Another fantastic stage – Tour de France 2011

They talked at length last night on the highlights about the skills of the downhillers, the likes of Hushovd and Cadel Evans specialists in this, both apparently from mountain biking stables. I didn’t know, and according to one of my mates, Evans is thought of pretty highly by Steve Peat, high praise indeed!

I guess this is why i always loved the mountains, it’s fast, scary fast, and incredibly dangerous. Riding DH with armour and a full face helmet is one thing, but hitting 120km/h on skinnies with only lycra as protection!? At least they have to wear lids now! In the post race interviews, Schleck criticised race organisers for the dangerous descent into Gap on Stage 16 after he lost more than a minute to GC rival Cadel Evans.

“Is this really what people want to see?” Schleck asked soon after the stage won by Thor Hushovd. “I think the parcours was really badly chosen today. We don’t want to see riders crashing or riders taking risks. Everybody has family at home, and finishes like this should not be allowed.”

Sounds like sour grapes to me, from a rider whose skills going down don’t match those of his rivals! That being said though, the incident in 2003 when Vinokourov was on the attack, with Beloki chasing him and Armstrong in tow, when Beloki went down on the same descent into Gap, and Armstrong had to go off course and rejoin the group on the next hairpin, proves just how dangerous a descent it is!

To add to the excitement of watching these guys hurtle down the descent, with Hushovd leading a one man break away, suddenly, from out of nowhere, Contador kicks hard and is gone! The top men all riding close to each other are caught completely by surprise, but Voeckler got right on the gas and hung in there, good lad! Contador surged out of the pack on the mid-grade Col de Magne climb, and held on through the treacherous downhill to the finish of the 101-mile stage.

“I knew I needed to attack,” Contador said. “I couldn’t care less if someone kept on my wheel — I knew one of them would fail. I’m so happy. It has been a major gap, much bigger than I expected.” The Spaniard pulled back more than a minute on Andy Schleck, known for his ability to climb but who on this occasion couldn’t keep up on the relatively easy final ascent.

Schleck conceded he was “disappointed,” but that “there are other chances to take back time.” His biggest ally — his older brother and Leopard Trek teammate Frank Schleck — said they hadn’t foreseen the attack.

It was Cadel Evans day though, he ultimately reeled in Hushovd, after battling with multiple Tour de France winner Contador on the 9.5km second category Cold de Manse climb before taking time out of the Spaniard in the final race to the finish. His outstanding ride saw him leapfrog Frank Schleck, reduce his deficit to overall leader Thomas Voeckler and also to the likes of Contador, Ivan Basso and Andy Schleck

“I wasn’t expecting so much on the climb. I was more prepared for things on the downhill actually because its a little bit dangerous and so on,” Evans said post race.

“Last year I came and I had a broken arm and we had the finish here. It scared me. This I year got in front alone and followed the moves.”

“The guys – George (Hincapie) and ‘Burgy’ (Marcus Burghardt) got me in the right position, right at the bottom of the last climb.”

“I just had to play my cards as they came out. It’s still a bit of a blur right now … (but) it was a good little move and a good day.”

Looking forward to more mountain mayhem!

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