It has been the day we were all waiting for: when the Tour reaches the first mountainous stages and suddenly the riders that were winning before are in the back, and a new climbing set takes their place in the bastion of power.
No better day than Bastille Day, one of the most important national holidays in France.
There were expectations that Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, the two favorites for the overall GC after the Tour reached the mountains, would come to a battle on the slopes of the Hourquette d’Ancizan, the Col du Tourmalet, and Luz Ardideen–but that’s not how it played out.
Instead it was Samuel Sanchez who shined in the final moments of the stage, with Jelle Vanendert coming in second and Frank Schleck climbing up quickly to third in the stage after the two leaders.
Samuel Sanchez pushed ahead to the finish line ahead of some of the best climbers in the world, and as Schleck raced to catch up with Sanchez and Jelle Vandendert, he moved into second position overall.
The final moments of the race up the Luz Ardidien, the third of three big climbs in the Pyrenees was full of attacks and counter attacks.
But Evans lost time to Frank Schleck who pulled out in front and was not matched by any rider in the small group, and he took over second position overall. Evans slipped to third.
Alberto Contador dispelled any possibility that his knee was really bothering him as he stayed with the lead group all the way. Andy Schleck looked less comfortable than his brother coming up the final kilometers, which has been true for most of the stages so far.
Geraint Thomas who rode out in front for a good part of the climbing stages picked up the most aggressive rider designation.
Play by Play
The peak of the first col, a category one climb would come at 141.5 km, with the two following hors categorie climb at 175 and 211 km.
That would mean 77 km of climbing for the teams that so far have had a tough Tour.
Yellow Jersey holder Thomas Voeckler’s Europcar team stayed in the front at the outset, but a flyer by King of the Mountain holder Johnny Hoogerland was followed by Sylvain Chavenel with no reaction by the peloton.
Ahead of them was a break of 6 riders that has been established at 4 km from the start and included Ruben Perez Moreno (EUS), José Ivan Gutierrez (MOV), Blel Kadri (ALM), Geraint Thomas (SKY), Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Laurent Mangel (SAU).
Ahead of them in the break Mangel (SAU) attacked the lead group and gained 10 points, followed by Perez Moreno (EUS), Kadri (ALM), Roy (FDJ) and Thomas (SKY).
Geraint Thomas of Team Sky had difficulty with his back wheel freezing up on the descent which separated him from the break.
The first time, he almost went off the edge of the mountain, and in the second, less than a minute later, his wheel froze up and he went off the road past a parked car and a female bystander who looked like she had no idea what just happened.
Behind the break Kreuziger and Chavanel were four minutes behind Mangel and Hoogerland was 4 minutes and 35 seconds behind.
The peloton were more than five minutes behind as they breached the top of the first col and as they descended only 500 meters from the top there was a crash involving several riders on the same corner that claimed Geraint Thomas: The crash sent the Yellow Jersey holder Voeckler into a parked car on the side of the road, and Samuel Sanchez onto the pavement. Andreas Kloden was also in the crash, but he got back on his bike and continued to ride. Slippery or grease stained roads could have been the cause.
On the plateau between the first and second cols, the sprinters who had been dropped on the climb rejoined with the peloton.
At the start of the climb to the Col du Tourmalet, the Leopard Trek team came to the front of the peloton and started driving the pace: they may have been testing Alberto Contador, last year’s winner of the Tour, to see if his knee really was damaged. It was also a way to start shedding riders from the peleton.
Ahead of them still were the leaders by more than 7 minutes, and by more than one minute, Johnny Hoogerland, the Red Polka Dot jersey holder. Kreuziger and Chavanel were ahead of Hoogerland by
Behind them was the “Autobus” of sprint riders being shredded, including Cavendish and Italian Alessandro Petachhi. Bernie Eisel of Team HTC went to pick up Cavendish and try to bring him further up.
The pace by Team Leopard soon took the lead peloton group past Hoogerland, and with 14 km to climb the front split was now 6 minutes and 50 seconds behind the six stage leaders. Posthuma is the first from the Luxembourg squad to finish his pull at the front for the Schleck brothers.
