Post Stage Analysis

Fränk Schleck Wins in Le Grand-Bornand
Andy Schleck moves up to second as both Armstrong and Wiggins slide, Contador still in Yellow

Fränk Schleck celebrated his second ever Tour stage win today in Le Grand-Bornand. The Saxo Bank rider won from a three-up break that included his brother Andy Schleck and race leader Alberto Contador. The two Schleck brothers attacked the field on the Col de Romme in a play for the stage victory and the general classification. They could not shake race leader Alberto Contador, who successfully defended his Yellow Jersey. But the two Schleck brothers now sit second and third in the general classification, while Lance Armstrong dropped to fourth and Bradley Wiggins fell to sixth. Thor Hushovd added to his lead in the Points classification, after spending much of the stage up the road in a solo breakaway.

The Story

The first attack of the day came from Linus Gerdemann of Milram who went up the road with David Arroyo of Caisse d’Épargne on the first climb of the day, the Cormet de Roselend. The two were quickly brought back and Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step immediately countered. In pursuit of mountains points, Franco Pellizotti joined Chavanel and the two worked together on the climb. A thirteen rider chase group formed and soon a group of 22 riders had formed at the front of the race. Franco Pellizotti took the maximum points on the Cormet de Roselend, while Egoi Martinez who sits seconds in the mountains competition, did not finish in the points. Behind, Astana worked on the main field to control the gap. At kilometer 40, the escape held an advantage of 2:25 over the main field.

With an ambition to add to his lead in the Points Classification, Thor Hushovd soon rode away from the breakaway and by kilometer 48, he held a 12 second gap over the rremains of the break. As the race approached the second climb of the day, the Col des Saises, Hushovd, still riding solo, had built up almost 2:00 over the chase group and 6:00 over the main field. Saxo Bank now contributed to the pace-making on the front of the main field. Over the summit of the Col des Saises, Hushovd took the mountains points, while Pellizotti scooped up the 13 points for second. This time, Egoi Martinez slippped into the points and picked up 9.

Descending the Col des Saisies, the break passed through Flumet. Hushovd still rode alone at the front of the bike race. In Praz-sur-Arly, Hushovd took the points for the first intermediate sprint, and added to his lead in the Green Jersey competition. Passing through Sallanches with 76.8 kilometers to go, Hushovd held an advantage of 1:31 over hte chase group, that included 21 riders. The chase included: Sandy Casar, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Linus Gerdemann, George Hincapie, Pierre Rolland, Sylvain Chavanel, Franco Pellizotti, Denis Menchov, Maxime Monfort, Egoi Martinez, Rigoberto Uran, Rémi Pauriol, Amets Txurruka, Gorka Verdugo, Georfroy Lequartre, David Zabriskie, Thomas Voeckler, Jose-Luis Arrieta, Ruben Perez Moreno, Marzio Bruseghin. Txurruka unfortunately crashed out the break, while Denis Menchov, who crashed twice managed to stay with the group. The main field, meanwhile, led by Saxo Bank sat 5:30 behind Hushovd. There remained three climbs to race, the Côte d’Arâches, Col de Romme, and Col de la Colombière.

On the slopes of the Côte d’Araches, Astana took over the pace-making with Haimar Zubeldia doing much of the work. The group quickly shrank as the pace hotted up over the category 2 climb. With the exception of Cadel Evans, whose Tour woes continue, the main general classification riders remained in the Astana-led group. Hushovd, continued to ride out in front with a gap of 2:13 over the chase group and 4:56 over the main field. After descending the Côte d’Arâches, Hushovd passed through the second intermediate sprint in Cluses and added to his Green Jersey lead. Franco Pellizotti, meanwhile, took the second place points on the Côte d’Arâches, while his rival Egoi Martinez took third.

With the final two climbs fast approaching, the pace in the Yellow Jersey group increased. Hushovd, his work done for the day, faded back to the chase, but with 37 kilometers to race, the gap had fallen to 1:33. There would be no stage victory for the breakaway today. Saxo Bank now did much of the work on the main field, and plainly had ambitions for the final two climbs.

The first move on the Col de Romme came not from Saxo Bank, but from Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam. Sastre has not enjoyed his Tour de France, and castigated the press for showing him “a lack of respect.” The Cervélo climber never achieved much more than a bike length advantage over the Yellow Jersey group still driven by Saxo Bank. Dropping back from the break, Hushovd put in a short effort for Sastre, but the big sprinter was clearly tired from his long day out. Though he continued to dangle just off the front, Sastre was not making any progress, and soon the Yellow Jersey group driven by Niki Sørensen of Saxo Bank overtook him.

