Dec 5th, 13. Injured cyclist Eddie Dawkins will take his place in the team sprint combination ... read more
Dec 5th, 13. World Championship multi medallist Linda Villumsen headlines a strong woman’s field in this ... read more
Dec 5th, 13. Pro cycling team, Lotto Belisol is busy preparing the 2014 season. With ten riders ... read more
Valverde thrilled to be back winning
Jul 20th, 12. The final day of the mountains of the 2012 Tour de France saw Alejandro Valverde thrill the thousands of Spanish supporters on the Col du Peyragudes - but only just.
"I have been waiting really much time for this victory. It's a really desired win, into a much hard stage and a really important one, and we could take it," said the Movistar rider.
"I was really happy, I couldn't hide my emotions. I have spent two years working for this. I came in really good form to this year's Tour, but had much bad luck with crashes and punctures at the start of the climb [stages], so we had to stay away from GC aspirations and focus on a stage win."
Valverde attacked with two teammates, and many others, on the first of five categorised climbs in the 143km Stage 17. They were never allowed much more than a 2min gap by Team Sky and Liquigas who were controlling the front of the peloton.
"It was a real suffering: the stage became hard from the start. We never had a big advantage and the pace was strong all the time. "
Valverde's teammate Rui Costa hit the front on the HC Port de Balès with 35km to race, opening up a small margin over a quartet where Valverde waited for the appropiate moment to attack. That moment came 3 km from the summit, and the Spaniard joined the Portuguese rider for awhile before embarking on a solo adventure.
Having a 2m30s advantage at the top of the climb, Valverde managed to keep his gap high on the descent and resist the efforts of the GC riders to bridge up and steal the victory from him. He reached the finish line barely 19sec before Team Sky's Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins - adorning his now quite secure yellow jersey.
"I was a bit scared about the finale: I was a bit out of energy and the rivals were coming strong behind," said Valdverde. "I crossed the finish exhausted, but really happy. I want to thank all the team. Rubén, Rui did an amazing job at the break, but also the rest of the team and those who were supporting from home after their injuries. This victory is also dedicated to everyone supporting me, my family and my kids."
The win was Valverde's 3rd Tour de France stage win and his fifth victory of the 2012 season. He won at Courchevel in his Tour de France debut in 2005, took the first yellow jersey with a victory on day one in 2008 and today, in his comeback to the Tour after serving a suspension last year, he gave Spain its second win of the 2012 Tour (after Luis Leon Sanchez).
Wiggins and Froome take more seconds off rivalsBradley Wiggins and Chris Froome moved a big step closer to a Tour de France 1-2 as they stretched their overall advantage with good performances today.
The Team Sky duo put Valverde under real pressure on the final climb up to the ski station finish as they dramatically cut into his lead and distanced all their remaining rivals in the process, including 3rd-placed Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
At the base of the climb they were 2min down on Valverde - but at the top, Froome finished just 19sec behind the stage winner, with Wiggins right on his wheel in 3rd. Nibali was 18sec further back in 7th.
It all means Wiggins, who is bidding to be the first British winner of the yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday, retains a lead of 2m05s over Froome and 2m41s over Nibali, with no other rider within 5min of the maillot jaune.
Now it's out of the mountains, onward to the time trial and then a Sky party in Paris...!
The progress report
The race from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes included five categorised climbs: the cat-1 Col de Menté (27.5km), cat-2 Col des Ares (55.5km), cat-3 Cote de Burs (76km), the final 'HC' climb of the 99th Tour, the Port de Balès (at 111.5km) and then the final climb, ranked cat-1, which gave double points and was just 1km from the finish.
As soon as the flag fell to signal the start, we saw Burghardt (BMC) attack... again. He's done that five times in the 2012 Tour.
There were several mild attacks before the first climb with a group of 23 ahead by 15" at 19km. Included in this move was Monfort (RNT), Taaramae (COF), Plaza (MOV), Valverde (MOV), Voeckler (EUC), Rolland (EUC), Martin (GRS), Peraud (ALM), Kadri (ALM), Feillu (SAU), Jeandesboz (SAU), Vanendert (LTB) Menchov (KAT), Trofimov (KAT), Casar (FDJ), Sorensen (STB), Kessiakoff (AST) and Leipheimer (OPQ). They were caught at 25km.
The early attacks
Valverde attacked again and drew Rolland with him. From behind Kessiakoff made a big attack and put distance into Voeckler but the rider in the polka-dot jersey responded well and, with the help of Rolland, was able to get to the front and into the lead before the top of the climb.
On the descent a group of eight formed including Nibali who bridged the gap to the leaders when the road was wet and slippery.
The rider in third overall reached a gain of as much as 25" (putting him briefly into virtual second) but he then shook hands with Valverde and allowed the seven to continue their escape without the pressure of having a threat to the GC lead up front. Nibali was caught at 39km.
The 17 stage leaders given little leeway
Voeckler, Martinez, Nibali, Peraud, Casar, Valverde, Costa, and Kessiakoff had a lead of 40" over 10 counter-attackers over the top of the second climb. Of course Voeckler attacked for the five points, of course Kessiakoff chased him... and Voeckler won that KOM sprint.
In the chase group were Azanza (EUS), Izaguirre (EUS), Stortoni (LAM), Kadri (ALM), Hoogerland (VCD), Ten Dam (RAB), Sorensen (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Leipheimer (OPQ) and Weening (OGE). The peloton was at 1'40".
At 68km the chase group caught the lead group. The maximum gain of the escape was 3'05" at 71km. Cavendish and Porte (SKY) both crashed in the feedzone but remounted their bikes quickly and rejoined the peloton.
All of the Liquigas team led the peloton from start of the second climb onward until the base of the Port de Balès. The bunch was 2'15" behind the escapees at the base of the fourth climb.
Port de Balès sets the scene for final climb
Azanza, Izaguirre and Kadri attacked the lead group but with 8km to climb, they were caught by a group of five: Leipheimer, Martinez, Valverde, Casar, Costa and Plaza.
Once together, Costa attacked and rode several kilometres on his own but he was in the sights of the second group (Izaguirre, Martinez, Valverde and Leipheimer).
Costa's move was part of a ploy to get Valverde to the front; the Movistar leader attacked, with 3.5km to go on the Port de Balès, and most others from the escape were swallowed up by the peloton.
At the top Valverde led Martinez and Costa by 35", Kadri and Leipheimer by 1'37", Voeckler and Kessiakoff by 2'00", Izaguirre by 2'12" and the peloton – led by van den Broeck and Nerz – by 2'30".
Nerz's turned ended with 10km to go and then Basso led until Vanendert attacked. This was followed by a move from the Lotto-Belisol team leader, Van den Broeck who attacked 8.5km from the finish. By then Evans had recently been dropped and a group of 10 had formed as the first chase group of Valverde.
The yellow jersey group was: Wiggins, Froome, Van Garderen, Horner, Nibali, Rolland, Vanendert, Pinot, Nibali and Rolland. From this selection, Pinot was the most willing to attack. He sped ahead with 3.5km to go - Wiggins and Froome followed and passed him before the finish line.
Tweet Follow @roadcycling
Support RoadCycling.co.nz Advertisers