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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Previa Etapa 17: Bourg-Saint-Maurice – Le Grand-Bornand

Tipo de terreno: Montañoso. Cinco puertos puntuables y un descenso final

Importancia para la general: La hay. Quedando sólo una etapa de montaña más, los favoritos a la general saldrán a tope en el día de hoy. Aunque la etapa acaba en descenso, la sucesión de duras subidas debería abrir huecos entre los contendientes a la victoria final. 

Cormet de Roselend 18.1 km, pend. media 5.7 %, Categoría 1
Col des Saisies 15.1 km, pend. media 6 %, Categoría 1
Cota d'Arâches 6.3 km, pend. media 7 %, Categoría 2
Col de Romme 8.8 km, pend. media 8.9 %, Categoría 1
Col de la Colombière 7.5 km, pend. media 8.5 %, Categoría 1

Si hay algún punto llano en esta etapa, lo han escondido muy bien. Esta segunda jornada en los Alpes franceses es un continuo sube y baja en lo que supone la etapa de montaña más dura de esta edición del Tour de Francia. La subida comienza nada más salir de Bourg-Saint-Maurice, estando aquí la primera de las cinco montañas que tendrán que superar los corredores. El final en Le Grand-Bornand es llano y llega tras un descenso, pero sólo a 15 kilómetros de la última cima, el col de la Colombière. Un pequeño grupo llegará a meta para disputar la etapa, y probablemente se producirán cambios en la general.

En estas dos etapas alpinas, los organizadores de la carrera han puesto kilometrajes cortos, para animar a los corredores a que ataquen. Ambas etapas tienen descenso desde el último puerto, haciendo que los escaladores tengan difícil, aunque no imposible, el tomar ventaja en la clasificación general. El ganador deberá tener fuerza en la subida y grandes habilidades en el descenso; un corredor completo, en suma.

Le Grand-Bornand se encuentra rodeado de montañas, en un valle glaciar de los Alpes franceses. Un río corre por el pueblo, que sirve de estación de esquí durante el invierno. El último final de etapa en Le Grand-Bornand fue en 2007, donde Linus Gerdemann atacó en la Colombière y rodó en solitario hasta la meta. Gerdemann se llevó el liderato y vistió de amarillo el día siguiente; dos semanas después, Alberto Contador celebraba la victoria final en París.

Detalles del perfil

Tras el banderazo de salida, la carrera comienza a subir el Cormet de Roselend. Como muchas otras cimas de los Alpes, es un puerto largo pero no especialmente duro: de 1ª categoría, son 18,1 kilómetros de subida a una pendiente media del 5,7%. El tramo más inclinado se encuentra entre les Glinettes y Crêt Bettex, a unos 9 km de la salida. En general la subida va ganando dificultad de forma constante, sin hacer mucho daño. Hay algunas secciones donde se relaja un poco, dando aire a los corredores (entre los kilómetros 2 y 4, así como entre el 11 y 12, la carretera es casi llana). Sin embargo, desde Pont St Antoine, km 12, hasta el final en el 18, la subida presenta una pendiente del 6 al 8%. Esta ascensión generará desgaste, pero los favoritos coronarán juntos, ya que la cima sólo está en el kilómetro 18, y el final se presenta lejos.

Desde la cima del Cormet de Roselend, la carrera desciende 20 kilómetros hacia Beaufort, donde empieza la siguiente subida, el col des Saisies. El Tour frecuentemente visita este puerto, siendo subido este año desde el sur. El col des Saisies sube durante 15,1 km con una pendiente media del 6%. El tramo más duro está tras pasar Hauteluce, entre los kilómetros 9 y 10, y consigue un 8%. El resto de la subida se mueve entre el 6 y el 7%, siendo más fácil que el anterior por tener un poco de menos longitud. Sin embargo, conforme los kilómetros van pasando, pocos ciclistas van a encontrar fácil la etapa. Desde la cima del col des Saises quedan 113,5 km hasta la meta de Le Grand-Bornand.

