Boonen Wins Stage 12 of Tour
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won his second stage of the Tour de France. The Belgian megastar took a bunch sprint to win the rolling, 178.5-km ride from Montpellier to Castres in 4:25:32. Erik Zabel (Milram) finished second, and Robert Hunter (Barloworld) took third. Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) remains the yellow jersey.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. At three km, eight men, including Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), escaped. The Liquigas-led peloton, however, reeled in the escapees at 17 km. The attacks continued until Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom) got away at 57 km.
The peloton did not chase, and the pair led the field by 5:00 at 71 km. The gap grew to 9:00 at 85 km and more than 10:00 at 90 km. The fugitives' advantage over the bunch maxed out at 11:30.
Initially, Liquigas led the pursuit. Lampre, Quick Step, and Francaise des Jeux took over at the front and made progress, cutting the break's lead to 3:26 with 20 km left. With 10 km remaining, 1:00 separated bunch and break, and the peloton was 0:24 behind the fugitives with four km left. The field reeled in the break in the last km.
Quick Step controlled the finale. Boonen had third wheel, with Zabel and Hunter fourth and fifth, respectively. Stage 2 winner Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) towed Boonen to within 150 m of the finish. Boonen powered into the lead and held off Zabel and Hunter.
In the overall, Rasmussen leads Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) by 2:35 and Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) by 2:39. Stage 13 will change the standings. The hilly, 54-km time trial in and around Albi will see Rasmussen, who admits that he is no time trialist, out of his yellow jersey. Fabian Cancellara (CSC), Andreas Kloden (Astana), and Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) are candidates for the stage win. Who will take the yellow jersey? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!