Post Stage Analysis

Long Wet Ride to Victory for Haussler
Heinrich Haussler takes solo stage win, Rinaldo Nocentini remains in Yellow

After a lengthy solo break, Heinrich Haussler of Cervélo TestTeam celebrated his first ever Tour stage win in Colmar. The Australian-born rider, who currently carries a German license, escaped early in the stage and steadily whittled down the group in the breakaway. Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step was the last man standing, but could not match the pace of Haussler today.

The general classification remained unchanged for yet another day, and Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale continues to wear the Yellow Jersey of race leader. Astana kept tight control over the bunch, and though Saxo Bank appeared briefly at the front on the Col de Platzerwasel, none of the general classification riders made any effort to alter the status quo. The main news in the general classification came before the stage started, as Levi Leipheimer left the Tour with a broken wrist from yesterday’s crash.

The Story

After 15 kilometers of racing, a group of seven escaped off the front and built up an advantage of about 45 seconds. David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream tried to bridge across on the first climb of the day, the Côte de Xertigny. No dice, and the British crono specialist soon dropped back into the main field. On the descent from the Côte de Xertigny, three riders split off the front of the break. Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step, Heinrich Haussler of Cervélo TestTeam, and Ruban Perez Moreno of Euskaltel-Euskadi made the split, while Jens Voigt, Rigoberto Uran of Caisse d’Épargne, Christophe Moreau of Agritubel, and Juan Manuel Garate of Rabobank returned to the main field.

The three at the front continued to work together smoothly and passing through the intermediate sprint in Gérardmer, they held an advantage of 8 minutes over the main field. AG2R-La Mondiale worked fitfully on the front. By the time they reached the Col de la Schucht, the second climb of the day, the break rode 9 minutes up the road from the main field. A group of thirteen tried to escape on the Col de la Schucht, but Astana took command at the front of the Yellow Jersey group and easily kept the attack in check. Egoi Martinez, meanwhile, out-sprinted Franco Pellizotti for the mountains points, and continued to defend his lead. On the descent from the Col de la Schucht, Linus Gerdemann of Milram slipped away from the main field.

As the break reached the base of the category 1 Col du Platzerwasel, there were three groups on the road: the break of three (including Haussler, Chavanel, and Perez Moreno), Linus Gerdemann at 5:45, and the Yellow Jersey group at 7:17. On the slopes of the 8 kilometer climb, Perez Moreno dropped off the pace of Haussler and Chavanel, leaving just two riders out in front. Gerdemann continued to linger in between the break and the main field, where Jaroslav Popovych rode tempo on the front for Astana. Liquigas and Saxo Bank moved up and picked up the tempo, but in the main, the general classification riders remained tranquilo on the Col du Platzerwasel.

As the Yellow Jersey group reached the summit, Franco Pellizotti sprinted ahead to take the mountains points, as Egoi Martinez had dropped off the back of the favorites group. Lance Armstrong rode along side Pellizotti for a few meters, prompting a confused look from the Italian. Pellizotti took the 9 points for fourth place and inched closer to the lead. Gerdemann, meanwhile, returned to the main field.

Up ahead, Haussler began to open up a gap on Sylvain Chavanel on the wet, technical descent off the Col du Platzerwasel. Chavanel could not hold the wheel of Haussler, who railed the wet corners and steadily increased his gap over the French rider. Perez Moreno still remained alone between the break and the main field. In the meantime, Brice Feillu of Agritubel and Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi slipped off the front of the Yellow Jersey group just past the king of the mountains line on the Col du Platzerwasel. Uninterested in taking any risks on the wet descent, the Yellow Jersey group did not react to the Feillu-Txurruka move. With 50 kilometers to go, Haussler held a 21 second gap over Chavanel and a 3:24 advantage over the main field. Txurruka and Feillu, meanwhile, held 40 seconds over the main field.

By the final climb of the day, the Col du Firstplan, Haussler was well and truly away, as Chavanel suffered badly in the cold and wet. Pedaling squares, Chavanel steadily dropped away from the flying Cervélo rider. As he approached the Col du Firstplan, Haussler held 6:32 over the main field, 1:13 over Chavanel, and 4:22 over Feillu and Txurruka. Astana and AG2R-La Mondiale still kept watch over the main field. Charly Wegelius of Silence-Lotto tried to stir up some action on the col, but no one proved interested. Over the top of the Col du Firstplan, Pellizotti added 12 points to his mountains tally and took over the lead in the mountains classification. Team-mate Vincenzo Nibali rode sweeps for Pellizotti to ensure he achieved as much advantage as possible.

