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TdF’08 St.10: Piepoli Pounces On Hautacam!

Race Report: Mountains! And we’re in the middle! Yesterday it was the Peyresourde and the Aspin, today the humungous Col du Tourmalet and to finish the day it’s the summit of the Hautacam. The riders this morning will be nervous. Be afraid, be very afraid!

The Tour finished here in 2000 and the stage was won by the Kelme rider; Javier Ochoa, behind him Lance Armstrong was taking hold of the yellow jersey. Sadly in February 2001 Javier and his brother, Ricardo, were hit by a car when out training. Ricardo died at the scene and Javier was in a coma for a month, that was the end of Javier’s Pro career, but since then he has gone on to win medals in the Paralympics.

This is what a real mountain stage looks like.

Today’s stage is quite short at 156 kilometers, but it’s severe. The Col du Tourmalet is 2115 meters high and the riders will be starting at near sea level! Straight down the other side and then it’s “BANG!” The Hautacam, 14 kilometers of brutal climbing: this is a climbers’ day for sure, sprinters stay home!

Today’s Action
It’s Bastille Day so there should be some action from the French, normally they like a French winner today, but that might be a bit tricky to arrange. A big group get away in the first 20 kilometers and by the village of Arros-Nay they are 1 minute in advance, just before they start the small climb of the Cфte de Bйnйjacq (3rd cat), not far from Lourdes, there will be a few riders looking for spiritual help today when they leave Lourdes and climb the Tourmalet.

In the big group is the green jersey of Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and the mountains jersey of David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval), the others are either hopefuls that want the break to stay away and others still who are just hoping to get over the mountains with any advantage before getting dropped.

Oscar Freire, seen here answering the call of nature, rode superbly today in the break, and then stayed with the best climbers in the world all the way to Hautacam. His grip on Green strengthened.

The group consisted of: Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto), Iсaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Ivбn Gutiйrrez (Caisse d’Epargne) Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo), Marcus Burghardt (Columbia), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Christophe Le Mevel (Crйdit Agricole), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Markus Fothen, Sebastian Lang and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Romain Feillu and Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Pierrick Fйdrigo (Bouygues), Jйrйmy Roy, Sйbastien Chavanel and Rйmy Di Gregorio (Franзaise des Jeux), Rubens Bertogliati and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval-Scott), John-Lee Augustyn and Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis).

At the sprint in Lamarque-Pontacq (at 40 km), Feillu (Agritubel) and Freire (Rabobank) had a little argument, Freire wants the points for his green jersey and made sure he was getting them, but Feillu told him that he didn’t appreciate the way he put him very near the barrier, I don’t think it was as polite as that though!

Back in the peloton they were not allowing the leaders much space and were keeping them at a safe distance of between 30 seconds and a minute, teams Milram and Garmin being the most active. A splinter group of seven riders split off from the leaders as the others are hoovered up by the bunch, no one is taking it easy before the big climbs. Freire and Cancellara are up front, but neither will be looking to win this stage.

The Tourmalet is 17 kilometers long and has ramps of 9.7% in places, the climb of Hautacam is shorter at 14.3 kilometers, but is steep with its worst part being 11.2%, this the kind of climb that riders of the caliber of Bahamontes, Van Impe, Robert Millar, Herrera, and Pantani loved and where legends are made.

Ricco didn’t win today, but he did get himself the pick of two jerseys: Best Young Rider and Mountains.

Things have slowed down a bit in the peloton as they are all readying themselves for the coming pain; the seven leaders have pulled away to a gap of 8 minutes with 70 kilometers to the top of the Hautacam. The seven are: Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r), Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Rйmy Di Gregorio and Jйrйmy Roy (FdJ) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) and they are not letting up on their efforts.

Remy Di Gregorio continues to give the French big hopes of the future that could be…he was solid today earning the Most Agressive Rider prize.

The Tourmalet
The Toumalet starts through the village of St Marie de Campan, the leaders have 9 minutes in hand and the Saunier Duval team have decided now is the time to attack from the peloton stretching it into a long thin line, it’s not going to be a surprise when Piepoli or Ricco make a bid for freedom. Remy Di Gregorio (FdJ) thinks the others in the break are not moving fast enough for him and rides away, but none of this is important as there is a lot of climbing still to come. Power house, Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo) takes control of the main bunch with two of his team mates; does this mean one of the Schlecks or Sastre is going to try something?

Everybody’s favorite tough guy, Jens Voigt, dropped some kind of bomb on the field on the mighty slopes of the Tourmalet.

Over the top of the Tourmalet Di Gregorio was on his own followed by Duque, Roy and Dupont (not in that order), and then Fothen and Cancellara, not all the top men were still in what was left of the main peloton at seven minutes, missing was the mountains leader de la Fuente, Cunego and Schumacher. Valverde and Devolder were also in trouble although there were no more attacks, this was a wearing down process and it was Jens Voigt doing the damage, CSC were in charge until Ricco jumped five meters from the line.

Not many survived Jens Voigt’s mauling up the Tourmalet, those that did were treated to more of the same plus an extra screwdriver to the temple on Hautacam.