An attack immediately came from Fränk Schleck. Andreas Klöden proved quick to cover the Schleck attack, as surely he must have expected it. Fränk Schleck continued to drive the pace, and soon a small group had split off the front of the Yellow Jersey group. Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Vincenzo Nibali all remained in the group, while Carlos Sastre went out the back. Briefly gapped, Lance Armstrong smoothly joined the leading group. Then came an attack from Andy Schleck. Schleck brought Contador and Klöden with him, and driven by Andy Schleck the three soon built up a gap over a chase group which included Fränk Schleck, Bradly Wiggins and Lance Armstrong. Seeing the tactical disadvantage of his brother Andy up the road with two Astana riders, Fränk Schleck jumped away from Armstrong and Wiggins. Vicenzo Nibali, meanwhile, rode up from bhind and joined the Wiggins-Armstrong group.

With just over 30 kilometers to go, there were now two main groups on the road, and many riders scattered in small groups down the slopes of the Col de Romme. At the front of the bike race, Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck, race leader Alberto Contador, and Andreas Klöden rode 30 seconds up the road from a chase group containing Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong, and Vincenzo Nibali. Christian Vandevelde came up from behind, and buried himself to defend the third place of Bradley Wiggins. David Zabriskie, who was dropping back from the early breakaway, also brielfy joined the Wiggins-Armstrong group and contributed to the defense of Wiggins. Behind the chase group, a group of around ten riders formed that included Roman Kreuziger, Christophe Le Mével, and Rinaldo Nocentini, but they continued to lose time in relation to the two groups ahead of them.

Over the summit of the Col de Romme, the Schleck-Astana group rode 1:18 ahead of the Armstrong-Wiggins group. The Le Mével group, meanwhile, crossed the summit 3:17 behind the race leaders. There remained 20 kilometers to race.

After the short technical descent from the Col de Romme, the climbing began again immediately. The Schlecks continued to press the pace in the front group, while Contador and Klöden sat on, protected by Armstrong’s presence in the chase group behind. The two Astana riders had no obligation to contribute to the work of the break, with their team-mate’s second place in the general classification under threat from the hard-riding Schlecks. All the same, the gap to the Armstrong-Wiggins group continued to go out, despite the hard work of Christian Vandevelde for Wiggins.

With 2 kilometers to go to the summit of the Col de la Colombière, Alberto Contador jumped away from the break. The Schlecks worked together and soon made the junction to the Yellow Jersey, but Contador’s team-mate Andreas Klöden slipped off the back. With the Schlecks on his wheel, Contador abandoned his efforts and looked behind for his team-mate. Klöden was clearly not coming back. With 1 kilometer to go to the summit, the Schlecks-Contador group held 45 seconds over Klöden, 2:25 over the Armstrong-Wiggins group, and 5:00 to the Le Mével group. The Schlecks continued to press hard, with Contador sitting on their wheel.

Not far from the summit, Armstrong attacked the Wiggins group and opened up a gap over both Wiggins and Nibali. Vincenzo Nibali soon rode across to the American. Up the road, the Schlecks together with Contador summited the climb 1:15 ahead of Klöden. Armstrong crossed the summit 2:06 down on the Schlecks-Contador group, while Nibali rode just 15 seconds behind the American.

Now, the race down the mountain to the finish. The threesome up the road played for the stage win, while the general classification battle raged behind them. The Schlecks continued to ride hard, while Contador refused to contribute with his team-mates all chasing behind him. The Schlecks did not press the point, though Contador did his share of arm-waving. On the descent, Nibali caught Armstrong, and the two steadily gained on Klöden.

At the line, Fränk Schleck won the stage ahead of Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. As they came into the run-in, Armstrong tried to jump, but Nibali proved quick to follow. The Italian went to the front and drove hard, distancing a tired Klöden. Nibali crossed the line ahead of Armstrong to take fourth on the stage, 2:18 behind Fränk Schleck. Klöden crossed at 2:25, while Bradley Wiggins finished 30 seconds later at 3:07. The Le Mével group trailed in at 6:10, while Carlos Sastre finished with a group at 7:47 down on the stage winner.

