Frenchman takes stage, Contador Battles, Schleck’s in Lead

Pierre Roland takes the summit at stage 19 on l'Alpe D'Huez

July 22, 2011, Alpe D’Huez Press Room

The three-punch climbs from le Galibier to Alpe d’Huez promised a win by one of the favorites, but it was Pierre Roland who won the stage in a last minute push in which he passed the great champion Alberto Contador.

It was the first win for the Europcar rider and teammate of Thomas Voelcker, and a triumph as he pulled away from Samuel Sanchez in the final kilometer.

Rolland is now the new Green Jersey holder, which he has taken from Mark Cavendish.

Rolland was overjoyed with his first Tour de France stage win. “I kept my cool against the Spaniard,” said Rolland who said he had practiced the course many times before. He had watched the cadence of Lance Armstrong and Pantani on video more than 12 times he said, and that helped him understand how to win today.

Contador who had attacked early in the race on the Col du Telegraphe and went out on his own long before the final kilometers was unable to come in front after working on his own through much of the stage.

“I feel happy and contented,” said Contador who made up time he lost yesterday up the other side of the Galibier.

Voeckler came in three minutes behind Rolland, and is now in fourth position: Now Andy Schleck holds the Yellow Jersey, followed by Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans. Contador is in sixth position, and Cunego is in fifth.

All of this could change tomorrow when the riders complete the time trial in Grenoble.

On his first attach on the Col du Telegraphe, Contador took all the favorites with him, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, and Thomas Voeckler.

But with several accelerations, Contador soon dropped Voeckler, then Evans who in addition to being dropped, experienced problems with his back wheel, and had to stop twice to correct the problem.

French television commented that no matter what the technical issue, the problems Evans was experiencing were as emotional as technical, as his chances for a podium finish began to disappear in front of his eyes.

Today’s triple header of steep climbs would soon shake out the stage into an ever changing race, with no one single winner known until the end.

At the start of the 19th stage, Thomas Voeckler was just 15 seconds ahead of Andy Schleck. Yesterday he did not express a lot of confidence that he could keep his lead and his Yellow Jersey for a second day against the explosive legs of the Luxembourgan.

Today’s stage from Modane to the summit of the Alpe D’Huez would take riders over three climbs, the first over the category 1 Col du Telegraphe, the second an hors categorie climb up the other side of the col du Galibier, and the third the ultimate out of category Alpe D’Huez,

At 62 Km to go, Voeckler has been exhausted by the attacks, and his chases and started to slow on the col du Galibier.  His Europcaar teammates Jerome Vincent and Anthony Charteau came to his aid, as he struggled to follow the leaders in the stage.

The first 14 km of stage 19 from Modane to St-Michel-de-Maurienne were downhill. There was a break virtually from the start started by Johnny Hoogerland (VCD) and joining with him was Urtasun (EUS), Buffaz (COF) and Burghardt (BMC).

Soon twelve other riders caught the leaders, and now the group included Izagirre and Urtasun (EUS), Greipel (OLO), Iglinskiy (AST), Gutierriez and Costa (MOV), Koren (LIQ), Riblon (ALM), Flecha (SKY), Pineau (QST), Burghardt (BMC), Duque and Buffaz (COF), and Johnny Hoogerland.

The col du Telegraphe peaked at the 26.5km mark, and consisted of a 11.9 km long ascent with an average gradient of 7.1 per cent. At the base of the col Chris Anker Sorensen (SBS) set off a counter attack.

Soon, behind them Contador attacked and Andy Schleck went with him, as well as Frank Schleck and Navarro. 
 Cadel Evans and Barredo chased down the attack, as did Voeckler. First Evans and Barredo were dropped, then eventually Voeckler also was dropped by the accelerations of Contador, as was Frank Schleck.

As they continued to push the pace, the front group eventually caught the leaders, and passed them, taking with them Izagirre, Hoogerland, Duque and Roblin. On the top of the Telegraphe, Izagirre was first, with Andy Schleck,  and Contador following. With his second place over the Telegraphe, Schleck slipped into first position in the climber’s jersey with 72 more points that Jelle Vanendert.

Soon the group that was being led by Cadel Evans group was 1’35″ behind the stage leaders, while Voeckler and Pineau were 20 seconds behind Contador’s group as they begin the ascent of the Col du Galibier.

As they ascended the Col du Galibier, with less than 10 km to go, Contador group’s was 25 seconds ahead, and Voelcker’s group was one minute 40 seconds ahead of the peloton.

Contador did the bulk of the work driving the pace at the front of the lead group but Andy Schleck was also looking to take an advantage over Evans and Voeckler and worked with Contador. They were 1 minute 50 seconds ahead of the Evans peloton. Izagirre was soon dropped by the Contador group, and joined with Cadel Evans in the chase.

