Andy Schleck Surges to Victory in Stage 18
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) has turned the 2011 Tour de France upside down.
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) has turned the 2011 Tour de France upside down. The Luxembourger powered away from the yellow jersey group with 60 km left and stayed away to win the queen stage of the 2011 Tour, a mountainous, 200.5-km ride from Pinerolo, Italy to Galibier Serre Chevalier in 6:07:56. Schleck's brother and teammate Frank finished second at 2:07, and Cadel Evans (Team BMC Racing) finished third at 2:15. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) saw his overall lead greatly reduced, but he remains the maillot jaune.
The peloton set a torrid early pace, with the bunch traveling 50 km in the first hour. At 60 km, an escape went off of the front. Its members were Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), Joost Posthuma and Maxime Monfort (both from Leopard-Trek), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Markel Irizar (RadioShack), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Cervelo), Ruben Perez Moreno and Pablo Urtasun Perez (both from Euskaltel-Euskadi), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale). Twenty-three km later, Egor Silin (Katusha), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), and Mickael Delage (Francaise des Jeux) bridged up to the move. On the Hors Categorie Col Agnel, the great escape led the peloton by almost nine minutes.
In the peloton, the nonclimbers fell off of the pace, and the heads of state moved to the front. Iglinsky led the break over the summit, with the yellow jersey group 5:30 in arrears.
On the Hors Categorie Izoard, Leopard-Trek began to drive the yellow jersey group, while Poosthuma and Monfort did the same in the break. Attrition took its toll in the break, and Iglinsky led a group of six over the summit. Behind, Andy Schleck attacked. Daniel Navarro and Alberto Contador (both from Saxo Bank-Sungard) went to the front for a time, and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) joined them.
Navarro and Contador slid away from the front, and Andy Schleck quickly forged a one-minute lead. Iglinsky led the field over the summit, two minutes ahead of Andy Schleck.
The yellow jersey group breasted the climb four minutes after Andy Schleck. Voeckler led the group on the descent. At this point, Navarro and Evans were the only yellow jersey group members who were attempting to chase. Ahead, Monfort led Andy Schleck, who is known as a poor descender, down the Izoard. The failure of the yellow jersey group to mount a coordinated pursuit allowed Andy Schleck to begin the ascent of the Galibier with a 3:46 lead.
On the descent of the Izoard, Andy Schleck and Monfort picked up Roche, Devenyns, and Silin and caught Iglinsky with 30 km left. Behind, Euskaltel led the yellow jersey group for a while, but gave up chasing when Sanchez dropped out of it. On the lower slopes of the Galibier, Monfort led the quintet.
With 17 km left, Monfort dropped off of the pace. Two km later, Schleck, Iglinsky, and Roche led the yellow jersey group by four minutes.
In the chase group, Contador went to the front for a time, but the Spaniard then dropped back, which gave rise to discussion about cooperation. Evans could persuade no one, not even yellow jersey wearer Voeckler, to chase. At this point, Schleck was the virtual maillot jaune. Finally, with the Schleck group lead growing to more than four minutes, Evans took the responsibility.
With 10 km left, Roche dropped out of the lead group. Behind, Evans accelerated. Contador was in the front for a while, but the defending champion dropped off of the pace and would lose 3:50 to Schleck, ending the Spaniard's hopes of winning the 2011 Tour or standing on the podium.
With eight km left, Schleck dropped Iglinsky. In the yellow jersey group, Evans's efforts made inroads in the Luxembourger's lead. In the final two km, Schleck struggled while the Australian surged. Evans's work enabled Voeckler to keep his yellow jersey, although Frank Schleck sprinted ahead to take 0:08 from Evans.
In the overall, Voeckler leads Andy Schleck by 0:15 and Frank Schleck at 1:08. With Evans only four seconds behind Frank Schleck and with no one else in a position to contend for the 2011 Tour podium, Stage 19 will be pivotal. The 109.5-km ride from Modane to L'Alpe d'Huez will take the riders over the Galibier en route to the famous climb. Will Evans overcome the coordinated assaults of the Schleck brothers to take the yellow jersey? Will one of the Schleck boys take the golden fleece? Will Voeckler keep it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and www.roadcycling.mobi to find out!