Tour de France Diary, Stage 17: Evans’ stomach illness – Valverde takes stage
A well-hidden Cadel Evans managed to stay in the safety of the peloton for much of the day as the 2012 Tour de France continued overnight.
Unfortunately, when he was finally caught on camera he was going backwards, unhinged on the category one climb to the finish in Peyragudes.
He never looked likely (or able) to attack. The red zone. It is a killer.
Evans claims to be suffering from a stomach illness, which he carried through Wednesday’s stage 16 where he lost 4’47” to the top three in the general classification.
Haimar Zubeldia’s (RadioShack-Nissan) poor showing allowed Evans to move up to sixth in the overall standings despite losing a further 1’51” to the yellow jersey of Bradley Wiggins. The defending Tour champion is now 9’57″ behind Wiggins overall.
Evans’ fifth-placed teammate Tejay van Garderen extended his lead over the BMC Racing team leader to 1’27”.
Last night was the second consecutive high mountains stage through the Pyrenees, the 144km stage 17 from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.
What the stage lacked in distance it more than made up for in climbing difficulty, with a combined total of 43.6km of categorised ascending, including a steep summit finish.
The penultimate climb of the day was the Port de Balès, the last hors category effort at this year’s Tour. It was also the setting of the controversial “chaingate” incident involving Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador at the 2010 Tour.
This year it was conquered by the peloton in largely uneventful fashion, save a late and ineffectual acceleration by Jurgen Van Den Broek (Lotto-Belisol).
On the early slopes it looked as though Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali was going to attempt to launch an attack, with his team dominating the front of the peloton. But it was not to be.
Having attacked from what was originally a breakaway of 17 riders, Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) made the running on the Balès.
2012 Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa (Movistar) reeled in the duo and then made a move of his own, setting up the stage victory for teammate Alejandro Valverde.
With Costa up the road, the other members of the chase group paced along Valverde, who was under no pressure to chase his teammate.
When the time came to jump, Valverde caught and passed his Portuguese colleague with relative ease, establishing a gap of more than two minutes over the rest of the break.
With everyone but Valverde comfortably back in the fold, Wiggins and Chris Froome flexed their considerable climbing muscle.
What a show of strength it was – Valverde’s lead cut to just 19 seconds by stage end.
Had Froome not waited for his team leader on numerous occasions (under team orders), he may well have taken stage victory himself. He instead had to settle for second place, with Wiggins third.
Frankly, the man Team Sky call “Froome-Dog” looks to be the stronger of the two – particularly in the mountains.
He should prepare for a barrage of phone calls from teams that want to be next in line for his signature.
Earlier, mist played havoc on the descent of the Col de Menté. In some sections it was so thick the road became near invisible. Cautious riding was essential.
Nibali moved off the front of the main field as the fog cleared, but could not sustain his 25-second advantage.
It was another great day for polka dot jersey holder Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), who took top honours at the summits of the first three climbs of the day.
The Frenchman amassed 17 King of the Mountains points and extended his lead in the classification to 11 over Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff.
Tomorrow’s stage 18 is a lumpy 223km journey from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde that should allow the formation of a substantial breakaway.
Four categorised climbs are more or less evenly scattered throughout the course, a category three followed by three category fours.
The still winless Orica-GreenEDGE will surely want this one badly.
It could be Simon Gerrans’ last chance to win from a break. So go you good thing!
Tour de France Stage 17 Results
1. VALVERDE Alejandro, MOVISTAR, 04h 12′ 11″
2. FROOME Christopher, SKY PRO CYCLING, 04h 12′ 30″ + 00′ 19″
3. WIGGINS Bradley, SKY PRO CYCLING, 04h 12′ 30″ + 00′ 19″
4. PINOT Thibaut, FDJ-BIG MAT, 04h 12′ 33″ + 00′ 22″
5. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 04h 12′ 37″ + 00′ 26″
6. VAN DEN BROEK Jurgen, LOTTO-BELISOL, 04h 12′ 37″ + 00′ 26″
7. NIBALI Vincenzo, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 04h 12′ 48″ + 00′ 37″
8. VAN GARDEREN Tejay, BMC RACING, 04h 13′ 05″ + 00′ 54″
9. HORNER Chris, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 04h 13′ 13″ + 01′ 02″
10. MARTIN Daniel, GARMIN-SHARP, 04h 13′ 22″ + 01′ 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, 134
2. KESSIAKOFF Fredrik, ASTANA, 123
3. SORENSEN Chris Anker, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 77
4. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 63
5. VALVERDE Alejandro, MOVISTAR, 51
Tour de France Overall Standings
1. WIGGINS Bradley, SKY PROCYCLING, 78h 28’ 02″
2. FROOME Christopher, SKY PRO CYCLING, 78h 30’ 07″ + 02′ 05″
3. NIBALI Vincenzo, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 78h 30’ 43″ + 02′ 41″
4. VAN DEN BROEK Jurgen, OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK-STEP, 78h 33’ 55″ + 05′ 53″
5. VAN GADREREN Tejay, BMC RACING, 78h 36’ 32″ + 08′ 30″
6. EVANS Cadel, BMC RACING, 78h 37’ 59″ + 09′ 57″
7. ZUBELDIA Haimar, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 78h 38’ 13″ + 10′ 11″
8. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 78h 38’ 19″ + 10′ 17″
9. BRAJKOVIC Janez, ASTANA, 78h 39’ 02″ + 11′ 00″
10. PINOT Thibaut, FDJ-BIG MAT, 78h 39’ 48″ + 11′ 46″
Stage 17 “Give Him the Game Ball” Award: Rui Costa (Movistar) for outstanding support of Movistar team leader Alejandro Valverde.
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