Después del Saises, la carrera desciende 15 kilómetros hasta Flumet, donde empieza una subidita para encontrar el primer sprint intermedio del día en Praz-sur-Arly, km 75. No parece que los sprinters estén para disputar este sprint, no habrá cambios en la clasificación de los puntos. Después de otros 5-10 kilómetros de falso llano ascendente volvemos a descender, para llegar a Sallances y luego a Oex, km 98,5.

El kilómetro 105, la subida vuelve a empezar, con la tercera subida puntuable del día. La cota d’Arâches es relativamente corta, tiene sólo 6,3 kilómetros, con una pendiente del 7%, lo que le merece la clasificación de 2ª categoría. Esta cota, que se sube por la carretera de un desfiladero, está empequeñecida por las otras subidas de la etapa, y por ello no será particularmente decisiva. Aún así, la carrera es acumulativa, por lo que cada dificultad montañosa se suma al total. Desde la cima de la cota d’Arâches quedarán 58 kilómetros de carrera.

Tras subir Arâches hay un descenso corto y rápido para entrar en Cluses, donde se encuentra el segundo sprint intermedio (km 126). Desde allí todavía quedan dos grandes puertos y 43,5 kilómetros para acabar.

La carrera toma una ruta inusual y bastante difícil hacia la última subida del día, la  Colombière. Aunque este puerto es plato frecuente en el menú del Tour, nunca antes nos habíamos acercado a él por el col de Romme. De 1ª categoría, el col de Romme sube duramente durante 8,8 kilómetros. En este lado de la montaña la carretera es bastante estrecha y tiene sólo unas pocas curvas que interrumpan sus temibles rampas. La pendiente media es un picante 8,9%, este col de Romme debería forzar una selección entre los ciclistas que queden en el grupo. Tras coronar sólo quedan 29 kilómetros a disputar. 

Desde la cima del col de Romme descendemos 5 kilómetros antes de entrar en el col de la Colombière. Este año se suben sólo los 7,5 km finales de puerto, desde Le Reposoir, que tienen una pendiente media del 8,5% (categoría 1). El primer kilómetro está al 6%, pero de ahí en adelante va a peor. En el kilómetro 2 ya sube al 8,5%,durante 2 km, y luego otros 3 al 9%. El kilómetro final lleva un 10% de pendiente. Después de todas las subidas de esta etapa, el último puerto es territorio para los escaladores. Ya de por sí este tramo es duro, pero tras haber escalado cinco puertos, en especial el Romme, sólo los escaladores podrán estar delante al final. Un ataque o varios deberían desatarse, llegando arriba sólo un grupito de corredores.

Desde la cima de la Colombière, descendemos vertiginosamente hasta un último kilómetro llano. El descenso es muy rápido y va a premiar a un ciclista que tenga una habilidad fuera de lo común y una predisposición al riesgo. Parece probable que se de una persecución a gran velocidad hasta la meta en el Pont sur le Borne en Le Grand-Bornand. El descenso acaba bajo el triángulo rojo, dejando un kilómetro de llano hasta el final.

Corredores a seguir

Territorio escalador es esta etapa. Después de lo de hoy sólo el Mont Ventoux podrán aprovechar los escaladores para tomar ventaja. Teniendo una crono casi llana de 40 kilómetros por Annecy al día siguiente, éstos necesitan darlo todo en la jornada de hoy. Mucho va a depender de cómo se encuentre la general en ese momento, claro está. Siendo un corredor de tercera semana, Carlos Sastre debería atacar en esta etapa, al igual que Andy Schleck, que no saca ventaja en las contrarrelojs. Alberto Contador seguramente encuentre de su gusto la última subida del día, y si está en forma estará entre los mejores en la cima de la Colombière.

Cualquier corredor que tenga un mal día en esta decimoséptima etapa puede ir diciendo adieu a sus oportunidades de ganar este Tour de Francia. La general va a experimentar cambios hoy. ¿Cuántos? Pronto lo veremos. — Gavia, translated by Juan Bonilla

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->