Saxo Bank’s Nicki Sørenson launched a pair of late attacks to earn the victory in Stage Twelve of the 2009 Tour de France.
Saxo Bank’s Nicki Sørenson launched a pair of late attacks to win Stage Twelve of the 2009 Tour de France.
After riding in a seven-man breakaway for 125 km, Sørenson attacked, and then attacked again, dropping his pursuers and crossing the line more than half a minute ahead.
This was Sørenson’s first Tour stage win.
The first two hours of riding were filled with failed attacks. The peloton didn’t allow any escapes until nearly eighty kilometers into the race. When Sørenson’s group got away, the peloton didn’t pursue, because there were no serious General Classification threats involved.
There was a bit of excitement as the peloton came in, as the sprinters’ teams contested the green jersey for the best sprinter in the Tour.
Many teams contested the sprint, managing at the end to disrupt the Columbia lead-out train. Cervelo got two riders to the head of the peloton to lead out for Thor Hushovd, but Cavendish stayed right on Hushovd’s wheel. When the pair launched, Cavendish once again had superior speed.
Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer crashed coming into the town of Vittel. Both were able to continue, and since the crash occurred within three km of the finish line, they were awarded the same time as the peloton.
Rinaldo Nocentini retained the yellow jersey; the General Classification remained the same.
Stage Twelve, 211 kilometers from Tonnerre to Vittel, was well-suited for a sprint finish but also offered opportunities for breakaways. The course contained six categorized climbs, five Cat. Fours and short, steep cat, Three climb forty km from the end. A breakaway which could get six or seven minutes over the final climb could possibly survive the final, mostly downhill run.
If it came to a sprint, the last kilometer sloped gently uphill, certainly not enough to slow Mark Cavendish and the mighty train Columbia.
The day was hot, the riders perhaps a bit tired, and with Stage Thirteen entering the Vosges mountains for some Cat. One climbs, it seemed possible that the day would be a slow one.
Radios and Wrecks
The International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that it would repeal the Stage Thirteen radio ban, apparently in response to Stage Ten’s rolling protest. The UCI statement emphasized that “The debate on the appropriateness of using radios during racing … will continue.”
This ended, at least for this Tour, the argument, and the protests, which could have spoiled Stage Thirteen, the next stage where radios would have been banned.
A more complete report on Stage Eleven’s massive crash was released. Apparently, at the 26.5 km mark, an inflatable banner spanning the course deflated and fell onto the road, bringing down nineteen riders. Two who were more seriously injured were Lampre’s Angelo Furlan, who withdrew 50 km into Stage Twelve, and Vladimir Efimkin, who struggled on but was in obvious difficulty.
Before the race, Lance Armstrong said he felt that the field was a little nervous, which might have contributed to the two major collisions in Stage Eleven.
“It’s not really typical for a second week,” he said. “Maybe settle down a little bit get some breaks going … But we had the rest day and then we had a day that was probably not that demanding, so the guys were fresh. We had tailwinds, small roads, and that’s what happens. Guys were a little antsy. And then the publicity balloon came down in the middle of the group; that was interesting. It was just a weird series of events.”
Though the terrain did not look particularly challenging, Armstrong felt that it would be a difficult ride, and that to win would take a lot of effort.
“It’s going to be a hard day. While there’re no major climbs, it’s bumpy, and you never know what the wind does,” he said. “I think a lot depends on Columbia, whether or not they want to control the race I don’t see why any other teams would help them when Cavendish is clearly the fastest.”
Armstrong continued, “Today might be the day the one guy goes … sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, you make that move. Ten groups get caught then all of a sudden one group gets away and that s it.”
Tyler Farrar agreed with Armstrong’s assessment: “Yeah, it is going to be a pretty tough stage for everyone. Not big mountains, but just climbing all day. We’ll see what kind of break gets up the road in the beginning. If it’s the right representation I can see the break sticking today, but if it’s a small group who knows? Maybe we can take another shot at it.”
When asked about his chances for defeating Team Columbia, Farrar replied, “We’ve been right there for every field sprint, so for sure they have to be aware of us. It was pretty close yesterday; maybe next time it will go even better.”
Armstrong echoed Farrar’s feelings: “Maybe somehow disrupt that Columbia train. They’re riding to 500 meter to go, completely uninterrupted. If you put together four or five guys and got in front of them, or just somehow complicated the train a little that might be what it takes. He [Farrar]’s got Julian to be his final wheel; that’s really all he needs He’s getting closer though. He’s not going away.”
Fast Pace, Late Break
Stage Twelve started at a very high pace. The peloton seemed determined not to let a breakaway spoil their bunch sprint. No attack was allowed to succeed for the first 64 kilometers, a record in the Tour this year.
There were numerous attacks, including one by Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck, Levi Leipheimer and Mikel Astorloza. This was as serious attack, as Evans, Schleck, and Leipheimer are all strong contenders ofr the overall win. However, the peloton didn’t allow them more than a slight bit of freedom before riding them down.