It was now time for Leopard Trek to dominate the mountains the way HTC Highroads had dominated the flats.
With a ten percent average grade as the riders continued their climb, and at 7 km to the summit up ahead, Kreuziger was 17 seconds from the lead group of six. With 8km to climb, the peloton with the yellow jersey was quickly gaining at 3 minutes and 40 seconds behind the stage leaders.
Then Gutierrez was dropped from the lead group, and was caught by Kreuziger who moved ahead to be part of the six man lead group.
Then Kreuziger caught Mangel. They were 20 seconds behind the lead group being driven by Thomas (SKY). Thomas dropped Roy and Perez Moreno as he passed through La Mongie.
At 4.5 km from the top of the col du Tourmalet, Thomas now had the lead over all the other riders: Chavanel was caught by the lead split, who then spit him out the back.
Geraint Thomas is has a lead of about 50 meters on Jeremy Roy. They are less than 2km from the top and the Welshman leads the Frenchman by just 5″.
Jens Voigt lead the peloton through La Mongie 4.5km from the summit of the col du Tourmalet, and three minutes 20 seconds behind Geraint Thomas.
Jeremy Roy caught Geraint Thomas near the summit, passing him, and taking the lead, and as he passed over the summit the Frenchman gained 20 points and 5,000 Euros as well as the lead in the King of the Mountains classification: Thomas went over in second place. They descended hair pin turns through the clouds into the valley below. Riders can travel as fast as 70 mph down these hills.
Behind them at the top followed Kadri (ALM) a little over a minute back, Perez Moreno (EUS), Kreuziger (AST), and Ten Dam (RAB).
There would be a 12 km descent followed by the last climb of the day to Luz Ardidien.
As the peloton made the descent,
Samuel Sanchez attacked and he took a lead of 13 seconds in front of the yellow jersey’s group. Sanchez (EUS) soon was riding along with Vanendert (OLO), Gilbert (OLO), Perez Moreno (EUS), Trofimov (KAT), Ten Dam (RAB), and Riblon (ALM) and were about 20 seconds ahead of the lead split.
Behind them was a group which included Cadel Evans is right on the wheel of Andy Schleck while Frank Schleck is following the Australian. They caught Kreuziger and absorbed him. Among the split group was Alberto Contador and the Yellow Jersey, Thomas Voeckler.
Slowly but surely, the front peloton group begam picking up, absorbing and then spitting out riders who had been in front. Phillipe Gilbert slipped to the back of the lead split, followed by Trofimov and Ten Dam.
Sanchez and Vanendert were just 33 seconds ahead of the 20-man peloton that included the Yellow Jersey, the Schecks, Thomas Voeckler, Alberto Contador,and Damiano Cunego but was now being led at the front by teammates Szmyd and Ivan Basso. Geraint Thomas who had shown so much promise for the stage was caught and was now slipping back behind the lead group.
Then at 5.4 km from the summit, the group looked like it was ready to see a jump from any of the riders.
Ahead of them by a minute and 14 seconds, were Vandendert, and Sanchez, the only two riders able to stay ahead of the yellow jersey group just miles from the summit.
Behind them Andy schleck attacked off the front and was responded by Contador, Evans, and Voeckler, then Frank Schleck made a counter attack, putting the men behind him in an oxygen deficit. Frank appeared to be the fitter of the two brothers.
Then Ivan Basso (LIQ) made an attack off the front, forcing a response by the other riders, but unable to make a lasting dent. That was followed by an attack by Frank Schleck who again forced the pace, but did not gain any distance from the other riders who followed.
At 2.6 km from the finish, the gap from the leaders to the chase was a minute and 14 seconds, then there was another acceleration by Frank Schelck who really took off, and the others did not respond. The former winner of the Alpe d’Huez stage needed only 3 seconds to take the place of Cadel Evans in the top three.
With two kilometers to go Frank Schleck had 20 seconds over the yellow jersey group, and behind him, Cadel Evans lifted the pace looking to secure his second place position. Basso followed Evans, and Voeckler pushed hard to stay with the leaders, but soon slipped to the back, riding behind his teammate Pierre Roland.
