Post Stage Analysis

Astarloza Takes First Ever Stage Win
Another day for the breakaway, while Contador continues as race leader
Serious crash for Jens Voigt on the final descent

Mikel Astarloza won today’s stage in Bourg-Saint-Maurice after a long day out in the breakaway. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider attacked an eight rider group inside 3 kilometers to go, and survived to celebrate a solo victory. The main general classification favorites finished together today, despite the efforts of Saxo Bank to shake up the standings. Cadel Evans was the main exception and dropped out of the top ten after another rough day in the mountains. Franco Pellizotti, meanwhile, added to his lead in the Mountains Classification after animating the stage’s early breakaway. On the final technical descent, Jens Voigt suffered a heavy crash after hitting a large bump in the road, and was taken to hospital in Grenoble. Early reports say he has suffered a head injury, though the severity is not yet known.

The Story

Franco Pellizotti, the leader in the Mountains Classification, attacked early on the first climb of the day, the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard. Vladimir Karpets of Katusha and Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi soon joined the Italian. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider, who began the day second in the mountains competition, found the pace too high and dropped back from the leaders. A chase group, who had escaped the Astana-led bunch, picked up the Martinez and continued their way up the 24 kilometer Col. By the summit, the two leaders had an advantage of 2:00 minutes over the main field where Astana rode tempo. The sixteen rider chase group, meanwhile, dangled in between the Pellizotti-Karpets escape and the Yellow Jersey group.

As the leading duo reached the bottom of the long descent from the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, they held an advantage of just over 5 minutes over the main field. The chase group sat 1:46 behind the Pellizotti-Karpets group. The chase included sixteen riders: Mikel Astarloza, Sandy Casar, Peter Velits, Stéphane Goubert, Jurgen van den Broeck, José Angel Gomez Marchante, Nicolas Roche, Volodymyr Gustov, Yuri Trofimov, Laurent Lefèvre, Laurens Ten Dam, Jens Voigt, Rémi Pauriol, Igor Anton, Gorka Verdrugo, Pierrick Fédrigo, Nicolas Vogondy, Maxime Bouet, Amaël Moinard. Euskaltel-Euskadi and Bbox Bouygues Télécom each had three riders in the chase group, which offered both teams a nice advantage in the race for the stage victory. In the main field, the bunch strung out behind Astana. Garmin-Slipstream sat just behind Astana in defense of their third place rider Bradley Wiggins.

Passing through Sarre, the riders began the long climb up the valley to the final climb of the day, the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. About ten kilometers later near the town of La Salle, the chase group succeeded in their pursuit of Pellizotti and Karpets. Now, eighteen riders sat at the front with a gap of 4:36 over the main field, still led by Astana. There remained 60 kilometers to race.

As they hit the final climb of the day, the break still rode over four minutes ahead of the main field. The 26.2 kilometer Col du Petit-Grand-Bernard winds up the side of the mountain in a tight series of switchbacks. The name misleads, as there is nothing small about this climb at all. Laurent Lefèvre made the first move from the break. Ever vigilant with his goal of scooping up mountains points, Pellizotti quickly joined Lefèvre. Pierrick Fédrigo also jumped across and giving the Bbox Bouygues a two-man advantage. Fédrigo began the day third in the mountains classification, and no doubt hoped to improve his position if possible. The threesome didn’t survive long, and soon the break came back together. The next move came from Jurgen van den Broeck, who clearly had good legs on this climb, and Pellizotti again followed. The group came back together again, and with 10 kilometers to race to the summit, fourteen riders remained in together at the front. The Bbox Bouygues Télécom riders continued to work hard to keep the pace high in the escape.

Behind, Astana led the Yellow Jersey group to the base of the climb, but soon Saxo Bank took over and began forcing the pace. The Saxo Bank tempo steadily diminished the numbers in the Yellow Jersey group as many riders found the pace too high. Tony Martin, who began the day in the top ten on the general classification, dropped off the back, as did Cadel Evans, who suffered another bad day in the mountains today. Carlos Sastre, as is his custom, also dropped back in the early kilometers of the climb. Sebastien Lang of Silence-Lotto put in a dig from the main field, but did not get far, as Chris Anker Sørensen drove hard for his Saxo Bank team-mates Andy and Fränk Schleck. With 41 kilometers to race, the Yellow Jersey group trailed the break by 3:28, but that gap was falling all the time as a result of the fast tempo by Saxo Bank.