On the next climb up the Galibier, the leaders continued to push the pace. Andy Schleck who came over the top first followed by Alberto Contador, Rui Costa (MOV), Christophe Ribon, Samuel Sanchez (EUS), Ryder Hesjedal (GRM) and Evans was at 48 seconds behind them.

Samuel Sanchez soon joined the lead Contador group with 45 km to go. With them was Andy Schleck, Costa (MOV), and Riblon (ALM).

As the riders raced down the other side of the Galibier, then on to Bourg d’Oisans to the base of the Alpe D’Huez, the Yellow Jersey group was behind Contador’s group by 2 minutes. In between the first chase group and Voeckler were five men: Basso (LIQ), Szmyd (LIQ), Coppel (SAU), Fuglsang (LEO) and Hernandez (SBS).

In a second chase group there was Evans (BMC), Jeannesson (FDJ), Sandy Casar (FDJ), Frank Schleck (LEO), Danielson (GRM), Ryder Hesjedal (GRM), Damiano Cunego (LAM), Velits (THR), and Pierre Rolland (EUC), and they were 30 seconds behind the stage leaders with about 47 km to go.

In between the two cols was a large descent down to Bourg d’Oisans, which allowed the large chase group behind Contador to catch up.

With 25 km to go, the lead group of Contador was caught by the Evans chase group. Now among the group in the lead were Contador (SBS), Schleck (LEO), Frank Schleck (LEO), Samuel Sanchez (EUS), Danielson (GRM), Hesjedal (GRM), Rui Costa (MOV), Riblon (ALM), Sandy Casar (FDJ), Jeannesson (FDJ), Cadel Evans (BMC), Damiano Cunego (LAM), Velits (THR), and Rolland (EUC).

At 15 km to go, the Yellow Jersey group which included Voeckler, caught the combined Contador and Evans group. Again, Voeckler was holding onto the overall lead—at least for now.

Then Cadel Evans attacked with about 13 km to go, and he stayed ahead of the Shleck brothers for about a kilometer. Andy Schleck counter attacked, Cadel Evans hung on, then Contador attacked at 12.3 km to go.

The riders were being shredded by the attacked and Contador attacked again, at 12.2 km, and left Schleck and Evans in the dust. Voeckler was some time behind, and then Contador caught up with the two leaders Pierre Rolland and a Garmin Cervelo rider.

Behiind him Evans hung to the wheel of Andy Schleck.

Pierre Roland tried to stay with Contador and struggled. Contador attacked again, and dropped Roland at 11.3 km to go.  Would he be able to hold his lead and indeed make it bigger over the next 11 km?

Behind these two chase groups, Frank Schleck was working with Sammy Sanchez and several other riders including Cunego. Soon they caught Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans and the group was over 35 seconds behind Contador.

Behind them Thomas Voeckler was one minute and 21 seconds behind the leaders.

He had been 10 days in the Yellow Jersey. “One could not have asked for the impossible…this is a man who has had an extraordinary career,” said France 2 television in acknowledging that Voeckler would likely crack

Pierre Roland was still not caught by the Schleck-Evans chase group.

Andy Schleck drove the pace of the chase group, but the advantage of Contador soon grew to 46 seconds.

At 7.9 km to the finish, Contador had gained more than 42 seconds over Andy Schleck. Two minutes and almost 20 seconds behind was Thomas Voeckler.

Samuel Sanchez attacked at the front of the chase group, and soon caught up with Pierre Roland. Behind him was Peter Velits who also attacked the Evans-Schleck group, and then Thomas De Gendt (VCD), who followed.

At 6.3 km to the finish, Contador was ahead of the Evans-Schleck group by 58 seconds: Sanchez caught Rolland and the two worked together.

Soon Contador’s lead over the Evans-Schleck group was over a minute: over the chase of Sanchez and Rolland a little more than 17 seconds. As he was being chased by spectators, Contador flicked one of them with the back of his hand.

Fans crowded all of the riders as they came up the slopes of the Alpe D’Huez. With 4 km to go, Voeckler was soon 3 minutes behind Contador, and Evans and Schleck were behind by more than a minute.

Voeckler never gave up, continuing to push his own pace as he could, and perhaps save his place on the podium. Ahead, Sanchez and Rolland were gaining on Contador. With 3.3 km to go, the duo were catching up to him.

At 3.2 km Contador was visibly exhausted as Sanchez and Rolland caught him at 2.4 km: then Rolland attacked and Contador followed. Sanchez did not have the legs.

At 2.2 km Rolland played the same game with Contafor that he has plaued with others before. Behind them, Cadel Evans attacked the Schleck group, Andy Schleck followed. Cunego who had broken away from that group was soon caught. Ahead, Rolland broke away from the front. Evans caught Cunego.

At 1.7 km, Rolland was in the front for himself, Contador was more than a minute ahead of the two followed, then Sanchez attacked. At 1.1 km Rolland was out in front and sure to win.

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