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Tour de France stage 17 – live (part 2)

Stage 17: Pau > Col du Tourmalet (174 km)

Welcome to the second part of today’s live-blog of stage 17, finishing at the summit of the Col du Tourmalet.

For commentary from earlier today, click on part one of the live-blog here.

2.30 pm: Here’s the current state of play. A group of seven riders broke away from the peloton early on, consisting of Remi Puriol (Cofidis), Kristjan Koren (Liquigas-Doimo), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Rubén Pérez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen (both Sky).

They lead an accelerating peloton by six minutes, with Carlos Sastre about two minutes ahead of the main bunch, having unsuccessfully attempted to bridge the gap earlier. Aside from the gruppetto, everyone is currently on the slopes of the first-category Col du Soulor, with only the mighty Tourmalet to follow.

Here’s something I thought might be useful. Here is a break-down of how the gaps between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador have ebbed and flowed during the Tour:

Prologue: Contador finishes 0:42 quicker than Schleck. Contador leads by 0:42.

Stages 1-2: No change.

Stage 3: Schleck gains 1:13 over the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, aided by Contador’s rear-wheel problem near the finish. Schleck leads by 0:31.

Stage 4-7: No change.

Stage 8: Schleck gains 0:10 with a final-kilometre attack on the climb to Avoriaz, then claims the yellow jersey on the following stage. Schleck leads by 0:41.

Stages 9-11: No change, although Schleck took over the yellow jersey from Cadel Evans after stage nine.

Stage 12: Contador gains 0:10 with an attack on the short but steep closing climb to the aerodrome in Mende. Schleck leads by 0:31.

Stages 13-14: No change.

Stage 15: Contador takes advantage of Schleck’s dropped chain on the Port de Bales, gaining 0:39 and taking the yellow jersey for the first time. Contador leads by 0:08.

Stage 16: No change.

Samuel Sánchez

2.35 pm: I forgot to say before that third-placed Samuel Sánchez had a nasty accident early on and was delayed for some time. He was paced back to the peloton by his team, but you have to wonder if this might compromise him on the Tourmalet.

2.40 pm: 60 km to go, and 5:25 is the gap to an ever-reducing peloton.

2.45 pm: Lots of mist. And now sheep cut across the front of the main field, nearly causing a big accident. They are still running along the side of the road beside the riders. (None of them are using a chain-guard, incidentally.)

2.50 pm: The seven leaders are now over the top of the Soulor and starting the descent, 4:41 ahead of the peloton. The fog is quite heavy now and the road is damp, making an already tricky descent distinctly treacherous. This is where these guys earn their corn. And chapeau to the spectators lining the mountain.

2.55 pm: Not that it affects the polka dot jersey standings one iota, but here are the top three from the third climb:

Col du Soulor (category 1): 1. Burghardt (15 pts), 2. Koren (13), 3. Pérez (11).

3.05 pm: So, before we get to the Tourmalet, let’s reflect for a moment on the green and polka dot jerseys.

The top of the points competition is unchanged, after the breakaway mopped up the points at the first intermediate sprint, and will do the same at the second one before the Tourmalet:

1. Thor Hushovd 191 pts, 2. Alessandro Petacchi 187, 3. Mark Cavendish 162

And, with just the Tourmalet to go, the top of the King of the Mountains classification is:

1. Anthony Charteau 143 pts, 2. Christophe Moreau 128, 3. Damiano Cunego 99

Cunego can no longer win the competition, and Moreau needs to score at least 15 points more than Charteau on the Tourmalet to snatch the jersey at the death.

Points are available on the Tourmalet for the top ten finishers as follows: 40, 36, 32, 28, 24, 20, 16, 14, 12 and 10. That means Moreau needs to finish at least seventh, which will be a big ask for the oldest man in the race on a day when the GC heads of state will all be massed up front for the final battle. You have to think Charteau has one arm in the jersey already.

Carlos Sastre

3.15 pm: Sastre continues to battle on in no-man’s land. You have to hand it to him – he has spent the best part of three hours pedalling on his own. He’s either very brave, very stupid or really fancied a day on his own. Chapeau, Carlos.