The descent from the top of the Toumalet is long, fast and dangerous, as was seen by one of the Motos crashing. Many of the favorites will be trying to get back to the yellow jersey group which included Sastre, Schleck x 2, Menchov, Evans, Ricco and Piepoli. Di Gregorio was still up front at 33 kilometers to the finish and had 6 minutes on the yellow jersey; he was still being chased by Duque, Dupont and Roy down into the valley. Behind the Kirchen group, Valverde, Pereiro, Schumacker, Cioni and Cunego were trying to get back to the important riders, but CSC had three men on the front and was not giving any presents.

Eat up Leo, it’s about time to go to work.

The Climb of the Hautacam
The race situation at the start of the climb, with 14.4 kilometers to the summit, is; Di Gregorio (FdJ) 1 minute ahead of the yellow jersey group lead by CSC at a great speed to keep the Valverde group as far away as possible, which is just over 2 minutes and getting bigger. With 11.7 to the top Di Gregorio is passed by the Frank Schleck lead group as Kim Kirchen struggles to stay in contention, Cobo (Saunier Duval) attacks, then Sastre (CSC) and then Frank Schleck again, this takes Piepoli, Kohl, Cobo and Efemkin away leaving Evans, Menchov, Ricco, Vande Velde and Sastre in trouble, but not as much as Kirchen and further down the road, Valverde who is off his bike with mechanical problem.

Evans has waited long enough and attacks the others, this nearly works, but Menchov is having none of it and drags the others up to Evans. On the very front Cobo has put the pressure on for team mate, Piepoli and he and Frank Schleck have managed to go from the others. Ricco has a go from the chasers, but it’s that man Menchov again who nullifies the move and then he attacks, there seems to be no love lost between him and Ricco.

Three that made the race on Hautacam.

Meanwhile at the front Piepoli and Cobo are working Frank Schleck over, jumping one after another, Schleck is keeping calm and pulling their more explosive efforts back as he feels like it, behind Kirchen is on his own and losing the yellow jersey and Valverde looks to be having a crisis trying to stay with Cunego.

Yesterday: Ricco in fine solo fashion. Today: Piepoli and Cobo together. Not bad at all.

The last 3 Kilometers
Cobo, Piepoli (Saunier Duval) and Frank Schleck (CSC) are 1:56 in front of the Evans group and 3 minutes ahead of the yellow jersey of Kirchen and 4:40 in front of Cunego, Valverde is behind that. All of a sudden Schleck cracks at 2,3 kilometers and the two Saunier Duval men ride away from him, Evans puts the pressure on, again it’s Menchov who keeps it together, Evans has to close to Schleck to protect his yellow jersey hopes, but they are dragging Ricco to the line.

Ouch would seem to be the right term to describe Valverde’s fall from the top at the 2008 Tour.

At the finish Piepoli is first, Cobo second and thirty seconds later Frank Schleck comes in and now has to wait to see how far back the others are to see if he can be in yellow tonight. The chasers are attacking, Vande Velde leads it out, but as usual Ricco jumps past for his bit of prestige. Kim Kirchen is 4 minutes 19 seconds after Piepoli and Valverde comes in just behind Cunego 6 minutes adrift. The count back shows that Frank Schleck had not done enough to take the yellow jersey by……1 second!!! So it’s Cadel Evans in the yellow jersey for tomorrow’s rest day.

He finally got it: Evans is in Yellow, but only just.

What a day, lots of action and a change of leadership, Evans attacked but (to me) the strongest rider there today was Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, he brought back lots of attacks and put in a couple of his own, Ricco didn’t set the race on fire as expected, but did take the mountains and young riders jerseys. Great ride from Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) who stayed between the Piepoli and the Evans group and is now 4th overall.

Yahooooo! says Cadel.

Big losers were Andy Schleck, Kim Kirchen, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Periero. There is still a long way to Paris and the large woman isn’t even thinking of singing.

Stage 10 Result:
1 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval in 4.19.27
2 Juan Josй Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval same
3 Frдnk Schleck (Lux) CSC-Saxo at 30 secs
4 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner at 1:05
5 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2r at 2:05
6 Riccardo Riccт (Ita) Saunier Duval at 2:30
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo all same time
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
10 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin Chipotle
11 Moises Dueсas Nevado (Spa) Barloworld at 2:27
12 Stйphane Goubert (Fra) Ag2r at 2:49
13 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 3:40
14 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel at 3:58
15 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia at 4:19
16 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel at 5.22
17 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Ag2r at 5:27
18 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 5:51
19 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 5:52
20 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 5:54

Overall Result after Stage 10:
1 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto in 42.29.09
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo at 1 sec
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle at 38 secs
4 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner at 46 secs
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 57 secs
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo at 1:28
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia at 1:56
8 Juan Josй Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval at 2:10
9 Riccardo Riccт (Ita) Saunier Duval at 2:29
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2r at 2:32
11 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel at 3:51
12 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 4:18
13 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel at 4:26
14 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 4:41
15 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Ag2r at 5:23
16 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 5:37
17 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 6.01
18 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 6:11
19 Moises Dueсas Nevado (Spa) Barloworld at 6:43
20 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis at 6:47

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