Superhuman: that is the only word that comes to the lips of anybody you talk to about Armstrong’s devastating performance in yesterdays stage 10. On the final climb into Courchevel none of his main rivals could hang on, so the two HC climbs in today’s stage would promise some intense action for some sore legged riders.
Today was all set to be another day of hell in the high Alps. The riders were to tackle the Col de la Madeleine (Hors Category climb, 2000m, 25.4km at 6.1%, the Col du Telegraphe – cat. 1 climb, 1566m, 12km at 6.7% and the mighty Col du Galibier – HC climb, 2645m, 17.5km at 6.9%.
Thank the heavens for Vino. If it wasn’t for him this procession would have lost all it’s appeal by now. His attack early on gave the Disco boys something to think about, but they seemed happy to let him burn himself out. It was typical of the Kazakh, all bravado and with little hope of winning back the five or so minutes he lost the day before. He just seemed to want to prove something to himself and perhaps his failing team.
The day started with a crash for Tom Boonen (he’s OK) and an early break by Thor Hushovd which was just an attempt to get some points for the green jersey.
With only 30-odd kilometres covered Vinokourov attacked. A rejuvenated Vinokourov, obviously wanting to put stage 10 behind him with a good show today, went clear with a handful of well placed (but not too dangerous) GC riders most notably demon-descender Santiago Botero (Phonak) it was these two who made the running and they looked like they wanted to push all the way.
Over the summit of Madelaine the riders plunged down the scary fast descent and then over the 2000m Col du Telegraphe. The real challenge came on the next climb, the Col du Galibier. At 2645m, it’s a giant and as the highest climb on the tour, one of its most fearsome. It has an average gradient of 6.9% for 17.5k. Visit this website for some great photos of how it looks. The riders approach from the Northern side, the toughest. The road snakes up the mountain side, through tight hairpin bends and the road flanked by excited fans, crazily waving the colours of their champions. Pererio has a chamois staining moment when he misjudged a corner and shot straight of into the wilderness, a reminder of how much risk the riders take on the descents.
Vino just kept attacking and it was all ‘Santi’ could do to hold his wheel in the run in to the finish after catching Vinokourov for 40 seconds on the back end of the Galibier. It was an insane bit of 100km/h riding by the Colombian ex-MTB rider who caught Vino (who’s no slouch) in a matter of 10kms. Vinokourov said afterwards that despite the set backs of the past few days, he’s in good spirits and will keep having a go. Vinokourov said, “I knew I was going to attack today and fought all the way. I rode good, and had a tailwind. I was really focusing on the stage win. The Tour is not over. I’m still there in the overall standings, moral in the team will be a lot higher after this stage win”.
Once again Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) was rooted to the tarmac and the only hope of a race is being held up by a mighty cool looking Micheal Rasmussen (Rabobank) who just seems to be growing stronger by the day. The ex-MTB world champion from Denmark is the revelation of the Tour and seems to be riding himself onto the podium. Today he sat in 8th wheel almost all day, only coming out of the leaders wake for the sprint for the points at the top of the Galibier. If only he could Time Trial.
Bobby Julich also looked strong and Ivan Basso (both CSC) seems to over the slip up in form he had yesterday. But try as they might to make a race of it the Disco boys are just too classy for them. Lance has it stitched up.
Elsewhere, sadly, Jens Voigt (CSC) was eliminated after a few days of illness got the better of him. Dario Frigo and his wife have been busted for possession of EPO. Frigo will be out of the race, suspended and probably sacked by his team
Stage 12 – Thursday 14 July
The third ‘mountain’ stage doesn’t look that tough compared to what the riders have just been through, but the continuously up and down nature will still be hard on tired legs. From Briancon to Digne-les-bains there are five category climbs. The hardest is probably the last category two over Col du Corobin – 12.4km at 4.5%.
So the outlook looks set fair for the Discovery domination of the race and I doubt we’ll see Vino again until the Pyrenees. Let’s hope that someone fancies a bit of action tomorrow. It’s Bastille day and who would bet against a French win. Perhaps a gift from Lance? Look out for Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) or perhaps Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), The RCUK hot tip? Thomas Voeckler (Bouyges Telecom) he’s been quiet for a few days and obviously fancies a dig on the French National Holiday. The terrain is perfect for the punchy ‘cheeky chap’ and boy do the French need to win something…
Stage 11 result:
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 4.47.38 (36.087 km/h)
2. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.01
3. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 1.15
4. Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC
5. Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
6. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
9. Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
10. Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner
11. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne
12. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel
13. Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC
14. Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step
15. Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 41.59.57
2. Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 0.38
3. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 2.34
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.40
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 3.16
6. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 3.48
7. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 3.58
8. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 4.00
9. Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.02
10. Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.16
11. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems
12. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 4.47