Into the finale, AG2R-La Mondiale began working more determinedly on the front of the main field to control the gap to Brice Feillu. Slowly, but surely, the gap fell, but Feillu proved determined. Txurruka, meanwhile, had overtaken a clearly tired Chavanel, but no one could catch Haussler, who still rode nearly four minutes ahead of Txurruka.

At the finish, Heinrich Haussler crossed the line alone with a tearful celebration of his first ever stage victory. Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi, who has figured often in the escapes so far during this year’s Tour, finished second, while Brice Feillu of Agritubel, who won the first mountain top finish at Arcalís, rode into Colmar third. Sylvain Chavanel survived to finish fourth. In the bunch sprint, Martin Velits out-sprinted Thor Hushovd, but Hushovd picked up enough points to retake the Green Jersey from Mark Cavendish. Cavendish rode the grupetto today. Rinaldo Nocentini and the general classification favorites finished safely in the bunch.

After the stage, an emotional Haussler said he loved the wet weather and that he knew well the roads around Colmar. “I love the rain and the cold,” he said. “It was difficult at first, there were a lot of good riders in the group. I tried to split it up,” he explained of his tactics in the breakaway. Haussler felt confident in his abilities and revealed, “I knew that I would get stronger and the others weaker.” “I love this weather!” Currently 25 years old, Haussler has made a huge step forward in his career during this season. He had few notable results until now. Already this season, he finished second at Milano-Sanremo and second at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Today marked his first ever stage win at the Tour de France.

General Classification Update

Here is the current top ten:
Rinaldo Nocentini AG2R-La Mondiale
Alberto Contador Astana :06
Lance Armstrong Astana :08
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
Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d’Épargne 2:16

Rinaldo Nocentini continues to lead the general classification by 6 seconds over Alberto Contador and 8 seconds over Lance Armstrong. The departure of Levi Leipheimer, who broke his wrist in a crash yesterday, moves Bradley Wiggins up to fourth. Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d’Épargne, meanwhile, moves up to tenth. The time gaps and finishing order remain unchanged in the general classification after today’s stage, though Leipheimer's abandon moves everyone outside the top three up one placing.

Other general classification riders: 12) Fränk Schleck of Saxo Bank @ 2:25 13) Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo @ 2:40 15) Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam @ 2:52 16) Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel Euskadi @ 3:02 17) Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto @ 3:07 27) Denis Menchov of Rabobank @ 5:02.

Other classifications: While the general classification has remained quiet during these first 13 stages of the Tour, heated battles have broken out in the points and mountains classifications. Today both jerseys changed hands. In the mountains classification, Egoi Martinez got the better of Franco Pellizotti on the Col de la Schucht, but Martinez proved unable to hold the tempo on the category 1 Platzerwasel where Pellizotti picked up 9 points. On the final climb of the day, the Col du Firstplan, Pellizotti took another 12 points. His team-mate Vincenzo Nibali took the points for sixth to help solidify Pellizotti’s advantage. The Italian now leads Egoi Martinez by 3 points.

In the points classification, Thor Hushovd survived the climbs with the main field today, while Mark Cavendish rode the grupetto. Hushovd took second in the field sprint, and his sixth place finish on the stage gave him 15 points. Hushovd now leads Cavendish by 5 points and will wear the Green Jersey again tomorrow.

Saxo Bank, meanwhile, keeps the lead in the teams classification for another day, while Heinrich Haussler receives the red numbers for most combative rider after his long day out on the attack today.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage follows a mostly flat course from Colmar to Besançon. There are three intermediate sprints on the menu for tomorrow. Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish remain closely matched in the points classification, and will no doubt be on the hunt for more points tomorrow. With only two category 3 climbs to interrupt the rhythm, the stage should end in a bunch sprint. Mark Cavendish will try to make it five stages for this Tour de France, and the others will have a difficult time denying him yet another sprint win.

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

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Course Preview

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Terrain Type: Middle Mountains.
GC Importance: There is an opportunity for an ambitious general classification rider and his team to ride here. With a descending finish and significant, but not extreme climbing, it will take some hard riding to gain an advantage, though. Most will likely wait for the Alps, but don’t be surprised if a big name attacks on this hilly stage.

Côte de Xertigny 2.0 km, avg. 5.3 %, Catégorie 3
Col de la Schlucht 8.9 km, avg. 4.2 %, Catégorie 2
Col du Platzerwasel 8.7 km, avg. 7.6 %, Catégorie 1
Col du Bannstein 2.1 km, avg. 5.1 %, Catégorie 3
Col du Firstplan 8.4 km, avg. 5.4 %, Catégorie 2

The Tour begins where it left off with a start in Vittel. The stage travels east into the Vosges mountains and nearly to the border with Germany. There are five categorized climbs and very little flat riding on the menu. The final 20 kilometers descend to a flat finish in Colmar. The stage should favor a breakaway winner, but the general classification riders could choose to race for this one.

