After the Tour’s second rest day in Cuneo, Italy. it was a short, intense Stage 16 back to France where Ag2r’s Cyril Dessel took a great stage win in front of French President Nicolas Sarkozy who was en visite at the 2008 Tour de France. Dessel joined a big counterattack early on the stage and scaled the Col de la Lombarde back to France, then up the barren slopes of the Col de la Bonnette-Restefond (the highest pass in Europe: 2802 meters) to win a sprint finish from a small group of four in the mountain village of Jausiers.
A delighted Dessel explained post-stage “From the get-go, the tactic today was to get in the break, but I have never felt since the start of the Tour. I’ve just never had great legs in the morning. I was in very good shape in May, but my preparation was disrupted by saddle sores. Today I was finally good and felt ready to do something this morning. Dessel continued the story of Stage 16, saying “It was not easy to get in the break, which took a very long time to come together, but I was eventually able to get there by joining the big counter-attack after the initial move. At first I rode the wheels and left the work to be done by the others, but when I found myself with (Ag2r teammate) Tadej Valjavec, we rode together, both to catch [Stefan] Schumacher and to gain time for my team-mate in the overall standings.”
The 33 year old Dessel laid the foundation for his win on the days second ascent. “Then, on the climb up the Bonette, a climb I did with my dad when I was 14, I saw the rider from Barloworld attack in the final kilometer and I gave everything to try and reel him in but didn’t succeed. Eventually there were four riders in the lead. I’m good on the downhill but I also knew with Popovych there, it would be very difficult to attack on the descent… so, in the last kilometers I waited for the right moment to go. I saw a turn at 400 meters to go which was perfect for speed. I gave it everything and it worked. I was told that I had won 50 meters before the line but I wasn’t going to raise my arms.” Tuesday’s victory was the sixth career pro win for Dessel. Maillot Jaune Franck Schleck photo: Roberto Bettini
Maillot Jaune Franck Schleck of Team CSC-Saxo Bank is going to strength to strength, as his powerful team is simply crusing the opposition. “We did a good job today”, said Schleck The Elder. “At the top of the final climb there were just a few riders left and everybody was struggling. When I say everybody, I mean all of us! It was very fast and we had a really quick downhill. I was scared a bit on the descent but I managed and was pretty confident about how it would end. Of course, I thought back about the crash of [Oscar] Pereiro and about the crash that I had in the Tour de Suisse but it was good to be able to stay upright and up there at the finish. “I have to say thanks to Bernard Hinault talked to me and he gave me a few little tips for the downhill and they worked out pretty well. I had a lot of confidence and have every reason to be satisfied.
Maillot Jaune Schleck continued, saying “I absolutely have to attack tomorrow and try and break the others. We tried it today and I have to give a big compliment to Carlos [Sastre] who made a really good decision at the beginning of the stage. He said, ‘Okay, we’ll let everybody go and we’ll just have to stay with the team together.’ Then we rode a good tempo and it worked really well. But tomorrow, we’ll have to go!”
Schleck looked at the big picture in the Tour De France, saying “Today is as nice as the stage before for me. Not just because I kept the jersey but as (brother) Andy now has the white jersey. We didn’t expect that. We didn’t ride for it but he’s got such class. He is the future and he’s going to win the Tour one day.”
Newly minted Maillot Blanc of Best Young Rider Andy Schleck was astonished at his superb performance today. “It’s like a dream. Who would think that two brothers could have a (prize) jersey each at the same time at the Tour de France? So I’m really happy right now. There wasn’t actually a thought about the Maillot Blanc before the stage. but in the end I saw that (former Maillot Blanc) Vincenzo Nibali was no longer there but I didn’t know how far behind he was. I just rode my race, focused on what I had to do and this is the reward.”
Looking forward to Stage 17, the audacious younger Schleck declared “We didn’t feel so good today. It wasn’t the right stage to really attack. Cadel knows that his opportunity will come to take time out of us but today wasn’t the right time to attack. Tomorrow is the hardest stage and we’ll try and make the race as difficult as possible for the others.”
How it Happened
With French President Nicolas Sarkozy on hand,
Stage 16th stage of the of the 2008 Tour de France commenced at 12.32pm in Cuneo, Italy after a second rest day. The 157km stage headed west from Cuneo to Jausiers in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence via two ‘Hors Categorie’ climbs, the Col de Lombarde, a 2,351m high pass after 72.5km, then over the highest road in Europe, the 2,802m Cime de la Bonette-Restefond with the summit after 133.5km. Cime de la Bonette-Restefond photo: Roberto Bettini
Before Tour director Christian Prudhomme could announce the official start, Sylvain Chavanel attacked, but wasn’t until 42km that anything stuck up front. Dumoulin (COF) pounded away, with former Maillot Jaune Stefan Schumacher (GST), Le Mevel (C.A) and Rosseler (QST) joining him.
