This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 2nd full tour
Rodriguez tames Montée Laurent Jalabert!
The 12th Stage of the TdF was from Bourg-de-Péage to Mende, a distance of 210.5km. A hard day was predicted for the riders with 5 categorized climbs on the route today & it was the climbing pedigree of the riders at test today. With the Pyrenees just around the corner, this was one day where as predicted in yesterdays post by me, Contador was to try & test the energy levels of Schleck and he did exactly that and Andy was found wanting!! Having used up a whole reserve of his energy thus far in getting the Yellow jersey, Andy is being pressed hard by Contador & Astana to maintain his leaders spot and that is slowly beginning to tell. But in the end, the Yellow jersey did pull up his socks and limited his damage to just 10secs to Contador. But it was the Katusha rider from Spain, Joaquin Rodriguez who won the stage outsprinting Contador in the final 100m.
Bourg-de-Péage, with a population of around 10,000 is being part of the Tour for the first time. Bourg-de-Péage got its name from the presence of the bridge over the Isère River built in the Middle Ages for the Abbey of Saint-Barnard de Romans. The caretakers then charged for the toll, bridge crossing or levy on goods against a guarantee for maintaining it. The town acquired its reputation in the 19th century due to its manufacturing of excellent felt hats, made from the fur of pet rabbits. The firm Maison Mossant, the largest of the factories, had made Bourg-de- Péage the capital of hat-making.
The finishing stage town of Mende with a population of around 13,000 is being part of the tour for the third time. The town has been established in the French cycling history mainly b’coz of Laurent Jalabert’s Bastille Day win on the 14th of July in the TdF of 1995. Originally named Mimata for the mountains that surround it, Mende has a rich heritage from its past with the 14th century gothic cathedral, Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Privat, which is surrounded by a charming medieval settlement with narrow streets and the Notre-Dame Bridge supposedly made in the 13th century. Twice elected the “most sporting town in France”, Mende has around 75 sports clubs with a wide range of facilities and the town is even home to the Lozère Multi-sports Centre, which enables young pretenders to high level sporting competition to combine their passion with schooling.
The stage began at Bourg-de-Péage with 177 riders turning up. Samuel Dumolin of Cofidis opted out of the tour. The race route for this stage was one with 2 intermediate sprints in the course for the sprinters to bag some Green jersey points. With five climbs for the day including the final Croix Neuve or otherwise known as Montée Laurent Jalabert’ the route had a good spread of three Cat III and one cat II climbs.
The sponsors gave Andy Schleck a special jersey half Yellow & Half White to signify the two positions that he is holding in the tour.
The race started sedately with the first set of attacks coming in only after the first 10km on the first climb. Team RadioShack moved upfront & neutralized the same. It was on the second climb of the day that the day’s breakaway consisting of 18 riders was formed. Once again Thor Hushovd of Cervalo joined the escapees to gather some points in the Green jersey classification and on finishing the 2 sprint points in 1st & 2nd positions, rejoined the peleton having de-jersied Ale Jet.
In the fight for the King of Mountains jersey classification Anthony Charteau of Bbox Telecom was able to out score Jerome Pineau of Quick Step to grab the Polka dotted jersey back, though point to note is that Pineau did crash along with Geraint Thomas of Team Sky in the early stages of the race today.
At the front of the peleton it was hard work for the Yellow jersey team of Saxo Bank and they had to bear the chasing duties for the peleton for almost three fourths of the course today. With the breakaway having members from quite a lot of the teams, no team wanted to take up the chasing responsibilities also. Finally after the second sprint stage, it was Andreas Kloden of RadioShack who made the first serious inroads into the breakaway split as he rode away followed only by Kiryienka of Caisse D’Epargne, Hesjedal of Garmin Transitions and Vinokourov of Astana. With 25km to go Tyler Farrer of Garmin Transitions finally called it a day & ended his tour, for his broken wrist was simply killing him. Salutations to this great athlete, who pushed his pain barrier limits beyond human levels and competed till he could ride no more.
This bunch of 4 riders kept at it and was caught only in the final kms of the course today. But in the meantime, as the race reached the Croix Neuve it was action time at the front as the remaining 12 of the lead group was caught by the peleton with 6km to go. In the lead group Vinokourov raced ahead and tried a solo finish. But it was Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha who made a successful break from the peleton and only Contador could match his burst. They both sped away from the Yellow jersey in the peleton and working in tandem, reined in all the riders one after the other, including Vino, who was left to take the 3rd spot. In the end the stronger legs of Rodriguez prevailed and Contador who did try and win this stage had to come in second. The rest of the riders came in small groups but with no major changes in the overall classification.
In the end, the composure of Andy, not having become nervous after Contador broke away from the group was a highlight by it self, as this tells me of a rider who is riding to a plan and not someone who will get spooked in the days to come.
After the race, Rodriguez said, “My relationship with Alberto is very good. We’ve known each other since we raced together for the ONCE team in 2003, and he also raced with my little brother. But at the end of today’s stage, there was no agreement possible. Especially since I was very confident because I know that my top speed is greater than his. I was very clear at the start of the Tour: I wanted to win a stage and get the best possible position in the general classification. I’m glad to see that today, the two objectives have come good at the same time. I find myself with a stage victory and a very good place on GC. Regarding the fight for the title between Contador and Schleck, I feel that the stages that are coming up are more favorable for Alberto. I also think Andy Schleck has already spent a lot of energy in the first part of the Tour. In my opinion, Alberto has biggest chance for the final victory.”
With Armstrong not looking very strong today and dropping some time in the run in to the finish, am seriously thinking that this is more of a strategy to keep his legs fresh for the Pyrenees where he would like to go all out and win a stage before going into the sunset.
At the end of Stage 12 the over all race results are as follows. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank continues in the Yellow. Thor Hushovd of Cervalo Test team gets back the Green jersey. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank leads in the White jersey category (though on the road tomorrow Robert Gesink of Rabobank will wear that jersey as Andy wears his Yellow jersey) & Anthony Charteau of Bbox Telecom grabs the King of the Mountain jersey. Team RadioShack takes over as the best team in the race.
The Tour de France Stage 13, is from Rodez to Revel, a distance of 196km and with five big climbs it will be another day in sun for the sprinters who will have to look deep into their reserves to pull themselves across the finish line.
So till tomorrow…:)
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