Rolland Climbs to Victory in Stage 11 of Tour de France
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) is making a habit of epic victories in the Tour de France.
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) is making a habit of epic victories in the Tour de France. Last year, he won at Alpe d'Huez. Today, the French climber was the last survivor of a daylong break to win Stage 11, a mountainous, 148-km ride from Albertville to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles, in 4:43:54. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) outsprinted Christopher Froome (Sky) for second at 0:55. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) remains the maillot jaune and has extended his overall lead over defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC).
The stage began with a number of abortive sallies. Eventually, a group of more than two dozen riders rode off of the front, and Christophe Kern and Rolland (both from Europcar) joined them. At the summit of the hors categorie Col de la Madeleine (40 km), the break, which had splintered, led the bunch by about three minutes. Behind, Sky rode tempo.
On the descent of the Madeleine, the break was down to Kern, Rolland, Vasily Kiriyienka and Alejandro Valverde (both from Movistar), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Kern started pacemaking for Rolland, and Scarponi, Leipheimer, and Valverde, among others, were dropped.
Seven km from the summit of the Col du Glandon, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) attacked from the groupe maillot jaune. A few moments later, Evans attacked to join his teammate. Ahead, Amael Moinard (BMC) had been dropped from the break but was ready to assist the defending champion. BMC was in a potentially race-altering position.
Not for long. Michael Rogers (Sky) accelerated, and the groupe maillot jaune overtook Evans after four km.
Ahead, Kern called it a day at the summit, and six riders remained in the lead group--Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan), Rolland, Kiserlovski, Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), and Kiriyienka. On the descent of the Glandon, several other riders joined the sextet, including Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Sorensen. At the summit of the Croix de Fer, the escapees led the groupe maillot jaune by about two minutes.
On the Category 2 Col de Mollard, Velits attacked. Sorensen, Rolland, Kiserlovski, and later Kiriyienka joined the Slovakian. At the summit, the fugitives led the groupe maillot jaune by about three minutes.
On the descent, Rolland took a turn too fast and crashed. He suffered cuts and bruises but remounted quickly and rejoined his companions.
On the day's final climb, the Category 1 ascent to the finish, the leading quartet stayed together until about 10 km remained. Then, Rolland set out on his own.
Behind, Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Pinot, and Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) launched attacks. When Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) made a move, the Sky-led groupe maillot jaune chased.
The acceleration dropped Evans. Van Garderen dropped back to pace the Australian, who would lose nearly a minute and a half on the leaders by the finish. With two km to go, Nibali, van den Broeck, Brajkovic, and Pinot were reeled in.
With two km remaining, Froome attacked. The move surprised everyone, including Sky directeur sportif Sean Yates, who radioed the Kenya-born Briton to tell him to drop back to Wiggins. Froome did so and paced the groupe maillot jaune to the finish.
"I've been part of many big teams and some big rides," Yates said, "but today was right up there with some of the best performances I've witnessed during my years being involved with cycling.
"Everything was kept in check, which was the goal at the start of the day. Everyone wanted to have a dig and attack, which was to be expected. We managed the situation and the opponents and ultimately took some time out of Cadel.
"Froomey took a couple of seconds in the final and moved up to second on the day. There was some real commitment by the boys today and I'm really proud of the whole team. I can't praise them enough."
BMC acknowledged the difficulty of trying to catch Wiggins, particularly with an increased time deficit, but the Swiss squad remained resolute. Van Garderen said, "Cadel is mentally tough so he's not going to let this day get him down. He's going to keep fighting. If Sky continues on a decline with their strength in numbers and Cadel shakes off today and has a better day in the coming days, we can get the time back."
BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue sounded a similar note. "Cadel is disappointed, of course," Lelangue said. "We have done great until now. We have tried to limit everything, and I think the team did great today. But making up more than three minutes is complicated knowing that you have the time trial at the end and there are not so many mountaintop finishes--and looking at the team Sky has here. It's always possible. We won't say today it's finished. We'll keep fighting until Paris."
In the overall, Wiggins leads Froome by 2:05 and Nibali by 2:23. Stage 12 will probably not change this state of affairs. The 226-km run from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Devezieux will feature two Category 1 climbs, but they will be in the first 90 km of the stage. A breakaway should win the day. Who will be in it? Who will win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!