than cutting straight through the center of the Hexagon. Tonnerre sits astride a canal and retains many of its medieval buildings.

Vittel has hosted the Tour de France twice previously. The most recent stage finish came in 1990, when Jelle Nijdam won the stage, and Steve Bauer wore the Yellow Jersey. Vittel sits in the Lorraine region, near the Vosges mountains. The Romans enjoyed the thermal baths in Vittel, a practice that did not revive until the mid-nineteenth century.

Profile Details

The profile is constantly up and down for this stage between Tonnerre and Vittel. The first 15 kilometers or so are mostly flat, but otherwise, there are few stretches of flat riding on this course. The first of six categorized climbs comes after 19 kilometers of racing. The Côte de Baon climbs 2.2 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.2%, and should prove a sufficient launch-pad to send the day’s escape on its way. The first intermediate sprint of the day shows up ten kilometers later in the town of Channes.

For the next 23 kilometers, the course follows a mostly descending track until it reaches the next climb of the day, the Côte de Byé-sur-Seine. The côte climbs 2.4 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.4% and summits at kilometer 55. After a quick descent, it’s back uphill for the third categorized climb of the day, the Côte d’Essoyes. Like most of the climbs in this stage, the Côte d’Essoyes is rated a category 4. The côte climbs 2.2 kilometers at an average gradient of 5%. The next 25 kilometers are mostly descending, except for a short uncategorized climb at around 80 kilometers to go.

At kilometer 90, the riders have an intermediate sprint to contest in the town of Longchamp-sur-Aujon. From Longchamp-sur-Aujon, the course climbs slightly, then races along uneven terrain for 60 kilometers. Then, it’s another category 4 climb, the Côte de Grands-Bois, which climbs 2.3 kilometers at 5%. From the summit of the Côte de Grands-Bois, 61 kilometers of racing remain.

No rest for the weary, the next climb pops up just 16 kilometers later. The category 4 Côte de Marlaix climbs 2.1 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.2%. A short section of false-flat climbing follows the summit, then the course descends to the final intermediate sprint of the day in the town of Saint-Thiébault. The finish in Vittel lies just over 40 kilometers in the distance.

With just over 40 kilometers to race, the profile turns uphill one last time. The final climb of the day could prove significant in determining the stage winner, though 40 kilometers is a long way to go to the finish. Saving the best for last, the race organizers have found a category 3 climb just outside Saint-Thiébault. The Côte de Bourmont is short, but very steep. The côte climbs just under a kilometer at a steep gradient of 11%. The gradient should prove sufficient to force a selection in the breakaway, though the main field will likely stay together. The sprinters will not be amused.

From the summit of the Côte de Bourmont, the course descends nearly as steeply as it climbs. The remaining 35 kilometers or racing are mostly flat with a few small bumps along the way. Once the riders enter Vittel, they will descend to the red kite. Then, it’s a false-flat climb to the finish on the avenue Georges Clemenceau. There are two 90 degree right turns and a slight left-hand bend inside the final 3 kilometers. Under the red kite, it’s a straight shot to the line.

Who to Watch

Look for the teams without a general classification rider to go on the attack today in search of stage win glory. Teams like Bbox Bouygues, AG2R-La Mondiale, Français des Jeux, and Lampre-Ngc will surely animate the early kilometers of this stage. Garmin-Slipstream has also said they intend to chase stage wins, so watch for a rider like Danny Pate or David Millar to try his luck in the break.  — Gavia

  Bernard Hinault Previews Stage 12 in english and en franç
Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->