With one km to go for the two riders at the front, Schleck was hoping to cover 40 seconds in a kilometer, and was 25 seconds behind Vanendert and Sanchez.
At 500 meters was chasing the two leaders to the finish, but it was the champion of the Olympic Games in Beijing Samuel Sanchez who won teh first of the big mountain stages. Vanendert came in second and Frank Schleck third.
Contador was dropped as Basso got fourth, Andy Schleck fifth, Contador sixth and Cunego seventh. Thomas Voeckler kept his Yellow Jersey.
Frank Schleck moved up ahead of Cadel Evans, and took second position overall.
OVERALL STANDINGS IN THE GENERAL CLASSIFICATION END STAGE 12: Source ASO
|1.||VOECKLER Thomas||181||TEAM EUROPCAR||51h 54′ 44″|
|2.||SCHLECK Frank||18||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||51h 56′ 33″||+ 01′ 49″|
|3.||EVANS Cadel||141||BMC RACING TEAM||51h 56′ 50″||+ 02′ 06″|
|4.||SCHLECK Andy||11||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||51h 57′ 01″||+ 02′ 17″|
|5.||BASSO Ivan||91||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||51h 58′ 00″||+ 03′ 16″|
|6.||CUNEGO Damiano||161||LAMPRE – ISD||51h 58′ 06″||+ 03′ 22″|
|7.||CONTADOR Alberto||1||SAXO BANK SUNGARD||51h 58′ 44″||+ 04′ 00″|
|8.||SANCHEZ Samuel||21||EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI||51h 58′ 55″||+ 04′ 11″|
|9.||DANIELSON Tom||52||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||51h 59′ 19″||+ 04′ 35″|
|10.||ROCHE Nicolas||101||AG2R LA MONDIALE||51h 59′ 41″||+ 04′ 57″|
|11.||DE WEERT Kevin||124||QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM||51h 59′ 51″||+ 05′ 07″|
|12.||GILBERT Philippe||32||OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO||52h 00′ 08″||+ 05′ 24″|
|13.||JEANNESSON Arnold||134||FDJ||52h 00′ 34″||+ 05′ 50″|
|14.||VELITS Peter||179||HTC – HIGHROAD||52h 00′ 47″||+ 06′ 03″|
|15.||ZUBELDIA Haimar||79||TEAM RADIOSHACK||52h 02′ 01″||+ 07′ 17″|
|16.||TAARAMAE Rein||151||COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE||52h 02′ 11″||+ 07′ 27″|
|17.||LEIPHEIMER Levi||75||TEAM RADIOSHACK||52h 02′ 35″||+ 07′ 51″|
|18.||URAN Rigoberto||118||SKY PROCYCLING||52h 02′ 39″||+ 07′ 55″|
|19.||PERAUD Jean-Christophe||108||AG2R LA MONDIALE||52h 03′ 04″||+ 08′ 20″|
|20.||CASAR Sandy||131||FDJ||52h 03′ 31″||+ 08′ 47″|
|21.||COPPEL Jérôme||211||SAUR-SOJASUN||52h 03′ 35″||+ 08′ 51″|
|22.||KARPETS Vladimir||191||KATUSHA TEAM||52h 03′ 56″||+ 09′ 12″|
|23.||ROLLAND Pierre||188||TEAM EUROPCAR||52h 04′ 04″||+ 09′ 20″|
|24.||KLÖDEN Andréas||74||TEAM RADIOSHACK||52h 05′ 03″||+ 10′ 19″|
|25.||THOMAS Geraint||117||SKY PROCYCLING||52h 05′ 05″||+ 10′ 21″|
|26.||MARTIN Tony||175||HTC – HIGHROAD||52h 05′ 35″||+ 10′ 51″|
|27.||RUIJGH Rob||208||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||52h 05′ 50″||+ 11′ 06″|
|28.||GUSEV Vladimir||194||KATUSHA TEAM||52h 05′ 57″||+ 11′ 13″|
|29.||FUGLSANG Jakob||13||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||52h 07′ 06″||+ 12′ 22″|
|30.||TROFIMOV Yury||199||KATUSHA TEAM||52h 07′ 12″||+ 12′ 28″|
