Today’s stage 13 from Pau to Lourdes saw an ideal situation for the contenders, who found themselves on a reasonable stage between two extremely trying days in the Pyrenees. Despite the peloton holding a torrid pace for the first part of the stage, a large group broke off – including the disparate bunch of Alessandro Petacchi (whose legs must be fresh because I don’t think he rode any of the previous stages), Edvald Boasson-Hagen, David Moncoutie, Thor Hushovd and the perennially off the front Jeremy Roy (FDJ). As a result, Thomas Voeckler’s Europcar squad was left to their own devices to patrol the front in order to keep their hold on the Yellow Jersey. A well timed burst of effort by the World Champion on the slopes of the Col d’Aubisque allowed him to establish a gap from his breakaway companions, where he was eventually joined by Roy, who dropped him on the climb. David Moncoutie was able to surge from the initial break group, past Hushovd, and within sight of Roy, yet was unable to reach him prior to the descent. Had the two of them teamed up the outcome might have been different, as Hushovd caught Moncoutie on the descent and worked with him as much as tactics allowed, until ultimately dropping him, passing Roy, and taking a solo win.
Here’s what we noticed:
1) Today saw a number of notable abandons. Following yet another crash, Radio Shack’s Andreas Klöden called it a tour. Lars Boom, in the wake of his incredible effort from Tuesday, made his way home (if only he were getting a head start on cyclocross training). Following the time cut of sprinter Denis Galimzyanov, Katusha was struck another blow with the abandon of Mikhail Ignatyev. Will Katusha not only be the biggest flop of Le Tour but of the season?
2) FDJ’s Jeremy Roy put himself in to the polka dot jersey by winning the climb up the Col d’Aubisque. Tonight, the Maillot’s Jaune, Blanc and à Pois Rouges are held by three different Frenchmen. Are we witnessing the beginning of a new age in French cycling?
3) At some point in the last few years, Thor Hushovd realized he could climb. We’ve spent the last two years labeling him as a “power climber”, capable of using his explosive power in short, measured bursts to success in one day races. His performance in ‘09′s Tour de France, where he racked up intermediate sprint points by attacking in the mountains was the first inkling of more extensive ability, but to attack, establish a gap up the slopes of the Col d’Aubisque and ultimately win the stage isn’t something we would have predicted. Chalk it up to his lack of aggression yesterday leaving him with fresh legs (he finished with the grupetto over 33 minutes back from stage winner Sammy Sanchez), a perfectly timed attack, and superior descending abilities. It’s truly been a great Tour for him and the entire Garmin team, with more opportunities to come.
4) Philippe Gilbert managed to establish a nice little gap for himself on the descent of the Aubisque, finishing 10th and getting crucial sprint points in a finish that netted HTC’s Mark Cavendish none. Movistar’s Jose Rojas won the sprint out of the peloton, finishing in 12th. These two will both be looking for opportunities to grab points in situations that Cavendish will be unable to compete.
5) Gilbert also put himself in to the overall top-10. He’s currently sitting in 9th. Eddy Merckx’s late 2010 predictions of Gilbert being capable of great things in the Tour de France seem very prescient. Would a reasonable finishing position in Paris encourage Gilbert to drop the weight he’d need to in order to become a GC contender?
Tomorrow’s stage should be an important one, with the top contenders again having the terrain required to put time in to each other. We’ll be watching the favorites carefully, trying to figure out who’s likely to make the first move to distance themselves from their competitors.
Did you notice anything interesting in today’s stage we failed to note? Share your comments below!