Saturday, July 11, 2009

TDF Stage 8 - Three Climbs And Still 3 Sundays To Go

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TDF Stage 8 - Three Climbs And Still 3 Sundays To Go

This Tour de France held each year may well be the most epic human competition that exists in any sport, anywhere in the world. Imagine that we have already witnessed seven days of racing competition and we are now in the middle of race day number eight.

Today starts off with a category 1 climb and is followed by a long decent into a valley followed by two more climbs of a category 2 and a category 1 and another long decent to the end.

The day started with a breakaway of nine riders that included long time former teammate to Lance Armstrong, American George Hinacapi of Columbia-HTC and Team Saxo Bank's former Yellow Jersey rider, Fabian Cancellara. Other riders include Juan Antonio Flech (Rabobank), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r), Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha).

The breakaway at one point led by as much as a little over 3 minutes.

The most important fact remains that the main contenders are in the peloton and all that needs to happen for the Yellow Jersey worn by Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) to change riders is a separation to happen with the leaders that trail by only seconds - #2 Alberto Contador (Astana) at 00:06, #3 Lance Armstrong (Astana) at 00:08, and #3 Levi Leipheimer (Astana) at 00:39!

Team Astana remains in control on the last climb where we now begin coverage.

TDF Stage 8 Map and Profile. Today’s stage takes the riders 176.5 kilometres from Andorra La Vieille to Saint Girons, and is the second mountain stage of this year’s race. Three climbs feature – they are the Port d'Envalira (23.2km at 5.1 percent), topping out 23.5 km after the start, then the Col de Port (11.4 km at 5.5 percent, km 102) and the Col d'Agnès (12.4 km at 6.5 percent), which summits some 44 clicks before the finish in the valley. Caption Credit: CyclingNews / Image Credit:

This excerpted and edited by VeloNews with added material from various resources -

CPelkey: No, there is still the Category 1 Col d'Agnès, which starts at 120.1km, averages 6 percent over 12.4km and summits at 132.5km, 1570 meters above sea level.
From there it’s all downhill to the finish at Saint Girons, at an altitude of 425 meters.

As a reminder, the men in the break are:

1. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
2. Juan Antonio Flech (Rabobank)
3. Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
4. George Hincapie (Columbia)
5. Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r)
6. Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux)
7. Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
8. Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step)
9. Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha)

[Comment From Craig ]
I suppose Hincapie is up front to support Cavendish if he can rejoin the peleton for a sprint?
CPelkey: Probably not, Craig. Hincapie did his best to mitigate Hushovd's impact on the points contest, but I doubt the Columbia team has a realistic expectation that Cavendish will be able to crest the summit of the final climb in time to rejoin.

Hincapie is up there in hopes of snagging a stage win.
CPelkey: The leading nine are now just 2:05 ahead of the peloton, with 59km remaining.
CPelkey: Our leaders are on the day's final climb, the Category 1 Col d'Agnès.
[Comment From Retired... ]
Why are people hating on Contador so much? Yesterday's attack sent a tough and somewhat selfish message to his team but if you're the best racer in the Tour, are you going to seize the moment or let your opportunity slip by? His legs fire like pistons, nobody can match his explosiveness.
CPelkey: It's an interesting team dynamic and fans tend to stake out positions based on their preferences. I happen to agree that at this point in their careers, Contador is probably the best climber on the team. Indeed, he's improved as a time trialist, too.
CPelkey: Cancellara has popped off the back of the break. He's struggling on.
CPelkey: There are attacks in the main field. Andy Schleck has made a dig. He's got Armstrong and Contador and most of the GC contenders on his wheel ... with the sole exception of Nocentini.
CPelkey: Schleck is still setting tempo at the front of the group. They are already sweeping up riders from the break.

Up front, Hincapie has been dropped. Astarloza, Efimkin and Sanchez are at the front.

CPelkey: Nocentini has been spit off the back under the pressure of the Schleck move.
CPelkey: Sandy Casar has fought back and rejoined the leading trio.
CPelkey: That GC group includes, Leipheimer, Contador, Vande Velde, Sastre, Menchov, Kreuziger, Schleck and Schleck, Martin, Wiggins.
CPelkey: It's bigger than that, but we're still working to ID these guys.
CPelkey: We see Evans in the mix. Karpets is in there, too. Kim Kirchen has rejoined that group.

