France finally scored a stage win in this Tour as Europcar’s young Pierre Rolland won atop l’Alpe d’Huez, grabbing the white jersey for best young rider on the day his teammate Thomas Voeckler finally gave up the yellow jersey.
A day after cracking on the final climb and publicly ceding any chance of winning the 2011 Tour de France, Alberto Contador went on the attack early Friday, putting Cadel Evans in a tough spot. The Spaniard’s bid for a stage win finally faded on the Alpe, where he finished third and only gained a handful of seconds on Evans and Andy Schleck.
Schleck took over the jersey from Voeckler and enters Saturday’s critical final time trial with a 57-second gap ahead of Evans. Contador is sixth at nearly four minutes behind Schleck.
“The yellow jersey gives you wings and I hope that is the case tomorrow,” Schleck said at the finish.
“The Tour’s been quite good for me so far, I’ve had one bad day, my legs are good and I’m confident I can actually keep this till Paris,” said Schleck, the runner-up to Contador the past two years.
“It’s not a course for the big specialists, and everybody tells me it’s a course that suits me so I’m hoping that will be the case tomorrow.
“The race is not finished, I have the yellow jersey on my shoulders and I’m sure that’s going to be a huge motivation.”
After his teammate Chris Anker Sorensen softened up the group with a hard attack, Contador attacked on the first of the day’s three climbs, the Col du Telegraph. He was quickly joined by Thursday’s winner, Andy Schleck, yellow jersey Voeckler and Evans.
Voeckler, however, was unable to stay with the Schleck/Contador combine and, after getting dropped himself, Evans suffered a mechanical that forced him to take a bike swap.
Evans, often without allies, had to chase over the Telegraph and the Galibier and down the long descent and leadup to the Tour’s final climb, the Alpe d’Huez.
With some help from Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal, Evans finally rejoined the Schleck-Contador group 15km from the base of the Alpe.
The final climb of the Tour
After Evans made contact, the pace of the front group slowed and Voeckler and others rejoined so that a group of about 30 riders hit the Alpe together.
As the group relaxed, Rolland took a flyer and was joined by Hesjedal; the GC favorites were indifferent to the move.
On the opening switchbacks, Evans was the first GC favorite to go on the attack, and he was soon countered by Contador, who disappeared around the corner and soon caught and passed Hesjedal and Rolland. Evans and Andy Schleck took up the chase. Voeckler faded quickly, making Schleck the leader on the road once again.
Evans settled into to marking Schleck, who eased off and allowed his brother, Cunego, Sanchez, Velits, Hesjedal and others to rejoin. Voeckler, however, was struggling more than two minutes behind.
Rolland and Sanchez attacked the Evans-Schleck group, and slowly inched up to Contador, who weakened in the final 4k.
The pair caught Contador with 2.5km to go and Rolland tried to ride straight past Contador, who fought to hold his wheel. Rolland finally broke free, leaving frequent allies Sanchez and Contador to work together to try and catch the Frenchman. Contador soon let Sanchez go it alone, settling for a third on the stage.
Behind, Evans sensed some weakness in Schleck and attacked repeatedly in the final three kilometers. He couldn’t shake the Luxembourger, but finished with him, Velits, Cunego and Frank Schleck.
Rolland has been Voeckler’s must trusted teammate in the mountains this Tour. This was his first day to go it alone.
“On the Galibier Thomas (Voeckler) told me, ‘forget about me’. That’s when I decided to go for it,” said Rolland.
“I knew the climb to the summit of Alpe d’Huez very well — I did it 10 times during a training camp.”
Saturday’s stage 20 is this year’s only individual time trial, a hilly 42.5km circuit in Grenoble. The same route was used in the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this year, when HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin won the stage in 55:28.
The Tour concludes Sunday with the race into Paris.
- 1 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 3:13:25
- 2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:14
- 3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:00:23
- 4 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad 0:00:57
- 5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
- 1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
- 2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:53
- 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:57
- 4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:02:10
- 5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:03:31
2011 Tour de France stage 19: Alberto Contador punch
Contador dispatched with a spectator who bothered him on the Alpe. Photo: AFP
Contador went it alone on the Alpe, but couldn't hold it to the top. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Schleck take the front on the Alpe. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Telegraphing his intentions
Contador attacked at the foot of the Telegraph and only a select group could follow. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
The Contador-Schleck escape
Schleck and Contador rode together on the Galibier. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Evans chasing again
For another day, Evans was forced to do a lot of chasing by himself. with Frank Schleck on his wheel. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Mark Cavendish made the time cut and retained his green jersey. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Back to the Galibier
For the second day, the race went over the Galibier, this time from the other side. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Hincapie on the chase
Hincapie and the BMC gang works to bring back the breakaway. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Sanchez and Rolland
Rolland worked with Sanchez to bring back Contador, and then attacked in the final 3k. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Voeckler's final day in yellow was a tough one. But then, they all were. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Levi Leipheimer was 16th at 2:06. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Farrar the climber
Farrar is happy to be done with the mountains and looking forward to a sprint finish Sunday. PPhoto: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Vande Velde was Garmin's third finisher on the day at 19th. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Danielson was 11th on the stage and is ninth overall. He also helped Garmin retain its team GC lead. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Ryder Hesjedal had a great day, attacking early on the Alpe and finishing 10th. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Pierre Rolland scored France's first win on l'Alpe d'Huez since the days of Bernard Hinault. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Yellow at last
Andy Schleck took on the yellow burden after the final mountain stage. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Hoogerland and Velits
Hoogerland and Velits. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Brothers on the front
Frank Schleck leads Andy and Evans. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
Looking down over the Alpe. Photo: Caley Fretz
Luxembourg showing their colors. Photo: Caley Fretz
Minutes before the start, and Dutch corner already looked like this. Photo: Caley Fretz
The horse guy
The pony had a T-Mobile jersey on Thursday. Polka dots for the Alpe. Photo: Caley Fretz
A Norwegian Sarkozy supporter? The Frenchman on the left was not a fan, but they made up in the end. Photo: Caley Fretz
Food for the ascent
Beer/frites man at the base of the climb. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews
Luxembourgers celebrate on the Alpe. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews
Sometimes you need the TV
TV is useful before the real show appears. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews
Hushovd has his fans in the Alps. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews
Getting polka dots
The Alpe is the best place to wear polka dots. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews
Leopards on the mountain
At times Alpe d'Huez is just a big costume party. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews
Flags of our fathers
Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews