Tour de France Diary, Stage 16: Evans cracks, podium chances gone
Cadel Evans’ hopes of defending his 2011 Tour de France title were as good as dashed as the 2012 Tour continued overnight with stage 16 from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
Dropped on the penultimate climb of the day, Evans worked his way back into the main pack only to be unhinged again on the final climb.
The Australian lost a total of 4’47” to the top three in the overall standings – Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali.
He now sits in seventh position in the general classification, 8’06” behind the yellow jersey and 11 seconds behind his BMC Racing teammate Tejay van Garderen.
Evans was put into the red zone when Liquigas-Cannondale and Lotto-Belisol started to drive the peloton on the Col d’Aspin, and was close to a minute in arrears at the top.
Evans rejoined the peloton at the foot of the Col de Peyresourde, only to be popped off the back once again.
Nibali decided this was the best time to make his move and established a small distance between he and the formidable Sky pairing of Wiggins and Froome.
But they were more than up to the task of bridging the gap to the Italian and the three finished with the same time.
It will be interesting to see how BMC approach the remainder of the Tour – will there be a change of leadership?
With van Garderen in fine time-trialling form, the American registered team has little to lose by working for a man who could lead them at a Grand Tour sooner rather than later.
But such a move seems unlikely at this late stage in the race.
Stage wins will likely be BMC’s primary goal from this point onwards.
Last night was the first of two back-to-back high mountain stages through the Pyrenees.
The centrepiece (or rather centrepieces) was the four backbreaking climbs that dotted the course, which included the iconic ascents up the Col d’Aubisque and the Col du Tourmalet.
Hot, sunny conditions made the day’s racing all the more daunting.
A breakaway of 38 riders accumulated early in proceedings, including colourful Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), polka dot jersey holder Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) and American veteran George Hincapie (BMC Racing).
This large group was gradually whittled down to a more exclusive selection on the day’s four difficult climbs, which were dominated by Voeckler, who won the stage in grand style.
Kessiakoff was one of those dropped on the Tourmalet, surrendering his lead in the King of the Mountains (KOM) to Voeckler on what was a remarkable day in the saddle for the Frenchman.
Given the ideal lead out by teammate Yukiya Arashiro, the man they call “Little Tommy” was first to summit the Aubisque.
He then took top honours on the Tourmalet after attacking from the break with Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun). The pair’s mean tempo established a gap of more than ten and a half minutes over the main pack and allowed Voeckler to clean up at the top of the two final climbs as well.
Voeckler went it alone with just over 5km remaining to the summit of the Peyresourde and soloed for his second victory at this year’s Tour.
Tomorrow the race heads back into the high mountain passes of the Pyrenees for stage 17 from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes, which concludes with a category one summit finish.
Four other climbs are scattered throughout the course, including the hors category Port de Balès at the 112km mark.
Voeckler will surely look to cement his position at the head of the mountains classification.
This might be the stage for Wiggins to cross the line first. Go on Wiggo. I dare you.
Tour de France Stage 15 Results
1. VOECKLER Thomas, EUROPCAR, 05h 35′ 02″
2. SORENSEN Chris Anker, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 05h 36′ 42″ + 01′ 40″
3. IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI Gorka, EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI, 05h 38′ 24″ + 03′ 22″
4. VINOKOUROV Alexander, ASTANA, 05h 38′ 24″ + 03′ 22″
5. FEILLU Brice, SAUR-SOJASUN, 05h 39′ 00″ + 03′ 58″
6. VOIGT Jens, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 05h 39′ 20″ + 04′ 18″
7. MARTIN Daniel, GARMIN-SHARP, 05h 41′ 10″ + 06′ 08″
8. STORTONI Simone, LAMPRE-ISD, 05h 41′ 10″ + 06′ 08″
9. CARUSO Gianpaolo, KATUSHA, 05h 41′ 10″ + 06′ 08″
10. TEN DAM Laurens, RABOBANK, 05h 41′ 13″ + 06′ 11″
Tour de France Points Classification
1. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 356
2. GREIPEL Andre, LOTTO-BELISOL, 254
3. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 203
4. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 130
5. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald, SKY PRO CYCLING, 127
Tour de France KOM Classification
1. VOECKLER Thomas, EUROPCAR, 107
2. KESSIAKOFF Fredrik, ASTANA, 103
3. SORENSEN Chris Anker, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 77
4. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 55
5. FEILLU Brice, SAUR-SOJASUN, 38
Tour de France Overall Standings
1. WIGGINS Bradley, SKY PROCYCLING, 74h 15’ 32″
2. FROOME Christopher, SKY PRO CYCLING, 74h 17’ 37″ + 02′ 05″
3. NIBALI Vincenzo, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 74h 17’ 55″ + 02′ 23″
4. VAN DEN BROEK Jurgen, OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK-STEP, 74h 21’ 18″ + 05′ 46″
5. ZUBELDIA Haimar, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 74h 22’ 45″ + 07′ 13″
6. VAN GADREREN Tejay, BMC RACING, 74h 23’ 27″ + 07′ 55″
7. EVANS Cadel, BMC RACING, 74h 23’ 38″ + 08′ 06″
8. BRAJKOVIC Janez, ASTANA, 74h 24’ 41″ + 09′ 09″
9. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 74h 25’ 42″ + 10′ 10″
10. PINOT Thibaut, FDJ-BIG MAT, 74h 27’ 15″ + 11′ 43″
Stage 15 “Give Him the Game Ball” Award: Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) for springboarding Thomas Voeckler to the summit of on the Col d’Aubisque – that is how you do it. Voeckler can thank his Japanese colleague for the dots he now sports on his riding attire.