The peloton rode down every breakaway attempt through the first quarter of the stage. With 62 km completed, the whole field was together. Not until the 64 km mark did a small group get ahead (Pelizotti, Martinez, Lefevre, and Calzati) which was pursued buy a few other riders. and not until the 78 km mark did a stable escape open a meaningful gap.
The seven-man break included Nicki Sørenson (Saxo Bank), Egoi Martinez (Euskatel), Franco Pelizotti (Liquigas), Rémi Pauriol (Cofidis), Laurent Lefevre (Bbox), Sylvain Calzatti (Agritubel), and Markus Fothen (Milram). This group managed to open a four-minute gap by 100 km.
The riders in this breakaway were not young riders out to make a name in their first Tours; these were experienced riders, between the seven riders, they have ridden thirty-seven Tours. These riders knew they had to do to stay away.
With seven different teams involved in the escape, and no GC competitors, there was no real reason for the peloton to pursue. With the Tour entering the mountains the next day, many riders were happy to rest a bit.
With 187 km done, Nicki Sørenson launched a surprise attack from the back of the break, possibly thinking that the escape wouldn’t last. Sylvain Calzati jumped onto Sorenson’s rear wheel, but the rest of the break didn’t react.
With ten km to go, it was apparent the peloton had given up the chase. The breakaway was six minutes ahead, and the peloton showed no sign of organizing a chase.
Meanwhile, the two attackers, Calzati and Sørenson, maintained a fifteen second-gap over the rest of the escape. The two riders were in sight, just several dozen meters ahead, but the escape couldn’t pick up the pace enough to close the gap.
Over the final six kilometers, the leading pair seemed to fade a bit. Then, with five and a half km left, Nicki Sørenson unexpectedly attacked, leaving Calzati behind. With five km to go, the breakaway caught Calzati, while Sørenson pushed hard to stay away. With four km left, Rémi Pauriol cracked, and fell off the back of the break.
Franco Pelizotti tried to drive the breakaway to catch Sørenson, but they didn’t have the legs. With three km to go, Calzati dropped off the back while LeFevre attacked off the front, but he couldn't sustain the pace.
With a kilometer to go, Sørenson had half a minute, and was safely away. He earned his first Tour de France stage victory with a fine display of endurance and strength.
After the race, Tyler Farrar said he was not surprised by the outcome.
"We knew there was a pretty good chance that was going to happen today. It was just such a hard stage; we knew it would take a lot of energy to control it. I don’t think there were enough teams that were willing to put out that kinds of effort today.
Farrar opted not to contest the sprint in Stage Twelve. “After my crash in Barcelona I’m too far back in the points to be a realistic challenger for the green jersey, so there wasn’t much point in wasting the energy. Might as well save the legs for a day when it is actually for the win.”
Mark Cavendish explained why Team Columbia didn’t take control of the peloton to run down the breakaway: “Yesterday we did a lot of chasing with a couple of our guys, and at the end of the day, there’re still nine more days of the Tour left, and those guys have got to support me through the Alps and support me to Paris. They need a break every now and again, and today was it."
The Tour enters the Vosges mountains for Stage Thirteen. This stage, from Vittel to Colmar, promises to shake up the field with its five categorized climbs, including the Category One Col du Platzerwasel, a long steep climb that offers great possibilities for attacks.
Twenty kilometers from the end, the Cat. Two Col du Firstplan offers one more opportunity to shake of pursuers and break for the finish. The final five kilometers are absolutely flat, and will offer a great setting for a field sprint, if any of the sprinters can keep up over the climbs.
|Stage 12 Results
||General Classification After Stage 12
|1||Nicki Sørenson||Saxo Bank||4h 52' 24||00||1||Rinaldo Nocentini||AG2R||48:27:21||00|
|2||Laurent Lefevre||Bbox Bouygues||4h 53' 12||+ 00' 48||2||Alberto Contador||Astana||48:27:27||+ 00:06|
|3||Franco Pellizoti||Liquigas||4h 53' 12||+ 00' 48||3||Lance Armstrong||Astana||48:27:29||+ 00:08|
|4||Markus Fothen||Milram||4h 53' 12||+ 00' 48||4||Levi Leipheimer||Astana||48:28:00||+ 00:39|
|5||Egoi Martinez||Euskaltel-Euskadi||4h 53' 12||+ 00' 48||5||Bradley Wiggins||Garmin-Slipstream||48:28:07||+ 00:46|
|6||Sylvain Calzati||Agritubel||4h 53' 12||+ 00' 48||6||Andréas Klöden||Astana||48:28:15||+ 00:54|
|7||Rémi Pauriol||Cofidis||4h 53' 57||+ 01' 33||7||Tony Martin||Columbia-HTC||48:28:21||+ 01:00|
|8||Mark Cavendish||Team Columbia||4h 58' 22||+ 05' 58||8||Christian Vande Velde||Garmin-Slipstream||48:28:45||+ 01:24|
|9||Thor Hushovd||Cervelo||4h 58' 22||+ 05' 58||9||Andy Schleck||Saxo Bank||48:29:10||+ 01:49|
|10||Marco Bandiera||Lampre||4h 58' 22||+ 05' 58||10||Vincenzo Nibali||Liquigas||48:29:15||+ 01:54|