Realizing their advantage was slipping away, Jurgen van den Broeck attacked from the break, bringing the ever-present Franco Pellizotti with him. The two worked together, and quickly built up a small advantage over the other breakaway riders. Mikel Astarloza, whose team had put three riders in the break earlier in the stage, set off alone to catch them. Amaël Moinard of Cofidis soon followed him. At the summit, Franco Pellizotti took the maximum points, followed closely by Astarloza, Moinard, and Van Den Broeck. A group of four chased from behind, including Sandy Casar, Pierrick Fédrigo, Stéphane Goubert, and Nicolas Roche.

Further down the mountain, the general classification battle ignited. Andy Schleck attacked hard off the front, a predictable move after the hard work from his team. Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo, who is riding well this Tour de France, soon joined him. Alberto Contador rode easily across with Fränk Schleck and Bradley Wiggins right there with him. Lance Armstrong did not make the move, and Andy Shleck began driving hard on the front with help from Nibali. The Schleck move soon opened a gap of 30 seconds over Armstrong. Christian Vandevelde and Kim Kirchen also rode in the group with Armstrong. Dropping back from the break, Jens Voigt took over the tempo in the Schleck group. The Voigt tempo proved too much for Fränk Schleck and he momentarily dropped off the back. Armstrong, meanwhile, began to bridge up from behind, as the gradients relaxed.

With the summit of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard in sight, Armstrong climbed back across to the group containing the other race favorites. Fränk Schleck followed on Armstrong’s wheel. Kim Kirchen, Christian Vandevelde, and Carlos Sastre also made the junction. The Yellow Jersey group passed over the summit 2:10 behind the four-up breakaway of Astarloza, Moinard, Van den Broeck, and Pellizotti. Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins, Andy Schleck, Christophe Le Mével, Fränk Schleck, Kim Kirchen, Christian Vandevelde, David Zabriskie, and Carlos Sastre all made it over the climb in the Yellow Jersey group. Cadel Evans, meanwhile, trailed by more than 2:00, his general classification hopes surely gone.

On the descent, three groups raced to the finish. The four-up break including Pellizotti, Moinard, Astarloza, and Van Den Broeck, the chase including Casar, Fédrigo, Goubert, and Roche, and the Yellow Jersey group. The break still held 2:00 minutes over the main field, but that gap began to fall rapidly as David Zabriskie went to the front and began to drive hard on the Yellow Jersey group. The chase led by Roche, meanwhile, steadily gained on the leading four.

With 24 kilometers to go, Jens Voigt took a heavy fall after hitting a bump in the road. His rear wheel appeared to hit hard, knocking his bars out of his hands. The German hard-man was transported by helicopter to Grenoble. The race doctor reported that Voigt had suffered facial injuries and would undergo a complete scan. Saxo Bank team manger Bjarne Riis, meanwhile, said he had not seen the crash, but remained very worried about his rider. “It is too soon to evaluate the gravity of his injuries. I did not see the crash, I have only seen him after, and it was not good,” said Riis.

Up the road, the race for the stage win continued. The descent grew ever more technical as it approached the valley floor and tight switchbacks lined up one after the other. Inside 10 kilometers to go, the gap from the Yellow Jersey group to the break had fallen to 1:00. Inside 5 kilometers to go, the four-up chase caught the lead group and it was eight riders at the front. Amaël Moinard launched the first attack for the stage win, followed by Jurgen Van Den Broeck. Neither move succeeded and briefly, it was all back together. Knowing he could not win from a sprint, Mikel Astarloza attacked just inside 2 kilometers to go. Their legs fried from the hard hilly day of racing, none could respond to Astarloza’s attack. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider raced solo toward the finish. Under the red kite, Mikel Astarloza held his advantage and celebrated the stage victory. Sandy Casar of Français des Jeux won the sprint for second ahead of Pierrick Fédrigo of Bbox Bouygues Télécom.

The Yellow Jersey group came in 59 seconds later, and Christophe Moreau took the sprint ahead of Alberto Contador. Most of the general classification favorites finished together in the Yellow Jersey group. Cadel Evans trailed by two minutes, while Tony Martin and Rinaldo Nocentini also dropped out of the top ten.

