Rolland Wins at L'Alpe d'Huez; Andy Schleck Takes Yellow Jersey
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) has won Stage 19 of the 2011 Tour de France.
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) has won Stage 19 of the 2011 Tour de France. The Frenchman surged away from Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the last two km to win the 109.5-km ride from Modane to L'Alpe d'Huez in 3:13:25. Sanchez finished second at 0:14, and Contador took third at 0:25. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) is the new maillot jaune.
Hostilities began soon after the start. With 10 km ridden, 14 riders sallied off of the front, and BMC Racing and Saxo Bank-Sungard placed riders in the move. Five km later, Contador, who was desperate to salvage his Tour, attempted to bridge up to the break. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) joined Contador. Yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) set out after the break, and Cadel Evans (BMC) was slow to react but also joined the move. Behind, Liquigas-Cannondale paced the peloton on behalf of Ivan Basso.
On the Category 1 Col du Telegraphe, Contador attacked again. Voeckler was dropped, and Evans had a mechanical problem that required him to change bikes. The Australian joined the Basso group in pursuit of Contador and Schleck.
Contador passed through most of the break and caught several of the break members who remained. He joined forces with them and with Schleck on the Telegraphe and the Hors Categorie Galibier. Only Rui Alberto Costa (Movistar) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) were still with Contador and Schleck at the summit of the Galibier.
Voeckler was between twenty and thirty seconds behind the leaders. Further back, the BMC-led peloton was breaking up under the American squad's pressure. Voeckler slowed to await the peloton, which contained the heads of state and two of Voeckler's teammates.
Sanchez attacked from the yellow jersey group. Evans and Rolland followed the Spaniard. At the summit, the Contador-Schleck group led Evans by 0:34, with the heads of state a little further back and Voeckler about another minute back.
Sanchez joined the lead group, and another group formed around Evans. The latter group set out after the lead group and merged with it with 25 km left. On the approach to the Alpe, Voeckler joined the leaders. Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) attacked and led their former companions by 0:47 at the base of the Alpe.
Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) did the pacemaking. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) dropped back, as did Voeckler. With 13 km left, Contador attacked and bridged up to Rolland and Hesjedal. One km later, Contador attacked again and dropped his companions.
Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek) attacked Evans but could not shake him. Peter Velits (HTC) did get clear, and Sanchez chased. The Euskaltel-Euskadi man dropped Velits and joined Rolland. The pair joined Contador.
Rolland attacked and dropped Contador and Sanchez. The pair attempted to close with the Frenchman, but Rolland was headed for the stage win and the white jersey. The pair of acquisitions more than recompensed Europcar for the loss of Voeckler's yellow jersey.
In the overall, Andy Schleck leads Frank Schleck by 0:53 and Evans by 0:57. Stage 20 will probably decide the 2011 Tour de France. The rolling, 42.5-km time trial in Grenoble should be won by Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek). The key issue is whether Evans will take enough time out of the Schlecks to take the yellow jersey. The Australian is a better time trialist than either of the Schlecks, but is he enough better to win the Tour de France? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and www.roadcycling.mobi to find out!