Thursday 17 July
Stage 12: Lavelanet–Narbonne: 168km
With an audacious, explosive sprint from the front, Columbia’s 23 year old Manxman Mark Cavendish took his third stage win of the 2008 Tour De France today in Narbonne. A happy Cavendish explained after his win “I’m a bit tired now but I’m still the fastest across the line. This was the hardest of all three sprints. It was really fast all day. It was really windy and there was a bit of argy-bargy in the final but I didn’t lose my cool and believe I rode a good sprint. I’m glad I could do that for my team-mates especially for how hard they’ve worked in the last few days. It’s so nice to win the first two but it’s great to be able to pick up another one after getting through the Pyrenees.”
Clearly the fastest sprinter in Le Tour, Cavendish still doesn’t know his limits…if they even exist. “It’s brilliant to win again”, he said. “The time before this, I won by a few bike lengths and that’s a great feeling and today there wasn’t even a bike length in it but I knew I had it.”
For his next trick, Cavendish is looking towards the Maillot Vert. “I hope that it’s possible to get the green jersey but we’ll see what comes in the next few days. The race is a lot different in the second and third weeks and everyone is getting tired. The plan is to still be there in Paris and perhaps I can pick up a few more wins before the race is over. As you can see today, however, the win wasn’t quite as convincing as the first two. I’m getting tired and I’m going to take it day by day and hope that I survive the Alps. I had a crash the other day when I hit a ball that rolled onto the road around 50km to go in the stage before the rest day. I’m a bit sore after that and it’s making things a little interesting.” Cavendish is currently sitting in 5th in the race for the Maillot Vert with 121 points, 41 points behind current classification leader Oscar Friere.
Maillot Jaune Cadel Evans and his Silence-Lotto team had a relatively quiet day as they celebrated his teammate Leif Hoste’s 3rd birthday. The Aussie stated after the finish in Narbonne “It’s hard to stay up front in the peloton all the time but it’s important to do that because there’s the risk of being caught up in a crash. That’s really what I had to look out for today. There wasn’t any real threat of losing the jersey in a stage like this so I just wanted to be careful, do the minimal amount of work and stay safe.”
Evans analyzed Stage 12, saying “It was windy today and that helped the peloton minimize its losses to the escape group and my team just looked out for me while other teams took the real responsibility for the chase. It makes sense for Quickstep, Milram and Columbia to set it up for a sprint because they’re the squads that have the most to gain: they want to win stages, we want to win the Tour.” Evans seemed more relaxed as he joked “Another day, another yellow jersey. I’m happy enough with that. All of the jerseys that I get at the Tour de France will be donated to charities; they’re very special to me but if I can help out some people who are less privileged than me then it’s the least I can do.”How It Happened
Stage 12 of the 2008 Tour de France, from Lavelanet to Narbonne, began at 1.23pm. with 159 riders in the race, as the Saunier Duval-Scott team pulled out of the race due to the alleged Epo positive of Riccardo Ricco, who had won two stages and the lead the mountains and best young rider classifications. The weather was warm and sunny with a west wind providing a 25km/hr tailwind on the road to Narbonne.
With the tailwind, Stage 12 was off to a rapid start as attack after attack went off the front in the first kilometers for a fast start to the stage with the peloton countering every move. After 20km Cooke (BAR) crashed and abandoned shortly afterwards. As the stage traversed the Pays de l’Aude, a two man break escaped after 36km. Stage 3 winner Lil’ Sammy Dumoulin (COF) and long, lean Arnaud Gerard (FDJ) were away when the rival French squad Bouygues Telecom team tried to chase them down but the duo succeeded in their escape.
With the strong tailwind, the average speed for the first hour of Stage 12 was 51.0km/hr and the French duo got a maximum lead of 4’20” after the 55km mark. On the days only climb, the Cat.4 col de Camperié after 57,5km, it was Sammy D over first, while new Maillot Pois Seb Lang (Gerolsteiner) grabbing the other points at 3’40”.
The sprinters squads then kicked in with the first intermediate sprint coming after 76km in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, where Gerard was first, while Maillot Vert Freire took two more points in third. Columbia and Quickstep joined the chase after the feed zone with 85km mark as the French breakaways had just 50”.
Once the race turned north after 95km, the pace slowed with sidewinds and the gap of the break increased to 1’30”. The average speed for the 2nd hour was 45.3km/hr and Credit Agricole’s Jimmy Engoulvent crashed but got back to the peloton. When the peloton was just 30” behind the break with 55km to go, Euskaltel’s Oroz bridged to the two leaders and the now three frontrunners increased their lead to 1’10”. As the break powered through the vineyards of Corbieres, Silence-Lotto and and CSC-Saxo Bank took up the chase, with Columbia and Milram, but Credit Agricole didn’t join the chase Thor Hushovd wasn’t feeling well.
Liquigas and Quickstep joined the chase with 25km to go and eventually the pesky break was pulled back with 9km to go on the outskirts of Narbonne. After a tight righthand bend with 900m. to go, Columbia had Cavendish positioned perfectly and he blasted to his third stage win at the 2008 Tour De France.
who claimed his third stage win by the length of a bike. He started his sprint from about fifth position with 300m to go and beat Sebastien Chavanel by a little less than a bike length. “This was the hardest of all three sprint. It was really fast all day,” said the stage winner. “I’m glad I could do that for my team-mates especially for how hard they’ve worked in the last few days.” Maillot Jaune Cadel Evans (SIL) was 20th on the stage, while Seb Lang (Gerolsteiner) will assume the lead in the Maillot Pois classification of Best Climber and Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas) will take over the Maillot Blanc of Best Young Rider.
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Friday 18 July
Stage 13: Narbonne–Nîmes—182km
Friday’s Stage 13 will likely be unlucky for any breakaways, as another transitional stage heads east along the Mediterranean shore towards Nîmes and its beautiful Roman ruins. These relics may inspire Liquigas sprinter Daniele Bennatti to pop to the top of the podium in Nîmes, capital of the Gard region, where now-retired Aitorminator Gonzalez won in 2004.