First time Tour de France rider Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha) took flight and outsprinted Alberto Contador (Astana) on the runway in Mende in Friday's 210-kilometer stage 12 of the 2010 Tour de France. In what promised to be another exciting stage in the Tour, both the polka dot and green jersey changed hands and Contador gained 10 seconds on yellow jersey rival Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank).
Stage winner Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver of Spain, front left, and Alberto Contador of Spain, front right, sprint towards the finish line of the 12th stage of the Tour de France.
AP Photo/Laurent Rebours
The attacks came early in the race as Fabian Wegmann (Milram) and Lars Boom (Rabobank) made separate attempts to sneak away in the first 5 kilometers. An 18 man break finally stuck on the Nonieres, the second of five climbs, at about 60 km. Included in that break were Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Andreas Kloden (Team RadioShack). Vinokourov went as a tactical move for his Astana team.
"When I saw there were 10 or 15 riders going, I knew it was the right move," said Vinokourov, who finished third on the stage to move up to 12th overall at 6 minutes 25 seconds behind Schleck. "It was our main objective, so we didn't have to put riders into the chase."
Going Green: All the way to Paris
Delivering on his promise to fight all the way to Paris for the green jersey, Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Cevelo TestTeam) joined the early breakaway in order to gain precious sprint points. Hushovd lost the green jersey to Lampre's Alessandro Petacchi in stage 11 after a less than stellar finish in the bunch sprint in Bourg-les-Valence.
In the first of two intermediate sprints at Mariac (74.5km), Petacchi's teammate Grega Bole nabbed Hushovd at the line to take the six points, leaving Hushovd with four and creating a tie for the green jersey. In the fashion of a true champion, Hushovd won the second intermediate sprint and took virtual possession of the jersey. Hushovd would be the only sprinter to contest the sprints on such a hilly stage, but he had the determination to repeat his performance in the 2009 Tour de France when he raced in the hills to gain intermediate sprint points.
Would be Heroes
The perfect setting for a breakaway to steal the day, stage 12 had moments of hope. One rider who seemed to have the right ingredients for a heroic day was Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions). After a dramatic day for the team on Thursday, and no stage wins to the team's credit, Hesjedal, a former mountain bike champion, was riding strong. He was involved in the early break which whittled down to four: Hesjedal, Vinokourov, Kloden and Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne). Each rider focused on his own ambitions: Kloden and Kiryienka fought for the team standings, Hesjedal sought a stage win and Vino focused on doing his job.
It seemed Ryder Hesjedal would have that heroic day as Kloden and Kiryienka were eventually dropped. Then he cracked on the Jalabert Climb (a climb delivers near 11 percent for 2 km) in the final 5 km of the race. This gave way to Vinokourov who looked as if he might grab a win as he rode away alone.
No Rest for the Yellow
While Vinokourov may have thought he had a stage win opportunity, his teammate Alberto Contador had other ideas. Contador attacked on the slopes of the Jalabert climb; Andy Schleck had no answer to the Spaniard's surge. As Contador rode away from the remains of the front of the peloton, he took with him Joaquin Rodriguez. The pair blew apart the breaks and overtook Vinokourov.
On the finishing straight of the Mende Aerodrome runway, Contador and Rodriguez battled it out. Rodriguez bested Contador at the line--his first stage win in his first Tour de France. Although Contador's main objective was to gain time on Schleck he indicated disappointed in losing the sprint at the line.
"I was on Andy's wheel and saw him looking weak for a moment and decided to go for it," added the Spaniard. "I saw he wasn't doing anything so I decided to go. It's a pity I couldn't cap it with the win."
In the end, Schleck conceded 10 seconds to Contador, but not the yellow jersey. "To be honest I suffered a bit today," said Schleck, who finished fifth on the stage and now leads Contador by 31seconds. "It was a hard day and I wasn't looking forward to this climb. It's short and you have to be explosive--not my type at all."
For Contador, the stage win was not as important as the mental consequences of his attack. "It's an important psychological blow. It's good to see your body responding like that after 210km of racing," said Contador.
Charteau is King
In the King of the Mountains competition, Anthony Charteau made his way back into the polka dot jersey when he joined the early breakaway. Unfortunately, Jerome Pineau was involved in an early crash, and spent the race in the peloton.
There were no changes in the yellow jersey or the young rider's white jersey competitions; Andy Schleck will retain both jerseys.
American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) abandoned the race due to the pain of his broken wrist, an injury he sustained in stage 2 from brussels to Spa.
Stage 12 Results
- Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (KAT) - 04:58:26
- Alberto Contador (AST) +00:00
- Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) +00:04
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OLO) +00:10
- Andy Schleck (SAX) +00:10
- Samuel Sanchez (EUS) +00:10
- Andy Schleck (SAX) 58:42:01
- Alberto Contador (AST) +00:31
- Samuel Sanchez (EUS) +02:45
- Denis Menchov (RAB) +02:58
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OLO) +03:31
- Levi Leipheimer (RSH) +04:06
Other U.S. Riders
24. Christopher Horner (RSH) +11:56
32. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +21:16
81. George Hincapie (BMC) +01:06:02
Overall Points Standings
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 167 Points
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 161 Points
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) - 138 Points
King of the Mountains Jersey
- Anthony Charteau (BBO) - 107 Points
- Jerome Pineau (QST) - 92 Points
- Andy Schleck (GCE) - 64 Points
Best Young Rider
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 58:42:01
- Robert Gesink (RAB) +04:27
- Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) +05:16
210.5K (130.8 miles) - Friday July 16
- Mende has twice been voted "most sporting town in France"
- Riders will most likely battle heat on this stage
- Sprint Points at: Mariac, Langogne
- Mountain Passes: Cote de Saint-Barth?l?my-le-Plain located at 31 kilometers - 10.7km climb to 3.1 percent grade - Category 3; Col des Noni?res at 59 kilometers - 5.7km climb to 3.8 percent - Cat. 3; Suc de Montivernoux at 96 kilometers - 13.7km climb to 4.4 percent - Cat. 2; Cote de la Mouline at 133 kilometers - 3.9km climb to 5 percent - Cat. 3; Cote de la Croix-Neuve (Mont?e Laurent Jalabert) at 208.5 kilometers- 3.1 km climb to 10.1 percent - Cat. 2