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
13 is lucky for Vino!
The 13th Stage of the TdF was from Rodez to Revel, a distance of 196km. The last day on the stage before the Pyrenees, this was a stage which was best suited to an attacker, but with the sprinter teams all suited up for one final stage win before the Pyrenees, the pace was hectic at the front. Yes, the breakaway did happen and the peleton kept them in total control at all times. The sprinters all lined up in the last few kms hoping to be brought into the last stretch by their sprint teams, and all of this did happen and the sprinters did sprint, but it was for the second place only!! As Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana had made a surprise break in the last limb & once he got away, he kept up his pace till the finish line, leaving Cavendish & Petacchi to come in 2nd & 3rd !!
Rodez, with a population of around 26,000 is being part of the Tour for the second time. The history of this 2,000 year old town has it that the Counts and Bishops of the town were opposed to each other & built a wall to divide the same into two, parts of which even now remains. The Notre-Dame cathedral with its 87-metre high bell tower, displays the architectural styles of the 13th to 17th centuries, balanced by the newly stained glass windows created by Stéphane Belzère that give it a modern touch.
The finishing stage town of Revel with a population of around 8,000 plus is being part of the tour for the ninth time. Situated at the foot of the Black Mountain, Revel is a former medieval town. With the belfry in the centre of the town taking up a central role, its central square surrounded by timber-framed houses becomes, on Saturday morning when the market takes up residence, a place of many flavours, aromas and colours. The Saint-Ferréol Lake created in the 17th century by Pierre-Paul Riquet to feed the Canal du Midi is also a sports lover’s paradise. The city also boasts the “Arts and Crafts Town” label, thanks to the excellence of its cabinet-makers, French polishers, engravers, lacquerers, ironmongers and upholsterers,…etc.
Today’s race course passed through the town of Lautrec, the town which gave us the very famous painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. An ardent observer of the contemporary scene & life, Toulouse-Lautrec designed many lithographed posters advertising Parisian nightlife and that today are the much reprinted posters that are used for setting any theme with Paris nightlife!!.
The stage began at Rodez with 176 riders in the peleton (less Tyler Farrer who packed it yesterday). The race route for this stage was one with 2 intermediate sprints in it for the sprinters to bag Green jersey points. With five climbs for the day including 2 Cat III & 3 Cat IV climbs, this was a climber’s route, but with this stage being the last one before the Pyrenees it was all out work for the sprinters teams.
Even before the race could start off Lance Armstrong of Team RadioShack crashed and had to go the race doctor’s car to get his bruises treated. But he soon made it to the front of the peleton and it was business as usual. Today three riders, all of whom had won stages at the TdF in their past, Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step, Juan Antonio Flecha of Team Sky & Pierrick Fedrigo of Bbox Bouyges Telecom made the breakaway.
After their escape they kept a good pace till the very end when with 10km remaining they were caught and passed by the peleton. With these three taking away all the points in the King of the Mountain classification & the intermediate sprints – there was not much action left for the contenders in these categories.
Today to ensure a sprint finish, HTC Columbia, Milram & Lampre teams did all the hard work of leading the peleton. At the last climb Alessandro Ballan of BMC Racing made his move & was followed by Carlos Barredo of Quick Step, Nicolas Roche of AG2R and Damiano Cunego of Lampre-Farnese Vini. But they were unable to catch him & neither was Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Telecom. That was when Astana’s Vinokourov jumped from the peleton, caught Ballan & soon left him behind. After yesterday’s disappointment of loosing the Stage 12 with the final finish line in sight, it was a pumped up Vino who made the climb look quite easy. By the time he reached the top of the climb he had almost 12sec on the chasers. The sprinters team did their best to close their gap, but after the descent, on the flat straight stretch, it was Vino who increased his lead to 15sec. As he neared the finish mark, he turned back to confirm that there was no one breathing down his neck & then saluted his sponsor team & won his first stage at TdF after coming back from a 2 year suspension for doping.
The peleton in the meanwhile had been split into small fragments by the intense pace at the front, but the sprinters where able to line up in the front and a “Renshawless” Cavendish did what Hushovd was doing all this tour, sit in his slipstream!! Cavendish stayed in Hushovd’s back wheel till he saw Ale Jet take off on his left. He then turned on his throttle and passed Hushovd and the rest easily to win the sprint by a full wheel length. In the overall GC standings, there were no changes & Andy Schleck still has a 31sec lead over Contador.
After the race, Vinokourov said, “It’s nice to win here again and it was a good victory. I’m very happy for my team, especially, because I think I helped give some good morale for the team. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t win yesterday but it gave us some good motivation and now we are ready for the three or four stages in the mountains.”
On being questioned on his doping in the past he said, “Yes. It’s like I said after the win in Leige-Bastogne-Leige, ‘Vino is coming back. This is the new Vino’. With my victory there, I asked why I always must prove my reform. This is the new Vino and I think everybody understands that now. I must win my popularity in France and I think this victory in the Tour helps… but I don’t want to talk anymore about 2007. I rode well in the breakaway and was great today and I’m happy.”
At the end of Stage 13 the over all race results are as follows. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank continues in the Yellow. Ale Jet of Lampre takes 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 continues the King of the Mountain jersey. Team RadioShack continues as the best team in the race.
The Tour de France Stage 14, is from Revel to Ax 3 Domaines, a distance of 184.5km, with the Hors Categorized Port de Pailhères climb looming up around 30km from the finish & with the final finish line at the end of a steep climb it will be all action in the GC. Me thinks that Team Astana will put out couple of riders to burn themselves up in the climb & leave Contador to do the final ascent all by himself, with Andy Schleck trying to stay with him.
So till tomorrow…:)
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