95th Tour de France
Stage 16 - Cuneo to Jausiers - 157.0 km (97.5 mi)
22 July 2008
Team CSC did everything it needed to ensure that maillot jaune Frank Schleck retained the yellow as the Tour crested the highest summit road in France today. At the same time, a former wearer of the yellow jersey took the stage victory as a breakaway stayed clear yet again. With the riders thinking ahead to L'Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday, Cyril Dessel (AG2R) pipped his breakaway companions at the line in Jausiers to take stage 16 of the 2008 Tour de France...
The ride began in the Italian town of Cuneo. 153 riders lined up at the start and started westward toward two hors-categorie climbs and back toward French soil. Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), one of the most aggressive riders in the peloton, attacked right out of the gate but was quickly pulled back. Other breakaways tried and failed, but there was Chavanel again in a group which managed to stay away by the first intermediate sprint point in Vignolo. Who else but the Frenchman from Cofidis could possibly take the sprint? Chavanel bolted clear ahead of George Hincapie (Columbia) and Bram Tankink (Rabobank), attempting to springboard free again. The peloton, though, soon swept up everyone...
Chavanel's teammate David Moncoutie tried around the twenty-sixth kilometer to get clear himself, but to no avail. The ride continued through the Piedmonte region of Italy toward the Alpine passes back into France. Finally a quintet of riders -- Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole), Sebastien Rosseler (Quick Step), Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) -- managed to gain an advantage off the front and the peloton let them go free. The first hour ended with forty-nine kilometers covered, the race approaching the second intermediate sprint point in Vinadio before beginning the 21-kilometer, 7% average gradient Col de la Lombarde with pitches up to thirteen percent in the kilometers before the more-gradual cross over the Italy-France border.
A second splinter group formed in between the breakaway and the peloton. Comprised of twenty-four riders, the group included Chavanel yet again, along with such traditional animators as Jens Voigt and Kurt-Asle Arvesen of Team CSC, Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto), Haimar Zubeldia and 2007 Tour Most Aggressive Rider Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Arroyo, Ivan Gutierrez and Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Marcus Burghardt, George Hincapie and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Columbia), John-Lee Augustyn and Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre), Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Juan Antonio Flecha and green jersey Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), and Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle).
The breakaway approached the sprint point in Vinadio with Dumoulin taking the points ahead of Schumacher and Le Mevel. The gap had grown to 4:25 on the peloton, with the two-dozen-strong chase group 1:50 behind through the line. Soon thereafter, the roads started tilting upward. The climb had begun... and Voeckler and Schumacher sprung free from the other three at the front before Schumacher pressed it again to go alone around the sixty-kilometer mark. Behind in the peloton, former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) broke free from the main group along with teammate Sylvester Szmyd and Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) and Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux). Soon four others -- Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Matteo Carrara (Quick Step), Remi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis) -- bridged up to start the chase.
Five kilometers from the summit, the riders were strung out all along the length of the climb. Christophe Le Mevel was 1:50 down the road when stage leader Schumacher passed under the 5K banner. The remaining numbers from the Chavanel group were 4:15 back, with Cunego and his chasers another miinute behind Chavanel, Zubeldia and the rest. Schumacher crested the mountaintop back into France, the border marked by the summit, and was the first rider of the 2008 Tour to re-enter French territory. Le Mevel was through second around two minutes behind. Thomas Voeckler came through third, 3:35 after Schumacher stopped the checkpoint clock. The first chase group came through a minute later. By the time the CSC-led peloton came through, Schumacher had already had nine-plus minutes of descent toward the feed zone in Isola.
Schumacher passed through the zone alone. The riders behind Le Mevel, still desperately in chase of Schumacher, had reintegrated on the descent, the chase group now thirty solid working together to bring down the advantage. They passed through Isola together around five minutes behind. The gap back to the peloton through the feed zone was twelve minutes, and Team CSC began to apply more pressure to the chase as the climb up France's highest mountain pass, the Col del la Bonnette neared. The riders started climbing immediately from Isola, a constant gradual uphill bringing the riders to the village of Saint-Etienne-de-Tinee.
From there it is all academic. The Col de la Bonnette, adjacent to the Restefond peak, lords over all other passes in the French Alps at 2802 meters (9193 feet). The climb from Saint-Etienne-de-Tinee begins at 1152 meters (3780 feet), meaning the riders gain over a mile of elevation in 26.7 kilometers of climbing at an average gradient of 6.2 percent. The first part of the climb is easy enough -- pitches of 4.4 percent for the first four and a half miles, then steepening to 6.1% for the next four kilometers. It is here in the race that Cancellara stepped in for Team CSC, displacing Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and driving the yellow train up the mountain. The gap decreased below ten minutes in the first few kilometers of the climb, and riders were falling off the back of what now amounted to the maillot jaune chase group.