We'll see a new rider in yellow tonight. Contador? Armstrong? Someone else?

CyclingNews (CN) - 1.
16:02 CEST - Kloden is on the front. This group appears to be getting larger.
16:03 CEST - Yes, it's got a lot bigger. Nocentini is back up here, so he's protecting his jersey.. Stephane Goubert helped him get back by driving the pace.
16:05 CEST (46.3km remaining from 176.5km)
Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux)
Favourites and yellow jersey group at 1:41

VeloNews (VN) - 4:01
CPelkey: Nocentini [Yellow Jersey] is suffering, but he's only about 35 seconds behind the GC group.
CPelkey: An update on Hincapie. He's caught between the four leaders and about a minute up on the GC leaders' group.
[Comment From Manuel in Nicaragua ]
All this excitement before the summit and it looks like they are going to end together thanks to the long down hill. BTW I figured out that the helmets are the new Giro Pro Light model
CPelkey: The 40+ kilometers of doownhill mean there will be significant regrouping, for sure. Indeed, Hincapie may be one rider that might rejoin the four leaders is Hincapie. He's only 25 seconds behind the leading four.
CPelkey: Nocentini has managed to fight his way back to othe GC group on a lull in the slope of the climb.
CPelkey: Efimkin is stepping up the tempo at the front, with about 1.6km before the the summit. Casar is the victim of that one.
CPelkey: Efimkin is working hard, but he can get rid of Sanchez and Astarloza.
CPelkey: The gap to our three leaders is now 2:20, with a few riders caught in the middle.
CPelkey: It's all Astana at the front of the GC group. The pace back there has moderated.

The leading three have crested the climb.

CPelkey: This is a view from the top of this climb, by the way.
CPelkey: Casar has summitted at 20 seconds.
Hincapie, by the way, is back in with the GC group.
CPelkey: The peloton, under the command of the Astana team, crested at 2:40.
CPelkey: It's a long way down. Up front, by the way, Casar is about to rejoin the leaders.
CPelkey: The descent off the final climb is very steep and very fast. Road surfaces are rough and speeds could hit triple-digits.
CPelkey: The break should be able to carry speed until about 20km, then there's a slight headwind coming into Saint-Girons
CPelkey: The final kilometers are lined with huge crowds. There's a major round-about with 2.5km, but with the pack all busted up, it shouldn't present too much danger.
CPelkey: he course sweeps left to the Salat river, with another round-about at -1km to go. From there, it's a mostly straight run to the line down the Avenue de la Resistance
CPelkey: Hey, hey correction.
Hincapie was NOT caught by the GC group. He's flying down the descent. He's trailing the four leaders by 1:10.

CN - 4.
16:21 CEST (36km remaining from 176.5km) - It's looking good for the break...they have 2'53 on this descent. Hincapie is chasing hard behind.
16:22 CEST - He's low on the bike, pushing hard into the corners. Further ahead, Sanchez leads, with Casar hanging a little off the back of the other two. He took risks getting back up to them but now is content to take things a little handier.
16:25 CEST - It's going to be hard for Hincapie, who is at 1'11 at this point. The Astana bunch is 2'53 back. All are on this long descent, which is fast and tree-lined.
Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux)
Favourites and yellow jersey group at 2:52

16:26 CEST (31km remaining from 176.5km) - Hincapie looks like he is losing a bit of hope...he realises it's a tough task. The front four are rolling through nicely. Luis Leon Sanchez looks to be the strongest, although it's hard to tell.
16:28 CEST - So, the final mountain is too far from the finish for the main riders to make the most of it... Hard to know why ASO includes profiles like this; it makes for good racing by those going for the stage win, but the race favourites don't give it everything.

VN -

CPelkey: Cheerleaders!
CPelkey: That was a photo from the start village this morning. Mr. Hood focuses on what interests him.
CPelkey: Our four leaders are gaining time on Hincapie... he's now 1:45 behind the four.
CPelkey: It's Astana at the front of the peloton. Nocentini is in there, too. He may well hold the jersey.

