Today’s 163km stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chвteaux to Gap was a long steady uphill grind on the profile, and with the heavier days in the Alps ahead, was a day for the opportunists as the GC favorites were most likely to mark each other and wait for the big mountains, especially the day after the rest day.
It took some serious work, but a break did eventually get away…with Thor Hushovd in it.
The first hour of the race held an average of 32mph and the group was still together, with no break getting established. Attacks after attacks marked the first bit, and Leonardo Duque (COF) was caught up in the “I Spy” game during the frantic attacks and touched a wheel, hitting the deck, just as about a dozen riders were finally breaking the elastic.
Attacks jockeyed back and forth and the group was basically riding flat out to discourage anything sticking until finally after 100km of racing a break managed to get away, with the Garmin-Cervelo duo of Hushovd and Hesjedal, Boasson Hagen, Hoogerland , Perez, Dries, Marcato, and Ignatiev.
This poor trio spent most of the stage between break and peloton…and never made it to the break. Ouch.
Once a rhythm was established, the break managed to eke out about 5 minutes and given the lack of impetus behind, this looked like a break that would carry to the line. The Cat 2 climb of Col de Manse would certainly provide some fireworks for both the break and the favorites behind.
Once on the climb, Ignatiev took a dig for Katusha, gapping a bit to 15 sceonds. Dries and Perez went to chase, while Marcato gave up the ghost and lost contact with the break. Hesjedal waited a bit then made the jump up to Ignatiev, who then promptly sat on and didn’t help the Canadian.
Contador opened the proceedings early…and then kept hitting.
Back in the bunch as they began the climb, Contador threw down the gauntlet and went alone up the road, causing Cancellara to come to the front for Leopard Trek and set a tempo. That drew out the Schleck brothers, Evans, and Sanchez as well. Little Tommy Voeckler made it to that group too, but Ivan Basso didn’t have the measure of it and slipped away. We were forming a very select group of names in the Tour here on the initial slopes of this Col for a hot minute, but with no clear gap and lots of watching, the group came back together.
Up ahead Hesjedal shook Ignatiev, and went alone, which set up Hushovd, who could just sit on the wheel of the chasing Boasson Hagen. Just at the summit, the duo caught up to the Canadian, and immediately put space between them for the descent into Gap. But Hesjedal made contact and attacked the Norwegian duo straight away – clearly working the plan for Hushovd.
While the favorites battled it out behind, Thor Hushovd was busy celebrating his second win of this year’s Tour, and his Garmin-Cervelo team’s FOURTH of the Tour de France. From 0 wins ever to 4 in three weeks… Nice!
Behind, Contador threw down again, and again Voeckler, Evans, this time Basso, and Cunego, too. The Schlecks didn’t have the answer and by the summit the little Contador group of Contador, Evans, and Sanchez had around 30 seconds, forcing the Schlecks to chase, Frank doing most of it.
Nearing the finish, Hesjedal was leading it out beautifully, and Hushovd launched, taking his 2nd impressive win of the Tour!
Look at Contador’s face!
The battle for yellow was raging behind, and Evans had created a little gap of about 100 meters or so and was holding it over the yellow jersey group. Voeckler made a dig but it didn’t really go anywhere, but it showed the man from the Alsace region’s grit once again. But it hurt him, and as Contador and Sanchez went past, Voeckler started slipping back….clearly suffering from his effort.
At 2km to go Evans was away. Contador and Sanchez pushed hard, with Voeckler dangling in front of the chasing Schlecks that had Gilbert with them and a select few others.
Both Cadel Evans and Sammy Sanchez were a match for Contador’s repeated accelerations.
Evans crossed the line, his face twisted in his trademark way, earning precious seconds over the other GC rivals. The two spaniards rolled in after about 5 seconds back. Voeckler cracked and ceded a few seconds, but Andy Schleck’s body did not respond well to the rest day and lost almost another minute today.
Cadel Evans rode a perfect descent and held his gap to the line to take time out of every GC contender in the race.
It looks like Alberto Contador has returned. The Alps await.
The stage is set for some serious battles to come. Contador must continue to attack, Evans can now look to put his chips in the TT corner, and the Schlecks have no choice but to race aggressively if they hope to win the podium, much less get on the podium.
Voeckler lost a few valuable seconds today, but he came out a lot better than the likes of A Schleck and Ivan Basso.
Stay tuned to Pez for the best Tour coverage out there!
Stage 16 Results
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo 3:31:38
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
3 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:02
4 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:00:38
5 Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:52
6 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:25
7 Jйrйmy Roy (Fra) FDJ
8 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:01:55
9 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana 0:01:58
11 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:23
12 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:26
13 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
14 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:44
General Classification After 16 Stages
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 69:00:56
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:45
3 Frдnk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:03:03
5 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:26
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:03:42
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:49
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:04:01
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:06:04
10 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:07:55