Samuel Sanchez Wins First Pyrenean Stage
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has won Stage 12 of the 2011 Tour de France.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has won Stage 12 of the 2011 Tour de France. The Olympic road race champion outsprinted Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and held off a fast closing Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) to win the mountainous, 211-km ride from Cugnaux to Luz Ardiden in 6:01:15. Vanendert finished second at 0:07, and Schleck took third at 0:10. Surprisingly, Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was able to keep the yellow jersey, giving his compatriots something to cheer about on Bastille Day.
Fair skies greeted the riders, and escapees wasted little time in absenting themselves from the peloton. At four km, Geraint Thomas (Sky), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun), Jeremy Roy (Francaise des Jeux), and Blel Kadri (Ag2r) sallied off of the front. Initially, the peloton did not chase, and the break's advantage grew to seven minutes at 60 km and nine minutes at 119 km.
As the race approached the Category 1 La Hourquette d'Ancizan, Europcar chased and BMC joined the French squad. At this point, the lead was 6:40; on the climb, it was 5:50.
Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked from the peloton, and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) joined him. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) joined the pair, and the trio closed to within 5:10 of the break, which shed Gutierrez. Four km from the summit, Hoogerland, Chavanel, and Kreuziger were 4:30 behind the break.
Three km from the summit, Kreuziger attacked and Chavanel joined him. The pair got to within four minutes of the break, with the yellow jersey group at 5:40.
At the summit, the break led Kreuziger and Chavanel by four minutes. On the descent, Thomas veered off of the road and crashed in a field. The Sky rider remounted his bike, only to crash into another field. Thomas got another bike and rejoined the break.
Behind, the yellow jersey group was at 5:50 at the summit. On the descent, a crash occurred. Voeckler, Peter Velits (HTC-Highroad), and others crashed, and Andreas Kloden (RadioShack) was injured. The Leopard-Trek-led peloton slowed, and the gap grew to six minutes.
At the base of the Hors Categorie Col du Tourmalet, the break led the yellow jersey group by 7:40, Kreuziger and Chavanel by 3:30, and Thomas and Gutierrez by 0:45.
Early in the ascent of the Tourmalet, Leopard-Trek upped the pace. Rider after rider was shelled, among them Dutch hopeful Robert Gesink (Rabobank). Hoogerland was caught. Gutierrez and Thomas rejoined the break, which was 1:25 ahead of Kreuziger and 5:20 ahead of the yellow jersey group. Eight km from the summit, 4:15 separated the break from the yellow jersey group.
Four km from the summit, Thomas attacked and Roy joined him. The Frenchman led the pair over the summit, with three minutes on the yellow jersey group, one minute on their former companions, and 0:50 on Kreuziger. On the descent, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) attacked and took Vanendert and Sanchez with him. At the base of the day's final climb, Roy and Thomas led the Gilbert group, which had merged with Moreno, Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), and Kreuziger, by about 2:30.
With 10 km left, Sanchez and Vanendert attacked. The pair dropped their companions and caught and dropped Roy and Thomas. Behind, Liquigas paced the peloton, which was at 0:55 with five km left.
Sanchez and Vanendert led the yellow jersey group by 1:15 with four km left. Frank and Andy Schleck (both from Leopard-Trek) made repeated attacks to test two-time defending champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank). With under four km remaining, Frank Schleck set out after the two leaders. With under two km remaining, an acceleration in the yellow jersey group dropped Voeckler and Contador. Contador would lose 0:13 to his rivals.
With one km left, Sanchez and Vanendert led Frank Schleck by 0:50. The Leopard-Trek man closed quickly and nearly caught the pair. With 300 m left, however, Sanchez sprinted away from Vanendert for the win.
Sanchez, was ecstatic about his victory. "I really wanted this stage, I was determined," he said. "I lost a lot of time in the first week, so this has helped me make amends."
Another rider who was happy about his day was Voeckler. Before the stage, the Frenchman said that he expected to lose the yellow jersey. By staying with the strongest climbers until the last two km, however, the Europcar man kept his jersey for at least one more day.
Voeckler said of his good fortune, "The favorites never attacked seriously. Every time somebody tried, it would all come back together and then the tempo slowed, so that allowed me to stay in touch."
In the overall, Voeckler leads Frank Schleck by 1:49 and Cadel Evans (BMC) by 2:06. Stage 13 will probably not change this state of affairs. The 152.5-km ride from Pau to Lourdes will feature the Hors Categorie Col d'Aubisque, but the climb's summit is 42 km from the finish. This will probably allow breakaways to take the stage. Who will be in the break? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and www.roadcycling.mobi to find out!
Please support our advertisers and check out our other services and offerings - they make Roadcycling.com possible.