Our four riders are now 2:50 ahead of the main field.

[Comment From Steve ]
Is tomorrow a rest day?
CPelkey: Nope. Tomorrow is another biggie. Monday is the rest day. You will probably never see a grand tour with a weekend rest day. Those are great days for fans to get out and see the race for themselves.

CN - #
16:30 CEST (26km remaining from 176.5km) - Astana are leading things along...the other teams will hope they will wear themselves out as the race progresses.

Four riders remain up front - who will win? They've just over 25 kilometres to go, and surely won't be caught now.
16:31 CEST - Hincapie is now 2'21 down, 30 seconds ahead of the peloton. He's going to be caught very soon.
16:33 CEST (24.8km remaining from 176.5km) - Sure enough, Hincapie is caught.

20 km to go to the finish
Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux)
Favourites and yellow jersey group at 2:40

VN - 4:41
CPelkey: They have 2:38 on the peloton. It's clear the winner will emerge from this group.

1. Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
2. Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r)
3. Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux)
4. Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne)

[Comment From Don Stewart ]
In the last 10 Km, what do you expect Astana tp do to get either Contador or Armstrong into the yellow jersey?
CPelkey: Astana really has no reason to take the yellow jersey. Nocentini is back in the peloton. He'll probably have the jersey tonight. His odds of keeping it after the Tourmalet tomorrow are slight.
CPelkey: 10km to go. The gap is now 2:13.
[Comment From Lewis ]
Will there be any change in the top 10 GC today?
CPelkey: It sure doesn't look like it.
CPelkey: With 6km remaining our leading four riders are 1:43 ahead of the field.
CPelkey: Efimkin is still hanging at the back of the group. He's a member of Nocentini's team, so he's really not obligated to pull.

He may be in the position to win today, which would be his second Tour de France stage win.
CPelkey: With 5km to go, the gap is 1:32.
They won't be caught.

CN - #
16:57 CEST - Casar is 30 years of age and a pro since 2000. He's been with Française des Jeux his whole career. In 2002 he was second overall in Paris-Nice and was heralded as the next big French rider, but never quite lived up to that early promise. He's had a good career, no doubt, but not spectacular.

16:59 CEST (5km remaining from 176.5km) - Sanchez is 25 and has a number of big results to his name, including overall wins in the Tour Down Under (2005), the Vuelta a Mallorca (2007) and this year's Paris-Nice. Last year he won both the Spanish time trial championships and stage 7 of the Tour de France.
17:00 CEST (4.7km remaining from 176.5km) - Astarloza goes! He clips away, followed by Casar. Sanchez gets up to him with Efimkin on his wheel. Efimkin now goes!
17:01 CEST - Efimkin was sitting on quite a bit, and he's gone! Casar saw him going, tried to get out of the saddle but his legs shouted 'non!'

The three are chasing now.
17:01 CEST (2.8km remaining from 176.5km) - He's got the head down and is riding strongly...

VN - 5:03
CPelkey: 1km to go, and he's got maybe 2 seconds.
CPelkey: Efimkin, is still powering on. Is he gonna hold 'em off?
CPelkey: Caught
CPelkey: Casar attacks
CPelkey: Sanchez comes around Casar. Astarloza third, Efimkin fourth.

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
2. Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux)
3. Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
4. Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r)

CPelkey: Field sprint... doesn't look like Hushovd is in there.
[Comment From epicryd ]
Any time bonus left after 4th place today?
CPelkey: There are no time bonuses at all in this edition of the Tour.

CN - 17:08 CEST - Here's the bunch... looks like either Rigoberto Uran or Jose Joaquin Rojas Gill who takes the sprint, sitting up out of the saddle and celebrating the Caisse d'Epargne win... Nocentini is in the bunch, so he holds yellow...

Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale)
Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) at 5"

Favourites and yellow jersey group at 1:49

No Chance in the General Classification. Tomorrow, another Sunday down and more mountains - could be a day of separation led by Team Astana!

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