Located in Alsace, Colmar is considered the capital of Alsace’s rich wine-making industry and is the third largest city in Alsace. The creator of the Statue of Liberty in New York, Frédéric Auguste Bartoldi, was born in Colmar. The city sits in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, and is one of the driest in France. It also recorded the highest ever temperature in Europe during August 2003: 40.9° C, or approximately 105° F.

Colmar served as both a start and finish city in 2001. Laurent Jalabert won stage 7 between Strasbourg and Colmar that year, while Jens Voigt wore the Yellow Jersey. The following day, Erik Dekker celebrated victory after racing from Colmar to Pontarlier. Stuart O’Grady took over from Jens Voigt as race leader. This year marks the sixth edition of the Tour de France since 1947 to visit Colmar.

Profile Details

The stage sets out from Vittel with a slight climb followed by 18 kilometers of mostly flat racing. The course passes through Ville-sur-Illon, before hitting a small uncategorized bump in the road. The first intermediate sprint comes in Xertigny at kilometer 43.5. In an unusual twist, the intermediate sprint is uphill, on the way to the first categorized peak of the day. The Côte de Xertigny is rated a category 3 and climbs 2 kilometers at an average of 5.3%. Following the climb, the course rolls along on mostly flat terrain for the next 25 kilometers.

After passing through Le Syndicat at kilometer 70, the road tilts upward. The second intermediate sprint appears 18 kilometers later in the town of Gerardmer. Steadily gaining altitude, the stage passes through Xonrupt Longemer, then begins the second climb of the day. The Col de la Schucht is rated category 2, and climbs 8.9 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.2%. The col is long, but not overly difficult. From the summit of the Col de la Schucht, there remains 95 kilometers to race.

It’s a fast descent to Luttenbach for the second intermediate sprint of the day. Immediately after the sprint, the climbing begins all over again. The most difficult climb of the day, the Col du Platzerwasel, gains 768 meters in elevation and is rated at category 1. The col lasts 8.7 kilometers and has a nasty 7.6% gradient. If any of the general classification riders are feeling frisky, this climb might be the place to make a move. The stage winning move could also come from this climb, though the finish line lies more than 60 kilometers from the summit. The terrain is up and down to the finish, which could complicate a chase effort and shift the advantage in favor of the escape. Still, it’s a long way to go.

From the Col du Platzerwasel, the road descends more gradually than it climbed, and there is approximately 25 kilometers of descending after the summit. The small Col du Bannstein interrupts the descent at kilometer 165.5. The Col du Bannstein is rated a category 3, and climbs 2.1 kilometers at an average gradient of 5.1%. Then, it’s back to descending, before the final climb of the day.

The Col du Firstplan, which is last, not first, summits with just over 20 kilometers to race to the finish, and offers a perfect launch-pad for a race-winning move. The col is rated category 2 and climbs 8.4 kilometers at an average gradient of 5.4%. The Col du Firstplan is not especially difficult as climbing goes, but it should offer sufficient difficulty to tempt an attacker to try his luck.

The next 15 kilometers descend quickly from the summit of the Col du Firstplan to the town of Soultzbach-les-Bains. Then the road levels out. There are 15 kilometers of false-flat descending to the flat finish in Colmar. A small group should survive to contest the finish.

Who to Watch

The stage winner should come from a breakaway today and will need to bring his climbing legs to the task. The stage passes near the German border, which might tempt the Team Milram riders to go on the attack. Depending on his general classification position, Linus Gerdemann might find this stage of interest. Certainly, it would suit his characteristics with its constant climbing. Gerdemann also has the speed to finish the deal on the flat finish in Colmar. Much depends on how the German finds the Pyrénées stages and he may remain too high in the general classification to chase stage victory.

Like Gerdemann, Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d’Épargne may also be too well-placed to go on the attack, but certainly, this stage will suit him well. A young climber like Dan Martin of Garmin-Slipstream, with fewer general classification ambitions, might be a good pick for this stage. Look for Cofidis, Français des Jeux, Euskaltel-Euskadi, and the other teams not chasing the Yellow Jersey to go on the attack. This stage also has significant mountains points on offer, which should influence the composition of the breakaway.

The climbing is difficult enough to influence the general classification battle, though it should not produce excessive time gaps. Expect some punch-and-jab on the climbs among the major general classification favorites, but with the lengthy descent to the finish, no one should lose significant time here. A strong team could put riders in an early break, while their general classification leader attacks from the main field on the later climbs. When it works, this tactic is one of the more beautiful in cycling. But it requires a strong team and a big commitment, a commitment the teams may not wish to make with the Alps fast approaching.  — Gavia

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