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How the Queen stage panned out
Jul 19th, 12. The queen stage of the Tour de France deserves a blow by blow, by blow-up account...
The 197km 16th stage began at 11.18am in Pau, where temperatures were already in the low 30s The climbs of the day were: the col d'Aubisque (HC at 53.5km), the col du Tourmalet (HC at 120.5km), the col d'Aspin (Cat 1 at 150.5km) and thecol de Peyresourde (category-one at 181.5km).
Establishing the escape: 38 break free
After a fast start the first group to gain a sufficient advantage to warrant a time check was composed of 38 riders include Vinokourov, who instigated the move at the 22km mark.
Cummings, Hincapie (BMC), Popovych, Voigt (RNT), Voeckler, Arashiro (EUC), Azanza, Martinez and Izaguirre (EUS), Hondo, Manzano, Stortoni (LAM), Martin (GRS), Bouet, Minard(ALM), Taaramae, Dumoulin (COF), Feillu, Levarlet, Marino (SAU), Hoogerland, Valls Ferri(VCD), Caruso, Trofimov, Vorganov (KAT), Casar, Fedrigo, Ladagnous (FDJ), Kruiswijk, Ten Dam (RAB), Costa, Karpets, Kiryienka (MOV), Paulinho, C. Sorensen (STB), Kessiakoff, Vinokourov (AST) and Sprick (ARG).
At the base of the Aubisque they were 3'40" ahead of the peloton. Pineau (OPQ) chased for a while but was caught at the 39km mark.
Horner (RNT) crashed and slid down the steep roadside verge at the 41km mark but climbed back on his bike and rejoined the race. Gusev (KAT) crashed at the 64km mark (along with Zingle) but the Russian had to quit with a broken collarbone.
Arashiro led Voeckler out at the top of the Aubisque and the winner of Stage 10 outsprinted Kessiakoff for the 25 points. The peloton started that climb 3'40" behind the escape and it reached the top with a deficit of 3'45".
Col du Tourmalet: Voeckler and Feillu escape
The peloton reached the foot of the second climb 5'35" behind the escapees. Hondo was the first to attack the lead group while Dumoulin and Popovych were the first to be dropped.
At 107km, Martin chased down Hondo and then went on the attack. He was joined by 12 others and, a quarter of the way up the climb, the lead group was composed of 13 men but it was Martin and Sorensen who did the most work at the front.
Knees was the Sky rider who led the peloton 6'10" behind at the 103km mark of the climb. Voeckler and Feillu were on their own at the front, 5km from the top of the Tourmalet, and Voeckler took the Souvenir Jacques Goddetas first over the 2,115m high pass. Martin was 1'08" behind at the top, Kessiakoff's group of seven was at 1'30".
Col d'Aspin: Evans cracks
Voeckler and Feillu continued to increase their advantage on the next riders and Voeckler added another 10 points to his tally by leading his escape companion over the top of the third climb. They were 1'10" ahead of Vinokourov, Sorensen and Voigt at the top. Izaguirre was at 1'30".
But the story of the climb related to the yellow jersey group which had been led by Knees most of the way but then Basso and NIbali of Liquigas moved to the front and, thanks to a quick burst of speed by Nerz (LIQ), the GC group was thinned down to about 20 riders.
With 5km to climb, Basso was setting the pace and then, with 2.5km to go, Kloden slipped behind and then Evans suffered a momentary crisis. He lost contact with the yellow jersey group and crested the Aspin 45" behind Wiggins.
Evans got help from three teammates and returned to the yellow jersey's group after 10km of descending – but van Garderen (BMC) always remained in the group of the yellow jersey/=.
Col de Peyresourde: Voeckler sets off for another stage win
Early on the final climb, Voeckler and Feillu had a lead of 1'00" on four riders: Voigt, Vinokourov, Izaguirre and Sorensen. The peloton arrived at the foot of this pass 9'20" later.
After 2km on the slopes of the Peyresourde the chase split and Vinokourov and Sorensen were the third and fourth riders in the stage.
With 22km to go in the stage, Voeckler attacked and dropped Feillu, he was 35" ahead of Vino and Sorensen. Evans lost contact with the yellow jersey 5km from the top of the Peyresourde.
With 4km to go, Nibali (LIQ) came off the wheel of Basso and launched another solid attack; this time only Wiggins and Froome could respond. The Italian did try a second surge but by then he seemed resigned to the fact that the Brits would be able to chase him down.
The times of the result sheet tells the tale of the main casualties on GC – with the defending champion suffering the biggest blow – and the climbing classification reminds us how determined Thomas Voeckler was on this day in the Pyrenees. He was first over every pass and eventually won the stage (the fourth of his career at the Tour) by beating Sorensen by 1'55".
Voeckler, not surprisingly, also won the 'Fighting Spirit' award. He also earned the polka-dot jersey with his efforts and now leads Kessiakoff (AST) by four points in that classification.
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