Behind, a huge counter-attack of 24 exited the groupe Maillot Jaune in pursuit of the break composed of: Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto), Christophe Le Mevel & Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank), David Arroyo, Iván Gutiérrez and Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), George Hincapie and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Columbia), John-Lee Augustyn and Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Sylvester Szmyd & Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre), Tadej Valjavec & Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), David Moncoutié & Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Danny Pate & Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Chipotle - H30), Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step), Christian Knees (Team Milram) and Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux)
At the base of the days first climb, the five break riders led the counterattack by 40” and the group Maillot Jaune by 4’25”. The average speed for the first hour was fast at 49.2km/hr! Gerolsteiner’s powerman Schumacher rode away from the break after 5km of climbing while Cunego attacked the peloton early on the first ascent to bridge to the break with with Szmyd, Valjavec, Monfort and Casar. Back in the group Maillot Jaune, CSC was in complete control and allowed numerous other riders to attack, such as Astarloza (EUS).
At the summit of the Col de la Lombarde after 72.5km as the race passed the border back to France, Schumacher was 2’10” ahead of Le Mevel, with Ti-Blanc Voeckler at 3’15”; Popo & Co at 4’35”, Cunego’s group at 5’05” and the groupe Maillot Jaune at 9’35”. As expected, there was a regrouping on the descent of the Col de la Lombarde while Schumacher led a group of 30 riders including: Popovych, Arvesen, Voigt, Txurrka, Arroyo, Gutierrez, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Cheula, Fischer, Cunego, Szmyd, Tiralongo, Pauriol, Dessel, Valjavec, Lequatre, Flecha, Tschopp, Voeckler, Knees, Casar, Chavanel, Dumoulin, Moncoutie, Monfort, Hesjedal and Pate by 5’50” after 93km, while the groupe Maillot Jaune was at 10’50”.
Solo maniac Schumacher still had a lead of 4’40” on the group Popovych and Cunego at the base of the long final climb up the Cime de la Bonette-Restefond with the groupe Maillot Jaune losing time at 11’45”. With six kilometers from summit of the the Bonette-Restefond, Schumi was caught by Popovych, Arroyo, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Valjavec and Casar. They led by just 2’35” on the groupe Maillot Jaune, which had only eight riders: Frank and Andy Schleck, Sastre, Evans, Menchov, Valverde, Samuel Sanchez and Kohl. Garmin’s Christian Vandevlde was popped halfway up the climb of the highest road in Europe. Christian Vandevelde: photo: Roberto Bettini
In the last 700m of the climb, South African climber Augustyn attacked and claimed the 40pts and ‘Souvenir Henri Desgrange’ but then missed a turn and flew off the side of the road. Dessel, Casar, Arroyo and Popovych bombed the descent to Jausiers and Dessel hit the front the final kilometer for his his first stage win at the Tour de France. In the groupe Maillot Jaune, weak descender Menchov lost time and lost 29” to the Maillot Jaune. Frank Schleck was 12, 1’28” behind Dessel and maintains his Tour De France lead. Russian Rabobanker Denis Mechov lost time on the descent and is now 5th at 1' 13", while American hopeful Christian Vandevelde of Garmin came off on the ascent of the Bonette-Retefond, crashed on the descent to Jausiers and ended up losing 2’30 and is now 6th at 3' 15", virtually ending his podium bid at this years Tour De France. For Complete Tour De France Results, Click Here
Wednesday 23 July
Stage 17: Embrun–L’Alpe-d’Huez—210km
The queen stage of the 2008 Tour de France is the last real chance for climbers to take command of the race. Starting with a long, gradual climb up to the summit of the 20.9km climb of the Galibier from the west and easier side, Stage 17 then plunges down to St.Jean-de-Maurienne to the base of the 29.2km ascent of the steep Col de la Croix-de-Fer, then back down to Bourg d’Oisans and the final ascent to the mythical finish atop the 13.3km ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez and its steep 8.6 percent average gradient. Look for CSC to try and get the stage win for Maillot Jaune Franck Schlek and put enough pressure on Cadel Evans to crack him once and for all. If the Aussie can hang on, he will be well positioned to win the Tour De France with a strong final