After the stage, Fränk Schleck explained that he and his brother had planned to attack today from the start. “We couldn’t distance Contador, but we did distance the other riders,” he commented. On balance, “it is a good day, and it has made it very interesting for the overall classification. Andy is now second overall,” noted Schleck. The stage winner said that he was siting behind Armstrong on the Col de Romme and saw that the American did not look to be on a great day. “I just though, I’m going to go for it,” he said later. “It is always hard to win a stage, and it has really made very happy,” concluded Fränk Schleck. The elder Schleck brother last won a stage in the 2006 Tour de France when he beat Damiano Cunego at the line on the Alpe d’Huez.

Race leader Alberto Contador, meanwhile, said “I felt pretty good.” He was disappointed with the outcome of the stage, though, because he had hoped that Andreas Klöden could follow his attack on the Col de la Colombière. “I asked Klöden if he could stay with me,” Contador explained, but it turned out that the German did not have the legs. “I hung back and waited for him, but he couldn’t come back. That’s the only disappointing thing about today,” the Spanish rider said. “I was hoping Klöden would win today’s stage,” he concluded. For his own part, Contador confirmed that his legs are feeling good and his is confident in his chances on the coming stages.

General Classifiation Update

Here is the current top ten:
Alberto Contador Astana
Andy Schleck Saxo Bank 2:26
Fränk Schleck Saxo Bank 3:25
Lance Armstrong Astana 3:55
Andreas Klöden Astana 4:44
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream 4:53
Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Doimo 5:09
Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream 8:08
Christophe Le Mével Français des Jeux 9:19
Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel-Euskadi 10:50

Alberto Contador continues to lead the general classification today, after he easily followed the attacks of Andy and Fränk Schleck. Thanks to their big efforts to day, the two Schlecks now occupy second and third in the general classification. With the time trial tomorrow, that may not last, but it is certainly a nice prize for today’s ride.

Lance Armstrong, meanwhile, who started the day second, could not follow the Schleck move, and drops to fourth overall. Armstrong is 30 seconds behind Fränk Schleck and 1:30 behind Andy Schleck. The American should overtake Fränk and could also overtake Andy with a good ride in tomorrow’s crono. Andreas Klöden sits 51 seconds behind Armstrong, and could also overtake Fränk Schleck in the general classification. Klöden is no slouch against the watch. Andy Schleck has 2:20 in hand over Klöden, and will need a big ride to defend his general classification position from the German. Of course, the Schlecks will have one more day in the mountains on Mont Ventoux to reclimb the general classification, should they slip tomorrow.

Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream found the steep ramps of the Col de Romme hard-going, and slipped to sixth. Though tired from today’s efforts, Wiggins rides well against the watch and may prove able to move back up the general classification. He trails Fränk Schleck by 1:30 and Andy Schleck by 2:30. Klöden is only 9 seconds ahead of Wiggins, and it should be a close race between them. A big ride from Wiggins could see him overtake Armstrong, who sits 1:00 ahead, but that will be a big ask for the British pursuit talent. Vincenzo Nibali, meanwhile, who is also a strong rider against the watch sits only 16 seconds behind Wiggins. It could be a very close three-way battle among Wiggins, Klöden, and Nibali tomorrow.

Rounding out the top ten are Christian Vandevelde, Christophe Le Mével, and Mikel Astarloza. Roman Kreuziger, currently 11th at 10:52, could overtake Mikel Astarloza and Christophe Le Mével, if he finds his best legs. The Czech rider has struggled during this year’s Tour, however, and may find it hard-going to make it back into the top ten.

Other general classification riders: 11) Roman Kreuziger Liquigas-Doimo @ 10:52 12) Rinaldo Nocentini AG2R-La Mondiale @ 11:38 13) Carlos Sastre Cervélo TestTeam @ 11:39 32) Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto 37:06 37) Kim Kirchen Columbia-HTC @ 40:52 44) Denis Menchov Rabobank @ 48:35 50) Tony Martin Columbia-HTC @ 54:35.

Other classifications: After his long solo ride today, Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam has added to his lead in the Points Classification. He now has a 30 point advantage over Mark Cavendish of Columbia-HTC. Hushovd has proved to be a canny player in this competition and has chased after the intermediate points on offer with a vengeance. As Hushovd’s performance makes clear, the Points Classification is not only about the sprint finishes, and Cavendish faces a nearly impossible task if he wants to wear the Green Jersey in Paris.