|31.||MONFORT Maxime||15||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||52h 07′ 27″||+ 12′ 43″|
|32.||VANENDERT Jelle||38||OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO||52h 07′ 38″||+ 12′ 54″|
|33.||VERDUGO Gorka||29||EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI||52h 08′ 47″||+ 14′ 03″|
|34.||VANDE VELDE Christian||58||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||52h 09′ 07″||+ 14′ 23″|
|35.||TEN DAM Laurens||48||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||52h 10′ 45″||+ 16′ 01″|
STAGE STANDINGS AT END OF STAGE 12: Source ASO
|1.||SANCHEZ Samuel||21||EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI||6h 01′ 15″|
|2.||VANENDERT Jelle||38||OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO||6h 01′ 22″||+ 00′ 07″|
|3.||SCHLECK Frank||18||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||6h 01′ 25″||+ 00′ 10″|
|4.||BASSO Ivan||91||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||6h 01′ 45″||+ 00′ 30″|
|5.||EVANS Cadel||141||BMC RACING TEAM||6h 01′ 45″||+ 00′ 30″|
|6.||SCHLECK Andy||11||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||6h 01′ 45″||+ 00′ 30″|
|7.||CUNEGO Damiano||161||LAMPRE – ISD||6h 01′ 50″||+ 00′ 35″|
|8.||CONTADOR Alberto||1||SAXO BANK SUNGARD||6h 01′ 58″||+ 00′ 43″|
|9.||VOECKLER Thomas||181||TEAM EUROPCAR||6h 02′ 05″||+ 00′ 50″|
|10.||ROLLAND Pierre||188||TEAM EUROPCAR||6h 02′ 05″||+ 00′ 50″|
|11.||DANIELSON Tom||52||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||6h 02′ 18″||+ 01′ 03″|
|12.||JEANNESSON Arnold||134||FDJ||6h 02′ 34″||+ 01′ 19″|
|13.||URAN Rigoberto||118||SKY PROCYCLING||6h 02′ 40″||+ 01′ 25″|
|14.||LEIPHEIMER Levi||75||TEAM RADIOSHACK||6h 02′ 40″||+ 01′ 25″|
|15.||DUPONT Hubert||103||AG2R LA MONDIALE||6h 03′ 11″||+ 01′ 56″|
|16.||TROFIMOV Yury||199||KATUSHA TEAM||6h 03′ 11″||+ 01′ 56″|
|17.||ROCHE Nicolas||101||AG2R LA MONDIALE||6h 03′ 17″||+ 02′ 02″|
|18.||TEN DAM Laurens||48||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||6h 03′ 25″||+ 02′ 10″|
|19.||DE WEERT Kevin||124||QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM||6h 03′ 25″||+ 02′ 10″|
|20.||ZUBELDIA Haimar||79||TEAM RADIOSHACK||6h 04′ 08″||+ 02′ 53″|
|21.||COPPEL Jérôme||211||SAUR-SOJASUN||6h 04′ 21″||+ 03′ 06″|
|22.||SORENSEN Chris Anker||6||SAXO BANK SUNGARD||6h 04′ 21″||+ 03′ 06″|
|23.||GUSEV Vladimir||194||KATUSHA TEAM||6h 04′ 23″||+ 03′ 08″|
|24.||GILBERT Philippe||32||OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO||6h 04′ 34″||+ 03′ 19″|
|25.||TAARAMAE Rein||151||COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE||6h 04′ 40″||+ 03′ 25″|
|26.||PERAUD Jean-Christophe||108||AG2R LA MONDIALE||6h 04′ 53″||+ 03′ 38″|
|27.||CASAR Sandy||131||FDJ||6h 05′ 09″||+ 03′ 54″|
|28.||MONCOUTIE David||157||COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE||6h 05′ 10″||+ 03′ 55″|
|29.||HESJEDAL Ryder||55||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||6h 05′ 12″||+ 03′ 57″|
|30.||HIVERT Jonathan||216||SAUR-SOJASUN||6h 05′ 13″|