Today marked Mikel Astarloza’s second ever individual victory. Astarloza won the overall at the Tour Down Under in 2003. He also has a team time trial victory to his credit from the opening stage of the 2005 Vuelta Castilla y Leon. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider has frequently joined the breaks in this Tour de France, but did not find success until today. “I still can’t believe it. I’m not a rider who wins a lot of stages like this,” Astarloza said after his big win. He is not known for his sprint speed, and in the finale, Astarloza explained, “I knew I didn’t have any options in the sprint, so I just went for it.” The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider dedicated his victory to his entire team, who put three riders in the early break. “I am very happy,” he concluded with a huge, stage-winner grin.

General Classification Update

Here is the current top ten:
Alberto Contador Astana
Lance Armstrong Astana 1:37
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream 1:46
Andreas Klöden Astana 2:17
Andy Schleck Saxo Bank 2:26
Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Doimo 2:51
Christophe Le Mével Français des Jeux 3:09
Fränk Schleck Saxo Bank 3:25
Carlos Sastre Cervélo TestTeam 3:52
Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream 3:59

The top five positions in the general classification remain unchanged. Alberto Contador leads Lance Armstrong by 1:37 and Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream by 1:46. Tony Martin and Rinaldo Nocentini both dropped out of the top ten after today’s long mountain stage. Vincenzo Nibali moves up to sixth, while Christophe Le Mével moves up to seventh and Fränk Schleck is now eighth. Carlos Sastre and Christian Vandevelde now also move into the top ten after finishing with the Yellow Jersey group on today’s stage.

Cadel Evans suffered another jour sans, and has dropped to fourteenth in the general classification. Evans said after the stage that he wasn't certain about the cause of his problems and would consult the race doctor. Kim Kirchen of Columbia-HTC, meanwhile, moved up, and now sits thirteenth at 5:05. Kirchen has two previous top ten finishes in the Tour de France to his credit, though it may prove a step too far to make it into the top ten before this year’s race reaches Paris.

Other general classification riders: 11) Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 3:48 12) Roman Kreuziger Liquigas-Doimo @ 4:40 13) Kim Kirchen Columbia-HTC @ 5:05 14) Rinaldo Nocentini AG2R-La Mondiale @ 5:26 16) Vladimir Karpets Katusha @ 5:56 17) Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto 7:23 34) Tony Martin Columbia-HTC 18:48.

Other classifications: After today’s long ride in the breakaway, Franco Pellizotti has solidified his lead in the Mountains classification. He now sits 58 points ahead of Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and 62 points ahead of Pierrick Fédrigo of Bbox Bouygues Télécom. Tomorrow’s stage carries significant points in the Polka Dot jersey contest, so Pellizotti will have his work cut out for him to defend his lead.

In the Young Riders classification, Andy Schleck leads Vincenzo Nibali by 25 seconds. Schleck will want to gain more time on tomorrow’s mountain stage, because Nibali is no slouch against the watch. Roman Kreuziger is third at 2:14. After his bad day today, the early leader in this classification Tony Martin has dropped out of contention.

The standings in the Points classification remain unchanged today with Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam leading Mark Cavendish of Columbia-HTC by 18 points. Astana, meanwhile, leads the teams classification.

Franco Pellizotti again received the most combative award for today’s stage.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage crosses five categorized climbs. It begins at the base of the Cormet de Roselend, an 18.1 kilometer ascent, then climbs the 15 kilometer Col des Saisies and the shorter 6 kilometer Côte d’Arâches. For the finale, the course takes a new route to the Col de la Colombière, by climbing the Col de Romme, a steep category 1 col along the way. The two steep final climbs come back to back with little recovery between them.

Though the stage descends to the finish, it seems likely that the succession of climbs will open up new gaps in the general classification. When asked about tomorrow’s stage, Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck grinned and said, “tomorrow is the big day.” No doubt we will see Saxo Bank on the attack tomorrow, though it remains to be seen whether they can break the hold of Astana on this race.

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

This stage preview is available in the following languages:

(We are looking for translations in ALL other languages. Please submit your translation with the stage no. and language in the subject title.)

Course Preview

Also follow steephill on Twitter for the latest race info and video updates.

Previa Etapa 16: Martigny– Bourg-Saint-Maurice

Tipo de terreno: Montañoso. Dos grandes subidas y un rápido descenso final

Importancia para la general: La hay. Es una gran oportunidad para un escalador que baje bien. No es un buen día para tener un “jour sans”, un mal día.

Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard 24.4 km, pend. media 6.2 %, Categoría especial
Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard 22.6 km, pend. media 5.1 %, Categoría 1

Esta etapa de montaña empieza en Martigny, Suiza, pasa por Italia y vuelve a Francia para acabar en Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Hoy se suben dos puertos, el fuera de categoría col du Grand-Saint-Bernard y el primera categoría col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. Con 2469 metros, el col du Grand-Saint-Bernard es el pico más alto de esta edición del Tour de Francia. La mayoría de la etapa es en subida,  teniendo un descenso rápido de 30 kilómetros hacia meta. Los organizadores advierten de que “esta super-etapa francoitalosiuza no va a permitir ninguna debilidad”, y es que, aunque una escapada puede sobrevivir y disputar la etapa, los favoritos a la victoria final van a necesitar traer las mejores piernas para la jornada de hoy.

Este año supone la primera visita del Tour a la localidad suiza de Martigny, situada entre Italia y Francia, a los pies del col du Grand-Saint-Bernard y el col de la Forclaz. Esta ciudad de habla francesa no está lejos del final de la etapa anterior en Verbier, siguiendo con la tónica de desplazamientos cortos de este Tour. ¡Muérete de envidia, Giro de Italia!

En tiempos de Julio César, la zona a la que pertenece Martigny pasó a formar parte del Imperio Romano, de hecho el propio Julio cruzó hacia Suiza por el col du Grand-Saint-Bernard. Muchos restos romanos permanecen en Martigny, incluyendo un anfiteatro, que, siendo restaurado en 1978, alberga luchas de vacas en otoño. Estas luchas son un evento tradicional en Suiza, y consisten en combates de dos vacas de raza Herens. Con los cuernos recortados, las vacas se embisten hasta que una de ellas decide que ya tiene bastante y se rinde. Los combates pueden durar hasta 40 minutos, siendo Martigny el lugar del campeonato regional, donde se dan cita las mejores vacas del cantón de Valais.

La última vez que el Tour visitó el col du Grand-Saint-Bernard fue hace 43 años, en una etapa entre Ivréa y Chamoix. Eso fue en 1966, para los duros en matemáticas. Además de este puerto, la etapa incluía el col de la Forclaz y el col des Montets. Raymond Pulidor, que perdío con Lucien Aimar por algo más de 5 minutos, atacó en el col de la Forclaz, y sólo Julio Jiménez le pudo seguir. Jiménez ganó la etapa, y Poulidor estuvo a punto de conseguir el maillot de líder. Lucien Aimar acabó con un retraso de 2:20 y mantuvo el amarillo un día más. Jacques Anquetil se retiró en la etapa siguiente por culpa de una bronquitis que parece que contrajo en el descenso del col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, y Aimar pudo celebrar el triunfo final en París por delante de Jan Janssen y Raymond Poulidor.

Más recientemente, Bourg-Saint-Maurice albergó al Tour en 1996, disputándose una contrarreloj. Evgeni Berzin ganó aquella etapa, que discurría entre Bourg-Saint-Maurice y Val d’Isère. Miguel Indurain, que en 1996 esperaba ganar su sexto Tour, sólo pudo acabar quinto en la crono. El español había sufrido una pájara el día anterior en la subida a la montée des Arcs, y declaró: “Cuando exprimes tus músculos como si fueran limones, siempre te quedan marcas”. Bjarne Riis ganó el Tour de aquel año, aunque su victoria fue objeto de polémica cuando años más tarde confesó que tomó EPO durante la carrera francesa.

Detalles del perfil

Si sales de Martigny, no hay muchas opciones: o subes, o subes. Esta etapa 16 empieza ascendiendo de forma inmediata el col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, que conecta Martigny con el Valle de Aosta en Italia. Los primeros 40 kilómetros de etapa son de subida, la carrera gana 400 metros de altura en sólo 16 km lo que, con la calculadora en la mano, sale una pendiente del 3%. Los velocistas todavía no estarán buscando el grupo trasero, pero lo harán pronto.

