Valverde Climbs to Victory in Stage 17 of Tour de France
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has won Stage 17 of the Tour de France 2012.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has won Stage 17 of the 2012 Tour. The Spaniard surged away from a daylong break and held off the pursuit to win the mountainous, 143.5-km ride from Bagneres-de Luchon to Peyragudes in 4:12:11. Christopher Froome and Bradley Wiggins (both from Sky) took second and third, respectively, at 0:19. Wiggins remains the maillot jaune and has tightened his grasp on the yellow jersey.
From the start, the riding was aggressive. Many attacks occurred, but not until the approach to the Category 1 Col de Mente did a move stick. This one included Denis Menchov (Katusha), Juan Jose Cobo and Valverde (both from Movistar), Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler (both from Europcar), Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan), and Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank). Voeckler led the septet over the summit.
On the descent, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), who was third in the general classification at 2:23, attacked. The Sky-led groupe maillot jaune was having none of it and pegged the Italian's lead at 0:20.
During the descent, a change in the break's composition occurred. The leaders were Voeckler, Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), Valverde and Rui Costa (Movistar), Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale). Behind, an 11-man chase group had formed that included Ten Dam, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Gorka Izaguirre and Jorge Azana (both from Euskaltel-Euskadi), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Ruben Plaza (Movistar), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Simone Stortoni (Lampre-ISD), and Sorensen.
On the descent of the Category 2 Col des Ares, the chasers caught the break. Sorensen injured his fingers trying to remove a newspaper from his front wheel, got treatment from the Tour's medical car, and dropped from the break. Behind, Liquigas-Cannondale paced the groupe maillot jaune and pegged the break's advantage at 2:30.
On the approach to the hors categorie Port de Bales, Izaguirre and Azana attacked. Kadri joined them. On the climb, Valverde, Leipheimer, Costa, and Martinez dropped their companions, while ahead Izaguirre and Kadri dropped Azana. Eight and a half km from the summit, the Valverde group caught the leaders.
Costa attacked and forged a 15-second lead over a group consisting of Valverde, Martinez, and Leipheimer. Eventually, Valverde attacked and dropped Martinez and Leipheimer. He drew up to his teammate and then powered away from him. When the groupe maillot jaune reached the summit, it trailed the Spaniard by more than two minutes.
On the Col de Peyresourde, the groupe maillot jaune reeled in all of the fugitives except Valverde. He led his pursuers by 2:20 with 10.5 km remaining.
Valverde began to decelerate, and the groupe maillot jaune began to accelerate. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) attacked, and teammate Jurgen van den Broeck joined him. The resulting combustion reduced the groupe maillot jaune to eight riders: Wiggins, Froome, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), van den Broeck, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), Rolland, Horner, and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team).
Froome accelerated and thinned out the groupe maillot jaune. Eventually, only maillot jaune Wiggins was still with the Kenya-born Briton. Wiggins, however, was finding the pace a bit much and prevailed on his teammate to slow down as they approached the one-km banner. For a time, Valverde's capture seemed possible, but Froome's slowdown ensured the Movistar man's victory.
In the overall, Wiggins leads Froome by 2:05 and Nibali by 2:41. Stage 18 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 222.5-km run from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde will be flat enough to be decided by sprinters. Who will it be? Mark Cavendish (Team Sky)? Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)? Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!