In the Mountains Classification, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo continued to add to his lead by spending yet another day on the escape. Egoi Martinez put up a valiant effort on the Col des Saisies and the Côte d’Arâches, but Pellizotti continues to draw ahead. Pellizotti now leads Martinez by 78 points. Pierrick Fédrigo of Bbox Bouygues Télécom is third and trails Pellizotti by 99 points.

Andy Schleck added to his lead in the Young Rider competition, and now holds an advantage of 2:43 over Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo. The third place rider, Roman Kreuziger, meanwhile, sits 8:26 back from Andy Schleck. Nibali typically rides a better time trial than Schleck, but he will need a very big ride to bring back 2:43 over 40 kilometers.

In the teams competition, Astana leads Garmin-Slipstream by 16:12 and AG2R-La Mondiale by 16:33.

Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam took home the red numbers of most combative today.

There was also a change at the back of the classification today. Kenny Van Hummel who has put up a big fight for the Lanterne Rouge through these mountain stage crashed out today. Van Hummel has ridden solo off the back over the past two stages, and was leading the unofficial competition for the last rider. The Lanterne Rouge frequently is invited to the post-Tour criteriums, which offer a nice financial bonus. Yauheni Hutarovich of Français des Jeux now takes over as the last rider in the general classification and is 13 minutes down on Steven de Jongh of Quick Step. De Jongh will have to put in a big effort to lose 13 minutes over the next three stages, though with Mont Ventoux on the menu, anything is possible.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow, the riders will contest a 40.5 kilometer time trial around the lake in Annecy. The time trial includes one categorized climb, the category 3 Côte de Bluffy, which climbs for 3.7 kilometers at an average gradient of 6%. The climb comes late in the course, and summits at kilometer 28.5. Then, it’s a flat run-in to the finish. Despite the climb, this course should suit the specialists against the watch, because the majority of the stage covers flat terrain.

For more information about tomorrow’s time trial, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

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Terrain Type: Mountainous, with five categorized climbs. Descends to a flat finish.
GC Importance: Yes. With only one more mountain stage remaining after today, the general classification riders will race today. Though the stage ends with a descent, the succession of hard climbs should open up gaps among the general classification riders.

The Climbs:
Cormet de Roselend 18.1 km, avg. 5.7 %, Catégorie 1
Col des Saisies 15.1 km, avg. 6 %, Catégorie 1
Côte d'Arâches 6.3 km, avg. 7 %, Catégorie 2
Col de Romme 8.8 km, avg. 8.9 %, Catégorie 1
Col de la Colombière 7.5 km, avg. 8.5 %, Catégorie 1

If there is a flat spot in this stage, it is well hidden. This second stage in the French Alps is all up and down and is the hardest mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France. The climbing starts immediately after the depart in Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and the riders face five categorized climbs. The stage descends to a flat finish in Le Grand-Bornand, but it’s just 15 kilometers to the finish from the summit of the final climb, the Col de la Colombière. Only a small group will survive to contest the stage win, and this stage should alter the overall standings.

For these two stages in the Alps, the race organizers have kept the distances short to encourage the attacking riders. Both stages descend from the final climb to the finish, which will make it difficult, though not impossible, for the climbers to gain an advantage in the overall standings. The winner will have strong legs on the climbs and fearless skills on the descents. In short, he will be a complete rider.

Le Grand-Bornand sits surrounded by mountains in a glacier cut valley in the French Alps. A river runs through the town which serves as a ski destination during the winter. The most recent stage finish in Le Grand-Bornand came in 2007. Linus Gerdemann attacked on the Col de la Colombière and rode solo for the ten kilometers to finish. Gerdemann took over the race lead that day, and wore the Yellow Jersey for one day. Two weeks later, Alberto Contador celebrated the overall victory in Paris.

Profile Details

The riders roll off the start and immediately begin climbing the Cormet de Roselend. Like most of the major climbs of the Alps, the Cormet de Roselend is long, but not especially steep. Rated category 1, it climbs for 18.1 kilometers at an average gradient of 5.7%. The steepest section comes between les Glinettes and Crêt Bettex about 9 kilometers from the start. In the main, this climb rises steadily without too much drama. There are a few short sections where the gradient relaxes, which might offer some space for recovery. Indeed, between kilometers 2 and 4 and 11 and 12, the road is nearly flat. But from Pont St. Antoine at kilometer 12 to the finish at kilometer 18, the climb is a steady grind to the finish at 6-8%. There should be attrition on this climb, though the main favorites for the general classification will almost certainly summit together. The climb summits at kilometer 18, and it’s a long hilly ride to the finish.