Desde Orsières hay 24,4 kilómetros de una pendiente media del 6,2% hasta la cima del col du Grand-Saint-Bernard. La subida empieza a ponerse seria, con un primer kilómetro al 7,2%. Los siguientes nueve km mantienen su inclinación entre el 5,5 y el 6%. En el km 10 la subida se vuelve a poner dura, alcanzando la máxima pendiente del 9,7%, pero este tramo no dura mucho: al pasar por Bourg-Saint-Pierre, la carretera se pone pedaleable. En el Lac des Toules, kilómetro 15, la carrera se vuelve llana durante 4 kilómetros y alcanza un cómodo 3,6%.

Después, de nuevo la zona empinada, que empieza al pasar por Bourg-Saint-Bernard (km 19). Los siguientes 6,5 kilómetros hasta la cima tienen una pendiente que varía entre 7,3 y 9,7%. Cerca de la cima hay una estatua de Saint Bernard du Mentón. El col du Grand-Saint-Bernard se corona a 2469 metros sobre el nivel del mar y desde su cima quedarán 109 kilómetros hasta la meta. Aun siendo una larga distancia la que queda, la longitud de la subida debería aclarar las cosas y dejar a un grupo mucho más pequeño para disputar lo que queda de etapa. Al menos un líder de equipo va a preguntarse que dónde han ido sus compañeros de equipo.

Tras coronar, el Tour cruzará hacia el italiano Valle de Aosta, con un largo descenso desde la cima del col du Grand-Saint-Bernard. Pasando por Saint-Rhémy y Gignod, la carretera presenta 35 kilómetros de descenso, para luego volver empezar la subida buscando la base del col du Petite-Saint-Bernard, conocido por allí como Piccolo Saint Bernard.

Hay dos sprints intermedios entre los puertos. El primero se encuentra en el kilómetro 78,5, en la ciudad de Sarre. La pendiente va aumentando de forma constante, pero no brusca: los siguientes 28 km suben 400 metros, con una pendiente media del 2% aproximadamente. La segunda meta volante está en Pré Saint-Didier (km 106), ya incluida en la segunda subida del día.

El col du Petit-Saint-Bernard son 22,6 kilómetros de subida con una inclinación media del 5,1%. Una subida larga, pero en ningún momento muy empinada, los escaladores van a tener que emplearse a fondo si quieren hacer la selección. Desde Pré Saint-Didier, los cuatro primeros kilómetros oscilan entre 4,5% y 5%, y después seis de subida intermitente, entre 4% y 2%.

Al atravesar La Thuile, kilómetro 10 de subida, la carretera se va empinando conforme quede menos distancia a la cima. Los siguientes siete kilómetros son al 6%, no muy difíciles en sí, pero con la subida tan larga que llevamos el grupo se va a ir encogiendo. La máxima pendiente en este Petit-Saint-Bernard es el 7,1%, aparece entre los kilómetros 17 y 19. Después, dos kilómetros suaves y uno al 7%. Ya casi en la cima, los últimos 500 metros son prácticamente llanos, coronando a 2188 metros de altura. Si los escaladores no han hecho la selección aquí, han perdido una oportunidad. La subida no es muy escarpada, pero es lo bastante larga como para tumbar a alguno que no esté en la mejor forma para escalar.

En la cima del col du Petit-Saint-Bernard volvemos a Francia, con 31 kilómetros de descenso hasta el final en Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Las carreteras son anchas y firmes, y no es un descenso especialmente técnico. Aun así, habrá un final rápido, ya que la carrera desciende 1326 metros, desde la cima hasta el triángulo rojo. El kilómetro final en Bourg-Saint-Maurice es llano.

Corredores a seguir

Mucho va a depender la etapa del estado en que se encuentre la clasificación general. Es posible que los equipos que buscan la general dejen que se forme una escapada y que ésta llegue a meta, pero seguramente intenten disputar la etapa, lo que puede aguar la fiesta a alguno de los que buscan victorias de este tipo. La longitud de las subidas debería aclarar el panorama, teniendo los escaladores que darlo todo para forzar una selección importante de corredores en el Petit-Saint-Bernard. La última ascensión del día no es muy escarpada, el trabajo tendrán que hacerlo todo ellos. De todas formas, viniendo de un día de descanso no hay razón para guardar fuerzas. El largo descenso podría hacer que la carrera se agrupara, pero debería llegar un grupo pequeño a meta. Con su rápido descenso al final, esta etapa recompensa a los ciclistas que estén dispuestos a correr riesgos. — 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)<-->