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Tour de France Stage 9: Fedrigo Closes Tour’s First Week

July 12, 2009
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Pierrick Fedrigo (left) outsprints Franco Pellizotti to win stage 9
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

The first week of the Tour de France came to a close today in Tarbes, at the foothills of the Pyr‚n‚es mountains, and it was Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo of Bbox-Bouygues Telecom who offered his home country its third victory in the race thus far. Fedrigo finished off Italian Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) after a prefectly executed two-man breakaway over the Col du Tourmalet on stage 9, 160.5km between Saint Gaudens and Tarbes. Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) had no trouble holding onto his yellow jersey as the Tour takes a break for the first of two rest days on Monday.

“It was sort of the same situation as in 2006 when I was away with Salvatore Commesso but today I finished with Pellizotti,” Fedrigo said after his win, alluding to his previous stage victory. “Luckily with the corner at 200m to go I wasn’t in the lead because there was a head wind, and that helped me come around Pellizotti.”

After a perfect collaboration throughout the day, both on the climb of the Tourmalet and for the final 40km of flat roads to the finish, Fedrigo was able to fend off Pellizotti’s jump in the closing 300 meters to take the two-up sprint.

“There was a little hill where Pellizotti accelerated along with Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis),” Fedrigo explained. “I was well-placed so I could follow the move. We rode for a while as four, then as three, then as two… and in the end, nothing but happiness.”

Fedrigo and Pellizotti worked well together but only one man could win
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Pellizotti knew that his breakaway companion had the faster finish in his legs and decided that taking the inside line through the final corner was his only chance to take the win. The previous day, Pellizotti couldn’t maintain the pace on the Col d’Agnes and opted to drift back and conserve energy, ultimately losing some 14 minutes in the general classification. This time gap would serve him well today.

“When I couldn’t really stay with the leaders yesterday, I made the decision to give up on the general classification and focus on stage wins,” Pellizotti revealed. “It was a tough decision to let go, but I told my teammates that today we would start a second Tour de France.”

It wasn’t to be for the Italian, a stage winner in the mountains of the Giro d’Italia, but he insisted that he wanted to go home after the Tour with something to show for his efforts and not simply a mediocre overall placing.

The mighty Col du Tourmalet was too far from the finish to make a difference
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

The Peloton Conserves
It might as well have been a rest day before the rest day for the favorites in the peloton, as no big names made any moves on the mighty Tourmalet. When the third of three mountain stages in the Pyr‚n‚es fails to produce any fireworks among the contendors for the overall title, it becomes clear that the team leaders are unwilling to take chances before the difficult passage through the Alps to Mont Ventoux.

“It wasn’t so stressful today,” Lance Armstrong commented after the finish. “Yesterday was a very difficult start. When the last climb is so far from the finish, in a way it neutralizes these legendary climbs like the Tourmalet to have 70 kilometers of flat riding afterwards. It’s not easy, but nobody is going to try anything.”

The pace was sufficiently relaxed and the distance between the Tourmalet summit and the finish in Tarbes so long that the the sprinter Oscar Freire (Rabobank) made it through in the first group behind to take third place in a field sprint. The rest of the sprinters rolled across the line more than 15 minutes back and Thor Hushovd (Cerv‚lo TestTeam) held onto his green jersey ahead of Columbia’s Mark Cavendish.

Curtains for Act One
Team Astana retained a stranglehold on the top ten placings, with four riders- all of whom have won or finished on the podium of the Tour- within a minute of the yellow jersey. This is Astana’s race to lose and the other favorites must scratch their heads to figure out the right moment to attack. The closest threats to the yellow jersey- and Astana’s primary leaders, Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong- comes from Garmin’s Christian Vande Velde (1min 24secs) and Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank (1min 49sec).

Lance Armstrong leads yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini down the Tourmalet
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Armstrong did acknowledge that the sitatuation at Astana is complicated, as he and Contador both vie for the team leadership.

“To be honest, there’s a little tension,” he told French television after today’s stage, insisting at the same time that he would be comfortable finishing behind his teammate if Contador emerges victorious in Paris.

Among the other pre-race favorites, the time gaps are more substantial. Carlos Sastre sits in 16th, almost three minutes behind yellow jersey Nocentini, Cadel Evans is in 18th (3mins 07sec), while Giro d’Italia winner Denis Menchov has removed himself from the equation at more than five minutes.

The riders of the Tour left Tarbes on two chartered planes, bound for Limoges and a day to recover and reflect on an exciting first week of racing. From Monaco to Tarbes, the first act of the 96th Tour de France has produced both surprise and disappointment. Bigger things await in acts two and three.

Stage 9: July 11, Saint Gaudens to Tarbes  160.5km
1. Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA/BBox-Bouygues Telecom) 4h 05min 31sec (39.223 km/h)
2. Franco Pellizotti (ITA/Liquigas) @ s.t.
3. Oscar Freire (ESP/Rabobank) @ 0:34
4. Serguei Ivanov (RUS/Katusha) @ s.t.
5. Peter Velits (SVK/Milram)
6. Jos‚ Joaquin Rojas (ESP/Caisse d’Epargne)
7. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/Silence-Lotto)
8. Geoffroy Lequatre (FRA/Agritubel)
9. Alessandro Ballan (ITA/Lampre)
10. Nicolas Roche (EIR/AG2R La Mondiale)

Overall Classification After Stage 9
1. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA/AG2R La Mondiale) 34h 24min 21sec
2. Alberto Contador (ESP/Astana) @ 0:06
3. Lance Armstrong (USA/Astana) @ 0:08
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA/Astana) @ 0:39
5. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/Garmin-Slipstream) @ 0:46
6. Andreas Kloden (GER/Astana) @ 0:54
7. Tony Martin (GER/Columbia-HTC) @ 1:00
8. Christian Vande Velde (USA/Garmin-Slipstream) @ 1:24
9. Andy Schleck (LUX/Saxo Bank) @ 1:49
10. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/Liquigas) @ 1:54

Other Classifications
Green Jersey: Thor Hushovd (Cerv‚lo TestTeam)
Polka Dot Jersey: Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
White Jersey: Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC)
Teams: AG2R La Mondiale


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