The weather is definitely improving. Still damp on the road, but the rain has stopped. It’s a small mercy, but the riders will take it.

3.20 pm: Result of the second intermediate sprint:

1. Boasson Hagen (6 pts), 2. Kolobnev, 3. Puriol (2).

The leaders’ advantage over the peloton has eked back out to around 5:30.

Ads on ITV4 for the Skyrides. There was one in Ealing last Sunday. 10 more to go!

Robert Gesink

3.25 pm: Rabobank are joining Astana and Saxo Bank at the front of the peloton. Look out for Robert Gesink to launch an early attack to try to spring his leader Denis Menchov.

3.30 pm: Sastre is caught by the peloton. He achieved absolutely nothing, but it was fun to watch.

3.40 pm: Ooh, a sighting of the lesser-spotted Bradley Wiggins! The seven leaders have 18.6 km to go, and now past the official start of the Tourmalet climb, although they have actually been riding uphill for a while. That sound you hear is the blue touch paper being lit. The breakaway’s lead over the peloton is 3:50. Astana, Saxo Bank and Rabobank are bossing the main field. Here we go!

Edvald Boasson Hagen

3.45 pm: Boom! Edvald Boasson Hagen cracks and drops off the lead group.

Boom! Make that five. Juan Antonio Flecha is dropped too as Alexandr Kolobnev puts the hammer down. That’s both Sky men in the breakaway gone.

Alexandr Kolobnev

3.50 pm: Kolobnev has good pedigree, having finished second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège earlier this year. Saxo Bank are really cranking it up now with Fabian Cancellara on the front. Some serious riders are disappearing out of the back now: Cadel Evans, Thomas Lofkvist

Cancellara blows, grinds to an abrupt halt and almost falls off his bike. What an effort! Chris Anker Sørensen takes over.

Up front, it is just Kolobnev and Marcus Burghardt left. Oh no, now it’s just Kolobnev, who kicks and leaves his rival for dead. The breakaway is now just one man,with a lead of about 2:30 over the yellow jersey group.

3.55 pm: The speed with which the yellow jersey group is climbing the Tourmalet is quite incredible. Saxo boys still pushing hard. Contador is glued to Schleck’s rear wheel. I wonder if he’s examining his chain?

Alexandre Vinokourov slides off the back of the yellow jersey group. I can see Lance Armstrong is still there, though.

Looks like Contador only has Daniel Navarro left for company. As predicted, Saxo Bank are trying to isolate the champion. Sørensen is cooked, and Jakob Fuglsang takes over the pace-making.

4.00 pm: A commercial break? You cannot be serious …

4.05 pm: 10 km to go, 1:17 the gap to Kolobnev. We’re approaching the moment at which Schleck has to roll the dice.

Carlos Barredo attacks.

Schleck attacks! And ITV are still on a bloody commercial!

Kolobnev’s lead is now down to 20 seconds. It’s only a matter of time now. Contador is the only one who has been able to respond to Schleck’s acceleration. Menchov, Sanchev and Ryder Hesjedal are trying to close the gap.

Schleck and Contador complete the catch of Kolobnev with 8.4 km to go.

4.10 pm: So this is it now: Schleck versus Contador. The Spaniard is doing all he needs to do, sticking to Schleck’s rear wheel and riding to defend his yellow jersey. If they’re still together at the summit, he will no doubt whip out from behind him to win what will be his first stage win of this year’s Tour.

4.15 pm: Schleck is mostly sitting down in the saddle, teeth gritted, trying to just grind Contador down. Contador is dancing on his pedals a lot more, but looks pretty comfortable. The other elite riders are nowhere to be seen – not that anyone can see very far in this fog.

6 km to go. No sign of weakness from Contador yet. He looks like he’s out for a gentle Sunday afternoon ride. Incredible.

Schleck and Contador lead the other GC elite men by 1:16. The Luxembourger may not have broken Contador, but he is head and shoulders above everyone else in this race.

