Stage 16: “These Boys Are Finished”
Les Deux Alpes / La Plagne 179.5 km
Cheered on by thousands of fans screaming encouragement on the 18 km climb to the ski station finish at la Plagne, Rabobank’s Michael Boogerd won his second ever stage in the Tour d France today, after a gutsy break that started on the lower slopes of the Col de la Madeleine 3 hours earlier. It was a brilliant win for the Dutchman, who rode through psychological terrain as difficult as the 3 “hors categories” climbs of today’s stage. His face, almost blank at the beginning of the day’s final ascent, numbed by the pain of over 54,000 pedal strokes and 54 km of climbing, sweat streaming off his chin, transformed to an all tooth smile as he crossed the line victorious.
Although he lost over 2 minutes of his lead on the last climb, he held off a fast closing Lance Armstrong and Carlos Sastre, who had left behind all other challengers at the 4km to go mark. Lance was again the big winner on the day, taking another 2 minutes out of his nearest rivals in the final kilometers. It appears that ONCE has been broken, content to ride in Armstrong’s shadow after their futile attempts to attack over the past few days. Indeed, the rest of the bunch seems resigned to their fate until at least next year, as Phil Liggett put it: “these boys are finished”.
Levi Leipheimer had another good day, and continues to improve as the race drags on, climbing into 9th overall and within striking distance of a Top 5 finish. Tyler Hamilton lost 7’28 today and has relenquished his team leader’s status to Sastre, who has performed well in the mountains and now sits 11th overall.
Tomorrow’s final day in the Alps offers Laurent Jalabert ( who was again in a breakaway today) and the others one more chance for personal glory as this Tour begins to wind down, and back to Paris.
Results Stage 16
1. Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) 179.5km in 5h48’29”
2. Carlos Sastre (CSC-Tiscali) at 1’25”
3. Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service) at st
4. Joseba Beloki (ONCE-Eroski) at 2’02”
5. Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre-Daikin) at st
6. Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) at 2’10”
7. Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) at 2’14”
8. Jose Azevedo (ONCE-Eroski) at st
9. Santiago Botero (Kelme) at 2’23”
10. Roberto Heras (US Postal Service at 2’25”
Overall After Stage 16
1. ARMSTRONG Lance USA USP 68h 43′ 22″
2. BELOKI Joseba ESP ONE 05′ 06″
3. RUMSAS Raimondas LTU LAM 07′ 24″
4. AZEVEDO Josй POR ONE 12′ 08″
5. GONZALEZ GALDEANO Igor ESP ONE 12′ 12″
6. MANCEBO Francisco ESP BAN 12′ 28″
7. BOTERO Santiago COL KEL 12′ 37″
8. HERAS Roberto ESP USP 12′ 54″
9. LEIPHEIMER Levy USA RAB 13′ 58″
10. BASSO Ivan ITA FAS 15′ 04″