As the roads pitched steeper, to around 8.1 percent for the next 1500 meters before increasing to over ten percent for another half-kilometer thereafter, the gap between Schumacher and the large chase group which was working behind was around three minutes. The peloton behind had whittled the gap to around eight and a half minutes. The steepest section of the climb had commenced. The chase group had two and a half minutes on Schumacher; the peloton was eight and a half back. Valjavec punched it in the chase group, putting Cunego into trouble. Down the mountain the yellow jersey group had been trimmed to ten riders -- maillot jaune Frank Schleck, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Andy Schleck and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Kim Kirchen (Columbia) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Some thirty seconds behind the yellow jersey was the American in fifth place, Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Chipotle, who was suffering valiantly to attempt to reintegrate.
But to no avail. The yellow jersey was getting top-notch work from his lieutenants on the road. Kurt-Asle Arvesen, winner of Stage 11 coming out of the Pyrenees east into Foix, punched the pace before dropping off to let his teammates take up the charge. There was a real threat up the road; as Valjavec punched the pedals up the road, he was technically slipping into yellow. If Frank Schleck was to be wearing yellow up L'Alpe d'Huez tomorrow, he would have to decrease the gap. But the chase group bearing down on Schumacher was doing the heaviest pushing up the six- and seven-percent steeps of the Bonnette. The German was caught four kilometers from the summit. He cracked from the new lead group and faded down, getting passed by the yellow jersey soon after the demoralizing catch.
John-Lee Augustyn, riding in his first Tour de France for Barloworld, sprinted from the lead group to take the maximum points -- forty -- for the highest summit in France. Popovych was close on his heels, with Arroyo, Dessel and Casar also on the wheel. Augustyn tried to solo down the descent into Jausiers for the stage victory, but overshot a right-hand curve in the road and went over the railing. He watched as the riders passed, his shot at the stage now over, though he was able to remount and finish the day. CSC made sure to push the gap down to a reasonable level but let the front group stay away to the end. Ultimately it was Dessel sprinting forth past a fading Arroyo, who had broken too early in the finishing straight, to take just the second stage win by a Frenchman in the 2008 Tour de France. "I really wanted to win a stage in this Tour. I didn't have such great legs in the Pyrenees, but today was the best chance in the Alps," Dessel told the press after the podium presentation in Jausiers. "The tactics today were to go into a breakaway because we had a feeling that the GC riders would let us go. In the end, [David] Arroyo went and I was able to counter his attack and drive it to the line. It's a double pleasure because we moved Valjevec into the top 10, so we're very happy."
Results - Stage 16
- Cyril Dessel (FRA) AG2R La Mondiale -- 4.31.27 (34.70 km/h)
- Sandy Casar (FRA) Francaise des Jeux
- David Arroyo (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne
- Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) Silence-Lotto -- +0.03
- George Hincapie (USA) Columbia -- +0.24
- Nicolas Portal (FRA) Caisse d'Epargne
- Tadej Valjavec (SLO) AG2R La Mondiale
- Stefan Schumacher (GER) Gerolsteiner -- +1.03
- Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +1.28
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- s.t.
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- 68.30.16
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- +0.07
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- +0.08
- Carlos Sastre (ESP) Team CSC -- +0.49
- Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank -- +1.13
- Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- +3.15
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +3.23
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- +4.11
- Samuel Sanchez (ESP) Euskatel-Euskadi -- +4.38
- Tadej Valjavec (SLO) AG2R La Mondiale -- +5.23
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank -- 219 pts
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 172
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram -- 167
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- 145
- Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis -- 137
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 110
- Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld -- 110
- Robbie McEwen (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 105
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 94
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 84
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- 85 pts
- Sebastian Lang (GER) Gerolsteiner -- 60
- Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 55
- John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld -- 53
- Egoi Martinez (ESP) Euskatel-Euskadi -- 50
- Simon Gerrans (AUS) Credit Agricole -- 50
- Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) Silence-Lotto -- 49
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- 46
- Cyril Dessel (FRA) AG2R La Mondiale -- 44
- Jose Luis Arrieta (ESP) AG2R La Mondiale -- 40
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- 68.39.17
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- +0.06
- Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas -- +0.50
- Maxime Monfort (BEL) Cofidis -- +2.18
- Eduardo Gonzalo (ESP) Agritubel -- +28.39
- Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia -- +53.02
- John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld -- +57.43
- Remy Di Gregorio (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- +58.19
- Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- +1.07.21
- Peter Velits (SVK) Milram -- +1.21.59
Tuesday: Stage 17 - Embrun to L'Alpe d'Huez (210.5 km)
This is the big one, ladies and gentlemen -- the queen stage of the 2008 Tour de France. With three hors-categorie climbs, this stage will have riders begging for mercy as the race enters the heart of the French Alpine climbs. Starting from Embrun, the same starting point as Stage 15 into Italy, the riders will head north. The third-category Cote de Sainte-Marguerite will serve to warm up the legs before the mythic Col du Galibier is summited. Then, a long descent (2107 vertical meters/6913 vertical feet) to the feed zone will set riders up for another leg-breaker up the Col de la Croix de Fer, before the twenty-one legendary switchback turns of L'Alpe d'Huez are navigated to the summit finish. Keep your eyes glued to this race... we could see a new leader in yellow at the top of the mountain.