Schleck ups his pace again, but Contador keeps the elastic tight. 4.5 km remaining. Even if Schleck can break Contador, he won’t make big gains.

4.20pm: Contador launches a huge acceleration just beyond the 4 km banner. Fantastic response by Schleck, who pulls up alongside him and looks him straight into the eye, as if to say, “Nice try.” Gladiatorial stuff this.

Never mind Chain-gate, how much will Schleck regret the 42 seconds he lost to Contador in the prologue?

Arrgh! Borat mankinis!

Inside 3 km now. Barring a major surprise, Alberto Contador is the winner of the 2010 Tour de France.

4.25 pm: Back to stalemate. Schleck taps out a fierce tempo, Contador has his wheel. I think Schleck has given everything and doesn’t have another attack left in him.

4.30 pm: And there’s the flamme rouge. We are in the final kilometre of the final climb of the 2010 Tour. You have to back Contador to take the stage – Schleck has done all the work on the climb. Contador looks ready to pounce at any moment.

Honestly, how narrow is this road?!?

Schleck wins the world’s slowest uncontested sprint ever. That was classy by Contador, who still hasn’t won a stage and would no doubt have loved one today.

And, er, some other people are finishing.

You won’t be able to see this, but I have just stood up and applauded. We have just watched the two best men in the sport of professional road cycling slug it out wheel-to-wheel. No mechanical problems. To tactics. No teammates. And a tremendous piece of sportsmanship by Contador to gift Schleck the stage. It has been absolutely magnificent. Chapeau!

4.35 pm: The view looking back from the finish is amazing. Riders are coming into view from out of the mist in ones and twos, and crawling over the finish line. It’s like watching a scene from another time.

4.40 pm: Okay, let’s try to make sense of all of that. The stage result is as follows:

Stage 17 result:

1. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) 5:03:29

2. Alberto Contador (Astana) same time

3. Joaquín Rodríquez (Katusha) +1:18

4. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) +1:27

5. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:32

6. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) +1:40

7. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +1:40

8. Chris Horner (RadioShack) +1:45

9. Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +1:48

10. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo) +2:14

General classification after stage 17:

1. Alberto Contador (Astana) 83:32:39

2. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) +0:08

3. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +3:32

4. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) +3:53

5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +5:27

6. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +6:41

7. Joaquín Rodríquez (Katusha) +7:03

8. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) +9:18

9. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo) +10:12

10. Chris Horner (RadioShack) +10:37

So, Schleck looks to have secured a top-two finish now. There is no change in the order of the top six, but Levi Leipheimer slips out of the top ten. Gutsy ride by Sánchez to finish ahead of Menchov despite a chest injury from his early crash, although 21 seconds is probably not enough to protect his final podium spot from the Russian.

Fantastic rides by Ryder Hesjedal and Chris Horner too. And Jurgen van den Broeck‘s solid finish should see him secure a top-five position.

Barring a significant problem for Contador, it looks like he will wear the yellow jersey into Paris on Sunday.

Anthony Charteau is confirmed as the winner of the polka dot jersey.

And the green jersey will go right down to the wire.

4.55 pm: Right, that’s it from me for now. I’m off for a massage and a vat of pasta. I’ll post a full stage report later – by then, the gruppetto will hopefully have finished …

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

9 Responses to Tour de France stage 17 – live (part 2)

  1. Pingback: Tour de France stage 17 – live (part 1) « The armchair sports fan

  2. Jesus Diaz says:

    As my old father said when Andy and Alberto arrived to the finish line: “5 hours watching TV non-stop for this???” Excesses are not good, and too much sportsmanship is a bit boring. They should give a bonus time to the winner to avoid this Brokeback Tourmalet thing. Imagine that today there was a 10 seconds bonus for the winner…

    I have to admit that it has been a genorous gesture by Alberto, but jeez, you are expecting the final battle of the best mountain riders on earth, and they deliverer a happy end. It is very nice, but well, you already have disney movies to see that. There is to much English-speaking media pression on Alberto: in 2007 when he unexpecedly won, in 2009 with Lance mistweeting him all over the net for no reason, this year with Andy’s chain…They picture him as always taking advantage of situations, throwing mud on him and not recognizing that he is one of the best riders of our time. I hope from today they let him tranquil, though many will probably still thinking that he has not paid for his “sins” yet.

