Landis Dominates Stage 17 of Tour, Approaches Yellow Jersey
Floyd Landis (Phonak) has battled back into contention at the Tour de France. The American, who lost 10 minutes in Stage 16 to fall from first to 11th overall, turned in one of the great solo performances in Tour history to win Stage 17. The Phonak man spent 128.5 km in the lead to win the mountainous, 200.5-km ride from St. Jean de Maurienne to Morzine-Avoriaz in 5:23:36. Carlos Sastre (CSC) finished second at 5:42, and Christophe Moreau (Ag2r) finished third at 5:58. Landis?s performance catapulted him from 11th to third overall, just 0:30 behind overall leader Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d?Epargne).
Despite the heat (86 degrees Fahrenheit), the racing began early. Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), Luca Paolini (Liquigas), and Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom) led the field by 0:10 at six km, but CSC chased it down.
At 12 km, Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O?Grady (CSC), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening (both from Rabobank), Daniele Righi (Lampre), Garate and Bram Tankink (both from Quick Step), Patrice Halgand and Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole), Stephane Auge (Cofidis), David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval), Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), and Paolini escaped. De la Fuente, Posthuma, and Weening dropped out of the break, but the others led by 1:30 at 30 km.
At the foot of the day?s first climb, the Category 1 Col des Saisies, the break led the bunch by 11:00. Caisse d?Epargne and Phonak chased to peg the break, and then Phonak took over. Phonak?s pacemaking reduced the peloton to 30 riders. Landis and Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) attacked and took Sastre, Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), and Cadel Evans (Davitamon) with them.
Landis attacked and dropped his companions, who returned to the yellow jersey group. Halfway up the climb, the American was at 6:00, with the peloton at 6:48.
Attrition took its toll on the break, and at the summit of the Saisies, Landis trailed Sinkewitz, Padrnos, O?Grady, Righi, Garate, Halgand, and Gilbert by 3:00. The Phonak man led the yellow jersey group by the same margin.
A regroupment occurred, and the break grew to 11 riders. At the foot of the Category 2 Col des Aravis (97 km), Halgand attacked his companions. On the Aravis, Landis caught the remnants of the break. Only O?Grady, Righi, Padrnos, Garate, and Sinkewitz could stay with the American. On the descent, Landis, Righi, and Sinkewitz dropped the others and caught Halgand. On the base of the Category 1 Col de la Colombiere, the quartet led the peloton by 5:30.
Early in the climb, Landis attacked and dropped Righi. Behind, Caisse d?Epargne chased. Eight km from the summit. Landis received a new bike because the one of the spokes on his rear wheel broke. The American, however, immediately returned to the lead group. One by one, Landis dropped the break members. At the summit of the Colombiere, Landis and Sinkewitz led the peloton by 8:30.
The chase was not concerted. T-Mobile, CSC, and Ag2r allowed Caisse d?Epargne to do all of the work. On the descent of the Colombiere, Landis and Sinkewitz led the field by 9:00, which made Landis the overall leader on the road. Only then did T-Mobile and CSC begin chasing.
Just before the base of the day?s last climb, the hors categorie Col de Joux Plane, Landis and Sinkewitz led the field by nearly 8:00. They led by 7:25 with 25 km left. Eventually, Landis dropped Sinkewitz, whom the peloton absorbed.
Behind, Leipheimer was dropped, as were Jose Azevedo, George Hincapie, and Yaroslav Popovych (all from Discovery Channel). Sastre attacked, and Evans and Moreau followed. Eventually, Moreau dropped the Australian. At the summit of the Joux Plane, Landis led Sastre by 5:08; Moreau by 5:58; Cunego by 6:19; Pereiro, Kloden, Frank Schleck (CSC), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel), and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) by 6:52; and Michael Rasmussen and Denis Menchov (both from Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Davitamon), and Sinkewitz by 7:19. On the descent to the finish, Landis extended his lead over Sastre.
In the overall, Pereiro leads Sastre by 0:12 and Landis by 0:30. Stage 18 will probably not change this state of affairs. The slightly downhill, 197-km run from Morzine-Avoriaz to Macon is hilly during its first 150 km. This will allow a break to form. Will it stay away? Who will be in it? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!