21 July 2011

Le Tour De France 2011: Stage 17 & 18

And just like that, the race got even more complicated...

In Stage 17, Contador attacked and was matched. They eventually dropped Voekler and took more time from his lead, but Thomas kept his yellow for another day. Everyone, including me yet again assumed it would be the last day.

In the Queen stage, the most brutal stage I've seen on a map... three HC climbs and the highest finish ever for Le Tour... in that stage, we all thought we would see the winner emerge. Maybe we did? Andy Schleck attacked on the second to last climb to put himself at one point 4 minutes ahead of the other Heads of State. It looked at the start of the Galibier that he may have ended the day in the lead for the GC, and as a result, wearing yellow heading into Friday.

Others would have their say before he won tho. First, Cadel Evans simply took over and continued to ride like he can taste the top of the podium. He couldn't match Andy on the second mountain, but he pulled back minutes on the final climb. That, and he dropped Alberto Contador. It seems for all his attacks the last few days, Alberto just isn't up to it this year. Perhaps the Giro is still in his legs?

Then, almost at the top, it proved to be, Paul Sherwin put it, "a kilometer to far." Andy cracked slightly in that last 100 meters, letting everyone back in. Evans charged and ended up only losing a minute or so to Schleck, which is nothing considering Evans will dominate in the time trial on Saturday.

But even more, a funny thing happened on that climb: Thomas Voekler didn't crack. He kept with Evans, only losing his wheel in sight of the finishing line. What's more, because of Evans' torrid pace, he kept his lead over Schleck by 15 seconds. To say he is riding the race of his life is beyond an understatement. Voekler himself is saying to everyone who will listen that he has no chance to win... and yet... here he is. Two days from Paris and still leading the race.

Friday and Saturday will decide this most unusual Le Tour De France... well... I think it will.

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