    And Tim, you are definitely a cycling romantic 🙂
    Chapeau for your blog.

    • Tim says:

      I think people recognise Contador’s talent – a record which looks like improving to 5 wins in 5 Grand Tours is pretty tough to argue against! – I think it’s just that, for whatever reason, a lot of people don’t like him. Personally, I think he lacks the charisma of Armstrong, but then so did Ullrich and Jan was far more talented than his single Tour win would ever suggest. I’m not saying that top sportsmen need to have lots of charisma to win (talent, possibly is a bit more important!), but it helps if you want people to like you.

      The end of today’s stage – compelling though it was – was a little disappointing, but not because of Alberto’s gesture. It was just a bit of a shame because I think we all wanted a decisive result one way or the other. Unfortunately, Andy gave everything and it wasn’t quite enough, and Alberto was content to sit on his wheel. It was still an epic stage, though!

      • Jesus Diaz says:

        Tim said:

        “I think people recognise Contador’s talent – a record which looks like improving to 5 wins in 5 Grand Tours is pretty tough to argue against! – I think it’s just that, for whatever reason, a lot of people don’t like him”

        Well, I think I have one reason. Icons like Lance heavily influence their supporters,and the texan has millions of it all around the world. Last year he unfairly publicly attacked him and I am pretty sure that predisposed many to be mad at any Alberto gesture. “Lots of people don’t like Alberto”, well that’s for sure outside of Spain after discover your blog and others.

        About Lance’s charisma, that is undeniable, obviously due to his riding skills but also undeniably due to his moving and admirable background of cancer fighter. Well, even not cycling fans know that story, on the other, does audience worlwide know about Alberto’s background? He suffered from Cavernous Hemangioma, a vascular disorder of the central nervous system and from epileptic seizures., he spent almost a year off the roads and then came back to be a classy rider. Does not sound familiar this story?

        I am not tryng to convert this in a competition of illnesses, who deserves more admiration, no, no, nothing of that. I mean that Lance, as an English speaker and as an american, has more loudspeakers than Alberto to send his message, and more audience to understand him and know about his work and miracles. And if he sais that Alberto is “bad”, many wll think the same.

        And please, stop associating “ruthlesness” with Alberto, I considere him a too good boy indeed with a lot of angry English-media pressing on him.

        Just my two cents.

  3. gonecycling says:

    Superb commentary, Tim – Phil ‘n’ Paul should look to their laurels. The Tourmalet perhaps didn’t produce the fireworks we’d hoped for, but it was still a wonderful piece of theatre. I don’t think Contador was ever in difficulty, but Schleck was magnificent, and it was definitely the right result. Can Cav make it four tomorrow?

    • Tim says:

      “Theatre” is exactly what it was. I loved today’s stage, even more so because I was able to watch it all unfold live rather than having to rely on the highlights later. I agree, it was a shame there wasn’t a decisive ‘win’ one way or the other, but what drama it was as the two of them just cycled away from the rest of the field like they were rank amateurs. Reminds me a lot of Schumacher v Hill, Adelaide 94, when they drove away from everyone else too in their head-to-head battle. At least today no one shoved anyone else off the road!

  4. HGLY Sport says:

    Top effort Tim – you must be knackered! What a day – think Contador had him matched every turn of the pedals, but what stars they both are. The variety in the route this year as well as some excellent mountain stages have made it a fantastic Tour – hopefully they will find such an interesting route again next time round.

    • Tim says:

      In the final analysis, I think if Contador had needed to take 30 seconds out of Schleck, he could have done. But, hopeless romantic that I am, I loved the fact he had the grace to concede the glory of the stage win to Andy today. Small gestures, big results …

      And yes, I am knackered! These cyclists, all they have to do is pedal up and down a couple of hills and they think their job is SO difficult! 😉

  5. Pingback: Schleck wins the battle but Contador will win the war « The armchair sports fan

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