Post-Race Show: Stage 11 Lannemezan-Foix
Below the fold, the Stage in Brief.
An Early Move. Predictions called for an escape today, and indeed, that is exactly what happened. An early break of stage hunters escaped the main field, and with 120 km to go, they held a three minute advantage over the main field. The break contained riders from most of the major teams including, Kurt Aisle-Arvesen of CSC, Alessandro Ballan of Lampre, Martin Elmiger of AG2R, Filippo Pozzato from Liquigas, Marco Velo of Milram, Benoit Vaugrenard of FDJ, a pair of Rabobanks, Weening and Moerenhout, and a pair of Agricoles Botcharov and Fofonov. Caisse d'Épargne missed the move, and sent Vincente Garcia-Acosta up the road in a failed effort to bridge. With 84 km to ride, the escape had a 13 minute gap over the main field.
The Climb. The category 1 Col de Portel provided the main obstacle of the day's stage, and the Evans group reached it just under 15 minutes behind the break. With six kilometers left on the climb, French rider Amaël Moinard of Cofidis attacked the break. Moinard rode alone until just inside 5 km to go, though he never managed to gain much more than 2.30 over the breakaway. Behind, Oscar Pereiro decided to have a go on the climb, in a play to improve his standing in the general, currently 17th at 6.01. Not willing to fall for that move again, Lotto and CSC began to ride to limit the gap. At best, Pereiro held 2.00, but never much more. With Lotto short on legs, Dario Cioni, for one, went out the back early on the climb, CSC did the majority of the work on the front. Though they had Arvesen in the break, they rode tempo to ensure against an escape from Pereiro.
The Finale. Inside the last 5 km, the play for the stage win began. With Moinard just up the road, Botcharov of Agricole made the first move, but the others were quick to jump on his wheel. Martim Elmiger of AG2R countered, a move which Kurt Aisle-Arvesen of CSC quickly joined. The two worked together, though not smoothly as Elmiger required some not-so-friendly encouragement from Arvesen, a soon had a small gap over the remaining members of the escape. With 2 km left to ride, Alessandro Ballan of Lampre bridged to the pair, and two became three. Arvesen attacked as Ballan made the split, but Elmiger quickly covered, and tried a move of his own. In the meantime, Koors Moerenhout of Rabobank clawed his way across to the group, but he was two late. The sprint began, and Arvesen managed by just over a tire width to take the win over Martin Elmiger. This is Arvesen's first Tour de France stage win, and he now has stage wins in two of the three grand tours.
Classifications. The jerseys remain unchanged today. Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto leads the general classification by 1 second over Fränk Schleck of CSC. Riccardo Ricco leads the mountains and young rider classifications, while Oscar Freire wears the Green jersey of points leader.
Tomorrow, a day for the sprinters, though the bunch will want to watch for the high winds that sometimes sweep this area of France.