From the peak of the Cormet de Roselend, the course descends 20 kilometers to Beaufort. Then, it’s on to the next climb, the Col des Saisies. The Tour has frequently visited the Col des Saisies and this year, the course climbs the col from the South. The Col des Saisies climbs 15.1 kilometers at an average gradient of 6%. The steepest section comes just past Hauteluce between kilometers 9 and 10 and hits 8%. Otherwise, the climb is a steady grind at gradients between 6 and 7. The slightly shorter distance will make this second climb easier than the Cormet de Roselend, but as the kilometers click over, few riders will find this stage easy going. From the summit of the Col des Saises, there remains 113.5 kilometers to race to the finish in Le Grand-Bornand.

From the summit of the Col des Saisies, the course descends 15 kilometers to Flumet. The course then climbs slightly to the first intermediate sprint at kilometer 75.5 in Praz-sur-Arly. It’s unlikely that the sprinters will be around to contest this one, and it should not alter the standings in the points classification. After another 5-10 kilometers of false-flat climbing, the course descends again, this time coming to rest in Sallanches. The course continues to descend slightly from Sallanches, passing through Oex at kilometer 98.5.

At kilometer 105, the climbing begins all over again. The third categorized climb of the day, the Côte d’Arâches is relatively short at just 6.3 kilometers. The average gradient is 7% and the organizers have given it a category 2 rating. The Côte d’Arâches, which climbs along a cliff-side road, is dwarfed by the other climbs of this stage, and should not prove especially decisive in its own right. Still, stage racing is a cumulative effort, and every climb counts in the balance. From the summit of the Côte d’Arâches, there remains 58 kilometers to race.

The course lingers for a short time after summiting the Côte d’Arâches, then it’s a short fast, descent to Cluses. Cluses will host the second intermediate sprint at kilometer 126. From Cluses, there remains two major cols and 43.5 kilometers to go to the finish.

The course takes a difficult and unusual route to the final climb of the day, the Col de la Colombière. Though the col is a frequent feature of the Tour, the race has never approached it by way of the Col de Romme. The Col de Romme is rated a category 1 climb, and ascends steeply for 8.8 kilometers. Cut into the side of the cliff, the road is relatively narrow with only a few sweeping switchbacks to interrupt the steep ramps. The average gradient is a zesty 8.9%, and the Col de Romme should force a selection among the remaining riders in the bunch. From the summit, there remains 29 kilometers of racing.

From the summit of the Col de Romme, the course descents approximately 5 kilometers before merging onto the Col de la Colombière. This year’s stage climbs only the final 7.5 kilometers of the col. From Le Reposoir, the Col de la Colombière climbs at an average gradient of 8.5% and carries a category 1 rating. The first kilometer has an average gradient of 6%, but that’s as easy as it gets on this final climb. At kilometer 2, the pitch ramps up to 8.5% for two kilometers, then 9% for three kilometers. The final kilometer has an average gradient of 10%. After the heavy climbing of this stage, this final col is super-climber territory. On it’s own, these 8 kilometers would be difficult, but not decisive. After climbing 4 categorized cols, and in particular, the steep Col de Romme, only the climbers will enjoy this stage finale. An attack or several should go off here, and only a small group should reach the summit together.

From the summit of the Col de la Colombière, the road descends vertiginously. There remain 15 kilometers of racing from the top of the col, and only the final kilometer is flat. The descent is fast and will reward a climber with stellar bike handling and a willingness to risk. It should be a high speed chase to the stage finish on the Pont sur le Borne in Le Grand-Bornand. The descent ends just short of the final kilometer. Then, it’s a flat ride to the finish.

Who To Watch

This stage is climber territory. After today, only Mont Ventoux remains for the climbers to gain an advantage in the general classification. With a 40 kilometer flat time trial around Annecy coming in the next stage, the climbers will need to ride here. Much depends, of course, on the state of the general classification by this point. Always a rider for the third week, Carlos Sastre should be on the attack during this stage. Likewise for Andy Schleck, who will not necessarily enjoy the next day’s time trial. Alberto Contador will surely find the finishing climb of this stage to his liking, and if his form is good, he will certainly be at the front over the summit of the Col de la Colombière.

Any rider who has a bad day on this stage will likely say adieu to his hopes of winning this year’s Tour. The general classification will change today. How much? We’ll soon see.

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